Top 25: Children’s Fantasy Picture and Chapter Books

Best Fantasy Books for Kids: Picture Books and Chapter Books

I need this list for my oldest who loves adventure fantasy books like the Harry Potter series. I can’t keep up, so I was glad to find this list  of best fantasy chapter books and picture books from The Telegraph in the United Kingdom for her summer reading. I’ll keep you posted on which of these books she liked. Is it me, or am I the only one who thinks that the Brits read and write more and, frankly better than Americans? Could it be the weather that keeps them indoors more and cozy by the fire with a book? I’m not sure but I do find that they are a nation of readers.

The 25 best children’s books, according to The Telegraph

1. Treasure Island

The story grew out of a map that led to imaginary treasure, devised during a holiday in Scotland by Stevenson and his nephew. The tale is told by an adventurous boy, Jim Hawkins, who gets hold of a treasure map and sets off with an adult crew in search of the buried treasure. Among the crew, however, is the treacherous Long John Silver who is determined to keep the treasure for himself. Stevenson’s first full-length work of fiction brought him immediate fame and continues to captivate readers of all ages. [chapter book, ages 8-14]

2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published by Frederick Warne in 1902 and endures as Beatrix Potter’s most popular and well-loved tale. It tells the story of a very mischievous rabbit and the trouble he encounters in Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden! [picture book, ages 4-9]

3. The Wind in the Willows

Far from fading with time, Kenneth Grahame‘s classic tale of fantasy has attracted a growing audience in each generation. Rat, Mole, Badger and the preposterous Mr Toad, have brought delight to many through the years with their odd adventures on and by the river, and at the imposing residence of Toad Hall. [chapter book, ages 9-12]

4. The Railway Children

When Father goes away with two strangers one evening, the lives of Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are shattered. They and their mother have to move from their comfortable London home to go and live in a simple country cottage, where Mother writes books to make ends meet. However, they soon come to love the railway that runs near their cottage, and they make a habit of waving to the Old Gentleman who rides on it. They befriend the porter, Perks, and through him learn railway lore and much else. They have many adventures, and when they save a train from disaster, they are helped by the Old Gentleman to solve the mystery of their father’s disappearance. [chapter book, ages 9-12]

5. Peter Pan

It was Friday night. Mr and Mrs Darling were dining out. Nana had been tied up in the backyard. The poor dog was barking, for she could smell danger. And she was right – this was the night that Peter Pan would take the Darling children on the most breath-taking adventure of their lives, to a place called Neverland, a strange country where the lost boys live and never grow up, a land with mermaids, fairies and pirates – and of course the terrible, evil, Captain Hook. Peter Pan is undoubtedly one of the most famous and best-loved stories for children, an unforgettable, magical fantasy which has been enjoyed by generations. [chapter book, ages 8-12]

6. Winnie-the-Pooh

AA Milne‘s first stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, the most famous bear in the world, were published eighty years ago. This beautiful anniversary edition of “Winnie-the-Pooh” celebrates the enduring popularity of Pooh and his Forest friends. Discover what happens when Pooh goes visiting and Piglet meets a Heffalump, not forgetting when Eeyore loses his tail and Pooh finds one! [chapter book, ages 7-10]

7. Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons is the wholesome story of four young children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who set out in their boat (the Swallow of the title) to an island of adventure. All seems well until they encounter their enemy. At first they are angry at the invasion of their peaceful haven by these Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy, who claim ownership of the land. But in time a truce is called and the Swallows and Amazons become firm friends. Camping under open skies, swimming in clear water, fishing, exploring and making discoveries is the stuff of dreams which serves to make this so charming a tale. The author manages to capture the innocence of a time when all this was real and possible. Swallows and Amazons will transport children to a fantastical place where they can play safely and roam freely, without an adult in sight. [chapter book, ages 9-12]

8. Babar

“If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste,” wrote AA Milne. “And if you have never loved elephants, you will love them now.” [picture book, ages 4-9]

9. The Faraway Tree

When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, that is the beginning of many magical adventures! Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? There’ll be adventures waiting for them, whatever happens; funny, magical adventures that will delight children again and again. [chapter book, ages 8-12]

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Narnia Chronicles, first published in 1950, have been and remain some of the most enduringly popular ever published. The best known, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been translated into 29 languages. Lucy steps into the Professor’s wardrobe – but steps out again into a snowy forest. She’s stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, a land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, needs her help if the county’s creatures are ever going to be free again. [chapter book, ages 8-12]

11. The Lord of the Rings

Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it’s the product of a truly top-shelf mind. JRR Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages, with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature. His epic, 10 years in the making, recounts the Great War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth’s Third Age, a time when magic begins to fade from the world and men rise to dominance. [young adult, ages 12-adult]

12. The Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss’s original, classic tale of the coolest, hippest cat in history! When the Cat in the Hat steps in on the mat, Sally and her brother are in for a roller-coaster ride of havoc and mayhem! The Cat can rescue them from a dull rainy day, but it means lots of thrills and spills along the way. [picture book, ages 2-8]

13. Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. If you disagree, then it’s been too long since you’ve attended a wild rumpus. Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. Sendak’s colour illustrations (perhaps his finest) are beautiful, and each turn of the page brings the discovery of a new wonder. [picture book, ages 3-8]

14. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

For the first time in a decade, Willy Wonka, the reclusive and eccentric chocolate maker, is opening his doors to the public–well, five members of the public, actually. The lucky five who find a Golden Ticket in their Wonka bars will receive a private tour of the factory, given by Mr Wonka himself. For young Charlie Bucket, this a dream come true. So when he finds a dollar bill in the street, he can’t help but buy two Wonka’s Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights–even though his impoverished family could certainly use the extra dollar for food. But as Charlie unwraps the second chocolate bar, he sees the glimmer of gold just under the wrapper. The very next day, Charlie, along with his unworthy fellow winners Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop, steps through the factory gates to discover whether or not the rumours surrounding the Chocolate Factory and its mysterious owner are true. What they find is that the gossip can’t compare to the extraordinary truth, and for Charlie, life will never be the same again. [chapter book, ages 7-12]

15. The Tiger who came to Tea

This classic story of Sophie and her extraordinary tea-time guest has been loved by millions of children since it was first published over 30 years ago. Now a new generation will enjoy this beautiful reformatted edition! The doorbell rings just as Sophie and her mummy are sitting down to tea. Who could it possibly be? What they certainly don’t expect to see at the door is a big furry, stripy tiger! [picture book, ages 2-9]

16. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A much-loved classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won over millions of readers with its vivid and colourful collage illustrations and its deceptively simply, hopeful story. With its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes to explore, this is a richly satisfying book for children. [picture book, ages 1-6]

17. Mr Men

The first six Mr Men books were published in 1971, priced 20p. Mr. Tickle was the first Mr. Men character created by Hargreaves after his son, Adam, asked him what a tickle looked like: a round, orange figure with long, bendy arms. Each book in the original Mr. Men and Little Miss series introduced a different title character and their single dominant trait in order to convey a simple moral lesson. [picture book, ages 2-6]

18. Watership Down

Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren – he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver’s sixth sense was never wrong. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all… Published in 1972 Watership Down is an epic journey, a stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival against the odds. [chapter book, ages 9-14]

19. The BFG

The BFG is one of Dahl’s most lovable character creations. Whether galloping off with Sophie nestled into the soft skin of his ear to capture dreams as though they were exotic butterflies; speaking his delightful, jumbled, squib-fangled patois; or whizzpopping for the Queen, he leaves an indelible impression of big-heartedness. [chapter book, ages 7-12]

20. Dear Zoo

I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet . . . This classic lift-the-flap book has been a favourite with toddlers ever since it was first published in 1982. Now reissued as a sturdy casebound board book, perfect for little hands! [picture book, ages 1-6]

21. We’re going on a Bear Hunt

Winner of the 1989 Smarties Book Prize and highly commended for the 1989 Kate Greenaway Medal, this picture book tells of a family going in search of a bear in a cave. [picture book, ages 1-6]

22. The Story of Tracy Beaker

Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize in 1991, Tracy Beaker’s story, which is told in the first person by the infuriating and loveable 10-year-old Tracy, is a wonderfully funny and thought- provoking slice of life in a children’s home. Tracy, as she herself tells us, has had a hard time. She’s been fostered a number of times but it’s never worked out. Now she dreams of her glamorous mother coming to fetch her and spends her time, when she’s not quarrelling with the other children, writing her life story. And then one day, Cam, a real writer, visits the home and after a rocky start, she and Tracy really hit it off. [chapter book, ages 9-12]

23. His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy astounded the literary world, reaping high praise from adults as well as children. The final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, was published to great literary acclaim, earning Pullman a place on the long list for the prestigious Booker Prize and pushing the trilogy toward cult fiction status for both children and adults. [chapter book, ages 9-12]

24. Harry Potter series

The Harry Potter novels are prize-winning and consistently on the bestseller lists, and have now sold over 250 million copies worldwide. Originally published as an author for children and still primarily so,JK Rowling has generated huge popular appeal for her books in an unprecedented fashion. She was the first children’s author to be voted the BA Author of the Year, and also to win the British Book Awards Author of the Year. [chapter book, ages 8-15]

25. The Gruffalo

A witty, sly little story that wrings giggles from the belly of the reader, The Gruffalo is both stylish and hilarious, simple in its execution, as it plays skilfully on a child’s fears and then shows that even the most threatening of monsters are not always as scary as they seem. A combination of read-along-rhyme by Julia Donaldson and illustrations by Alex Sheffler which perfectly capture the atmosphere of the story, The Gruffalo is an excellent picture book for 3-5-year-olds to read along with their parents, and is certain to become something of a classic. [picture book, ages 2-7]

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I think the books that are published and that the public responds to in England are probably what the difference is. There are quite a few really good books in America that will never see the light of day…because the publishing industry seems to be driven more toward what the mass public wants.

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