Books can open up entirely new worlds to children of all ages. Igniting creativity encourages imagination and gets children further stimulated in their emotional development. It’s never too early to start reading books to your child – even babies love to sit on their parent’s lap and enjoy a picture book or a collection of poems and nursery rhymes.
We’ve gathered together our top 50 books to ignite creativity in children, and we’re pretty sure the adults will enjoy most of them too! There are tonnes of great Australian children’s authors included in the top 50, which is inspiring and exciting to see.
1. Cat in the Hat
With brilliant simple rhyming, this book was written by Theodor Geisel under the pseudonym of Dr Seuss. It’s now one of the most famous children’s books of all time and is based on a cat who wears a red and white striped hat and a matching bow tie.
2. Winnie the Pooh
Image: Good Reads
Created by the English author A. A Milne, Winnie the Pooh has been read by parents to children for decades. The central character – a bear named Winnie the Pooh – was named after a bear owned by the author’s son. The stories ignite creativity in children letting their imaginations run wild about their own soft toys.
3. The BFG
One of Roald Dahl’s most imaginative books, The BFG is the story of a beautiful friendship between a ‘Big Friendly Giant’ and a little girl named Sophie. With trademark Quentin Blake illustrations, the book has some stunning descriptions of dream catching and the way children’s imaginations and realities combine.
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Image: Mundie Kids
Eric Carle’s book is a staple for any young child’s bookshelf. One of the most famous children’s picture books, it also includes numerous educational themes such as counting, the days of the week, as well as the life cycle of a butterfly. This is a real classic to get young minds racing.
5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Image: BIG W
Think of lakes made of chocolate, imaginative inventions and colourful characters – many of whom are children. This classic children’s story has been made into a popular film enjoyed by both children and adults alike.
6. Green Eggs and Ham
Image: Kids’ Book Review
There’s a good reason this book has sold over 8 million copies across the globe. Inspiring creativity and imagination in children of all ages, the book by the well-known Dr Seuss uses simple vocabulary combined with humour. The book is ideal for teaching rhyme and rhythm and has even been made into a song.
7. The Gruffalo
Image: Love Reading 4 Kids
Told through the perspective of a tiny mouse taking a walk in the woods, this children’s book has enjoyed phenomenal popularity – it’s even been made into a Broadway play and Oscar nominated film. Its appeal to 0-5 year olds is based on a story which took its inspiration from a Chinese folk tale.
8. Hairy Maclary and Friends: Touch and Feel Book
This series was created by a New Zealand children’s author and illustrator Lynley Dodd. Hairy’s adventures with his other friends (all delightfully described and illustrated dogs) usually involve meeting local cats. The best part about this edition is the interactive component. Every page has different textures for children to touch and feel while reading the story.
9. Possum Magic
Image: The Book Muse
Australian author Mem Fox seems to truly understand the minds of young children and her books appeal to their imagination and creative streaks. Not only does the story explore the Australian bush, it also engages children in the possibility of becoming invisible and the adventures that this could bring. The rhythm throughout makes it another great book for reading aloud.
10. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Using incredibly effective techniques such as onomatopoeia, this is a brilliant children’s book to engage children listening to it being read by adults. There is the repeated chant which young voices love to call out, and the book itself was actually adapted from an American folk song.
11. The Rainbow Fish
Look beyond the shining front cover of this popular children’s book and you’ll find a strong moral lesson about the concept of selfishness and sharing. There are numerous characters in the book for children to engage with and react to, yet it is the rainbow fish itself which is perhaps the most thought provoking.
12. Diary of a Wombat
Image: Raising A Reader
A refreshing format for a children’s book, this is the weeklong diary of a wombat. Children and adults alike will be laughing together as the book progresses – and both can enjoy the well-matched combination of text and illustration. The traits of a wombat really shine through on the pages of this story and will make for some funny bedtime stories.
13. A Bear Called Paddington
Image: Curled Up Kids
This is a very British children’s book – based on a teddy bear found at Paddington station. It has become a worldwide classic with Paddington bears being sold across the globe. Young children love the idea of the bear travelling around with his suitcase and jar of marmalade.
14. The Wonky Donkey
A book to really get the adults giggling and young children engaged. The Wonky Donkey makes excellent use of repetition and word play to create an imaginative and fun story that is a joy to read aloud.
Image: Penguin Books
For children who love to read or to inspire reluctant readers, Matilda is another classic by Roald Dahl about a young girl who simply adores books. Her unkind family can’t understand the worlds that she finds within the pages, but young children can identify with this book worm of a character.
16. Room on the Broom
Image: Play & Go
Another entry from Julia Donaldson (of The Gruffalo fame), this is a magical story about a witch and her cat defeating a dangerous dragon. The book has some brilliant rhyming which children will love and is ideal for 3-7 year olds who will enjoy adults putting on different voices to match the host of characters.
