Children's Books for All Ages

The Lesson by E. Philips Fox, c. 1912

In his introduction to his book Once on a Time, A. A. Milne muses on the difficulty of categorizing books for children and adults:

For whom, then, is the book intended? That is the trouble. Unless I can say, 'For those, young or old, who like the things which I like,' I find it difficult to answer. Is it a children's book? Well, what do we mean by that? Is The Wind in the Willows a children's book? Is Alice in Wonderland? Is Treasure Island? These are masterpieces which we read with pleasure as children, but with how much more pleasure when we are grown-up. In any case what do we mean by 'children'? A boy of three, a girl of six, a boy of ten, a girl of fourteen—are they all to like the same thing? And is a book 'suitable for a boy of twelve' any more likely to please a boy of twelve than a modern novel is likely to please a man of thirty-seven; even if the novel be described truly as 'suitable for a man of thirty-seven'? I confess that I cannot grapple with these difficult problems.

But I am very sure of this: that no one can write a book which children will like, unless he write it for himself first.

This passage, I think, is the best summary of my own feelings about children's literature, and about categorizing books in general. A good book is a good book, whether it was written with a boy of twelve, a girl of fourteen, or a man of thirty-seven in mind. And while young children don't always have the skill or maturity necessary to read books written for an older audience, adults, teenagers, and older children have the luxury to choose from a broad spectrum of books.

So, in this article, I've gathered some of my favorite children's books--from picture books through middle grade--that I think have something to offer to both child and adult readers. Some are thought-provoking, some are unexpectedly witty, and some are reassuring. All, I hope, will inspire older readers to look at books for younger readers in a new light.

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