17. Wombat Stew
Image: Book Share Time
A popular children’s book with a strong Australian slant – this story is about a dingo catching a wombat whom he wants to make into a stew. It is a team effort from the other bush animals who want to save their friend, which helps to teach children about working together and thinking creatively to solve difficult problems.
18. Dear Zoo
Image: The Joy Of Sharing
For younger children, ‘lift the flap’ books contain a whole new level of engagement and excitement. Rod Campbell’s book has been loved by toddlers and pre-schoolers for years with its bright and bold artwork inspiring and influencing creative thinking. For smaller hands, the thick card pages and sturdy flaps make this an enjoyable interactive experience.
19. Where’s Spot?
Image: Mom Read It
The first in the now incredibly well-liked series about Spot the Dog, this book is a real classic by Eric Hill. Children will be begging to play hide and seek after reading this book which lets the reader explore about the house trying to find where Spot has chosen to hide.
20. Each Peach Pear Plum
Image: I Raise My Kids
Written by husband and wife team Janet and Allan Ahlberg, this creative story uses age old nursery rhyme characters throughout the book. Children will love spotting old favourites like Cinderella, Mother Hubbard and the Three Bears, all placed in different surroundings. The rhyming element is again ideal for parents reading aloud and for soothing excited children before bed.
21. The Tiger Who Came to Tea
This will be a familiar story with many parents across the world. The story tells us about a tiger who came to a little girl (Sophie)’s home and ate all of her food and drank all her drinks. Author Judith Kerr explains that this was a story she made up for her daughter (then aged 2), that has since become an all-time classic.
22. The Magic Faraway Tree
Image: World Of Blyton
Written by popular children’s writer Enid Blyton, this book invites children into a magical world where they can explore and lose themselves in fantasy and magic. The idea of the adult world against a place where children can go to adventure is key here and early school readers will enjoy this hugely.
23. Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Yet another entry by Dr Seuss, this book once again combines wacky pictures with out there rhymes and fun stories. Written from the point of view of the doctor, he talks of ‘bang ups and hangups’ and ‘lurches and slumps’ – just the sort of vocabulary that appeals to children listening to books at story time.
24. The Wind in the Willows
Published in 1908, this story has since been repeatedly shown in theatres and adapted to both a TV series and a film. The characters are a collection of riverside animals including a mole, a rat and a toad. There is adventure, mystery and numerous changes of pace here for children to enjoy.
25. The Borrowers
This story presents a world unseen – the world of some tiny people named ‘the borrowers’. This small collection live in secret places in old houses and make their homes behind mantlepieces, under kitchen clocks and even inside a harpsichord. They live off the scraps of humans, borrowing things that they need.
26. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver
Image: Walker Books
Originally written in 1726, the more modern adaptations of this wonderful story can be enjoyed by children today as much as in generations before them. It follows the adventures and travels of Gulliver to Lilliput which is a land of tiny people. This story can be taken on multiple levels, but simple adaptations designed for children will delight and amuse.
27. Swallows and Amazons
Image: Penguin Books
Popular with slightly older children, this book ignites creativity and makes you want to get outdoors to explore and adventure. It was inspired by a summer that the author, Arthur Ransome, spent teaching children to sail. The author was unhappy with the illustrations for the book and in later versions, included those drawn by himself.
28. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
Another of Australian author Mem Fox’s perfectly told children’s stories, this book is a great gift for new parents or those with younger children. The story has an excellent message – teaching children that everyone is the same wherever they are born or however they are raised. Little ones particularly like the ending of this short rhyming story.
29. There’s an Owl on My Towel
Image: Everything Mom
This book is yet another that has an easy singing element and the ‘lift the flap’ idea for children gaining fine motor skills. The story also teaches children key nature knowledge, such as where rabbits live (in their ‘burrow’), which is mixed with everyday activities (such as getting out of the bath) that they can easily relate to.
30. Goodnight Moon
Image: Goodnight Moon
At 75 years old, this book is still retaining numerous fans amongst young children today. The interplay of words and images here is stunningly effective and it’s a brilliant bedtime story book to settle busy minds at the end of the day. This book is particularly useful for children reluctant to go to bed, or unwilling to miss out on the fun of the daytime.
31. Guess How Much I Love You
Image: The Reading Tub
An incredibly sentimental and heart-warming story, this book is one to read to children snuggled up in bed. The idea of the two key characters (two nutbrown hares) using larger and larger quantities to define how much they love one another is often replicated by children afterwards who engage with the concept.
32. Where is the Green Sheep?
Image: Mem Fox
This book not only engages young children to find the green sheep (tantalizingly not seen until the final pages), but it also introduces key concepts. Children can learn opposites such as near and far, up and down, sun and rain – and the book is excellent for language development as a whole.
33. Giraffes Can’t Dance
This book has been translated into over 20 different languages meaning that children across the world have enjoyed the lyrical fun available here. There’s lots of rhyme to enjoy here as Gerald the Giraffe overcomes his obstacles to learn to dance just as he desires.
34. Koala Lou
Image: My Little Bookcase
A brilliant book for any child with new siblings as it explores a baby koala dealing with its mother having more babies and sharing her love amongst them. This is a warm and heart wrenching book that fills mothers reading it with love for their children whilst teaching little ones some valuable life lessons.
35. The Day the Crayons Quit
Helping children to imagine the lives of inanimate objects they see every day, this story will really get young minds thinking. The illustrations are clear and fun, the concept is engaging and the adults will have to get used to using different voices for each colour crayon!
36. Who Sank the Boat?
Image: Penguin Books
Ideal for very young children, this is a story accompanied by lovely pictures with a bright and quick moving pace. Children can start to engage with the concepts of mass, floating and sinking – something you can follow up with at bath time or with a sink full of water.
37. The Very Cranky Bear
Image: Cassie Hamer
This is a story that sees four great animal friends enter a cave to seek shelter from a rain storm, only to find that they have disturbed a bear. There is a real singsong rhyme scheme here and lots of comedy moments with the animal characters who explore themes such as friendship and respect.
38. The Owl and the Pussycat
Image: Angus & Robertson
Nonsense poems are ideal for inspiring creativity in young children allowing them to think completely freely and away from restriction. This poem, written by Edward Lear, for a three year old girl has been a favourite amongst parents and children for decades. It is thought to have inspired other children’s writers, from Beatrix Potter to Julia Donaldson.
39. Blueberries for Sal
Image: School Library Journal
Children love nature and this story really draws parallels between a little girl picking blueberries with her mother on one side of a hill, with a bear cub and its mother doing the same on the other. The story has consistently been in the Top 100 picture books for its beautiful illustrations.
40. Pig the Pug
Image: Child Magazines
This book centres around the grey and selfish pug called Pig who quickly comes to teach child readers about the importance of sharing and kindness to others. Young children will love the naughty antics of the main character and you won’t be able to stop the giggles.
41. Here We Are
Image: Harper Collins
Another ideal gift for new parents, this book has a real sense of calm and peacefulness. Written by a father speaking to his newborn child about the new world it has entered into, there is some wonderful description accompanied by lovely illustrations with annotations that older children can also enjoy.
42. Mr Gumpy’s Outing
Image: Slap Harry Larry
Children love stories about people who live in places that are different to their own homes. Mr Gumpy helps to inspire creativity by his life on a riverboat – it’s the ideal starting point to discussing how homes can come in all shapes and sizes!
And for older readers:
43. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Image: Fantasy Book Review
Probably the most famous children’s author of the century, JK Rowling has enjoyed worldwide success with her Harry Potter series. The magical worlds she creates and the characters who live in them have inspired reluctant readers across Australia to dive into the fictional stories.
44. Alice Miranda
Although just seven and a quarter years old, Alice Miranda is just starting boarding school as the series of books begins. Slightly older readers will love following her adventures, learning about her school career as well as exploring themes such as friendship and homesickness.
45. The Thirteen Story Treehouse
Image: Book Page
For slightly older children who still enjoy the weird and the wonderful, this series features two young boys living in the world’s greatest tree house. The short chapters make it rewarding for reluctant readers.
46. Percy Jackson
Image: BIG W
For fans of series such as Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson collection can inspire creativity and spark imagination. Based on a young hero who is given extraordinary superpowers, the books are easy to read and particularly appealing to children with learning difficulties as Percy has two himself – ADHD and dyslexia. First up in the series is Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.
This is a book for slightly older children who have some awareness of the history around World War II. The main character is desperate to escape from an orphanage to save his parents from the Nazis. Creativity can be inspired by the combination of wonderful story telling and historical knowledge here.
48. The Story of Tracy Beaker
So popular in the UK that it was adapted into a 5 run TV series, this award-winning story is by author Jacqueline Wilson. Written in a diary format with appealing illustrations by Nick Sharratt, the story is appealing to children who have experienced a difficult home life or are simply going through real life problems.
49. Ballet Shoes
Image: A Novel Look
For budding ballerinas, this is a story to enchant and delight. A classic written by Noel Streatfield, it follows the story of a girl who wants to dance. The descriptions are particularly detailed and younger children may need help with some of the vocabulary. Older children starting to read longer stories on their own will really enjoy this book.
50. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Best known now for its popular film adaptation, C.S Lewis wrote this book about a magical wardrobe. Children’s imaginations will run wild as they read about the magical world that existed just through the doors of a simple wardrobe in a home. Think lions, snowy landscapes and a rather special lamppost….