culture The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit

Duke Harten
291 votes 78 voters 19 items Embed

List Rules Vote up the children's books that hold up so well all adults should give them another read.

Tired of those heavy, lengthy, postmodern literary novels? Give yourself a break and test out one of these kid's books adults should revisit. This list contains some of the best children's books for adults - whether it's a recent blockbuster like Harry Potter or a forgotten novel like Stuart Little, all of these books are worth an afternoon or two.

Sometimes it's the nostalgia that makes adults reread books they loved as children, but there are actually some great kid's books that appeal to older audiences as well. Fantasy novels work especially well because alternate realities are still super cool when you're an adult. And religious allegories that might have flown right over your head as a kid, like in the His Dark Materials series, will seem poignant and exciting as an adult. Read through this selection of kid's books adults should reread and vote up the ones you most want to revisit.

Artemis Fowl is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: Viking Press
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Artemis Fowl


The Artemis Fowl series is an eight-book adventure chronicling the exploits of an Irish child mastermind and his supernatural enemies-turned-friends. The first book introduces readers to Artemis, a billionaire genius, and his loyal butler (aptly named Butler). The next couple hundred pages see the young ne'er-do-well capture an elf and hold her for ransom, fending off the rescue attempts of underground magical police and one extremely flatulent dwarf. While children are riveted by its page-turning action, adults will appreciate the protagonist's journey from evil to good and his expanding capacity for trust, compassion, and loyalty. (There might also be an innuendo or two you missed as a kid.)

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Author: Eoin Colfer

First Published: 2001-04

Genres (Book): Children's literature, Young adult literature, Fantasy

Also Ranked

#45 on The Best Fantasy Book Series

#10 on Young Adult Novels That Should Be Adapted to Film

#14 on Books Similar To Harry Potter

#10 on The Best Young Adult Fantasy Series

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The Phantom Tollbooth is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: Random House

The very premise of the book should speak to adults everywhere: Milo is bored with life and craves something more exciting. What delighted you about this young man's adventures as children is sure to delight again when you revisit The Phantom Tollbooth as an adult. A series of obstacles and foreign lands must be conquered by Milo. Among these are Expectations, a not-so-subtle nod to the blustery confidence of youth. Next are the Doldrums, a sort of quarter-life crisis stand-in. As Milo progresses through the fantasy-scape, the duller parts of our real world are deftly satirized in a way that will leave adult readers feeling a little better about the daily grind.

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Author: Norton Juster

First Published: 1961

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Fiction, Fantasy

Also Ranked

#21 on Books Similar To Harry Potter

#23 on Good Books for 11 Year Olds

#17 on Good Books for 7 Year Olds

#26 on The Best Books About Books

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Charlie and the Chocolate Fact... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: Alfred A. K.nopf, Inc.

A classic in every sense. Adults will be delighted to revisit Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, what with its Oompa Loompas and dangerous machinery that threaten to swallow visitors whole. The book is a fun, readable, straightforward story that celebrates humility, selflessness, and a sense of whimsy. Dahl at his finest.

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Author: Roald Dahl

First Published: 1964

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Fiction, Fantasy

Also Ranked

#93 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

#39 on The Greatest Books to Read to Kids

#61 on Books That Changed My Life

#1 on The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies

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Harry Potter and the Philosoph... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: Freebase

You've read and reread. You've watched and rewatched. But the magic never ceases to dazzle in J.K. Rowling's beloved Harry Potter series. For a healthy dose of nostalgia, pick up The Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone, depending on which side of the pond you live on) and relive Harry's introduction to the wizarding world. And since you've long since learned who Snape truly is, you might appreciate watching his struggle to teach the offspring of his greatest love and bitterest enemy. Plus, you'll identify a bit more with the professors this time around—what kind of kid goes up against a three-headed dog, after all? They're going to get themselves killed!

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Author: J. K. Rowling

First Published: 1997-06-26

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Fiction, Fantasy

Also Ranked

#94 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#1 on The Best Books for Teens

#9 on Books Like The Hunger Games

#80 on The Top Must-Read Books of All-Time

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Charlotte's Web is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: Harper & Brothers
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Charlotte's Web


The best-selling children's novel of all time (as of 2000), Charlotte's Web is a heartbreaking story of friendship, love, and loss. Adults will look back fondly on Wilbur the pig and his rotating cast of friends: the titular spider Charlotte, the greedy-but-good rat Templeton, and the child who spared his life in the first place, Fern Arable. What struck us as a fanciful barnyard tale when we were kids is now a wrenching story of self-sacrifice and platonic love. Charlotte's untiring support for Wilbur and her eventual death is enough to melt any stony grown-up heart.

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Author: E. B. White

First Published: 1952

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature

Also Ranked

#48 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#66 on Books That Changed My Life

#4 on The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies

#1 on The Best Overall Books for Kids

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The Westing Game is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: E. P. Dutton
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The Westing Game


Why they marketed this as a children's book is anyone's guess. The Westing Game, a story of intrigue and cunning surrounding the unclaimed fortune of Samuel Westing, is an incredibly complex murder mystery. Sixteen neighbors and family members are paired off in a series of games and challenges to determine who will win the inheritance, all while figuring out who killed the old man. Picking the book back up as an adult won't disappoint.

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Author: Ellen Raskin

First Published: 1978

Genres (Book): Children's literature, Mystery, Fiction, Young adult literature

Also Ranked

#41 on The Best Mystery Novels

#21 on Good Books for 11 Year Olds

#5 on Good Books for 9 Year Olds

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: George M. Hill Company

For one thing, the slippers aren't ruby. This children's book is often overlooked in favor of its famous film counterpart, but the novel offers as much to the young generation of readers as it does to adults. Dive into Oz, where Dorothy and her silver slippers encounter a vast array of friends and foes. The story is a simple adventure on its surface, but adults will recognize themes of loss, friendship, loyalty, and home. 

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Author: L. Frank Baum

First Published: 1900-05-17

Genres (Book): Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Fantasy

Also Ranked

#72 on The Best Novels Ever Written

#45 on The Greatest Books to Read to Kids

#10 on The Greatest Children's Books That Were Made Into Movies

#10 on The Best Overall Books for Kids

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Peter Pan is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Children's Books for Adults to Revisit
Photo: Freebase
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Peter Pan


If you only know Peter Pan from the silver screen, you're missing out. J.M. Barrie's classic novel is masterfully narrated and peppered with literary humor that simply cannot translate to film. With knowing winks at his adult audience, Barrie weaves the tragicomic tale of the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. Expect appearances from familiar foes (Captain Hook and Smee), but don't be surprised when minor characters play a bigger role in the book (Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys). For the complete experience, pick up the copy illustrated by Scott Gustafson.

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Author: J. M. Barrie

Also Ranked

#47 on The Best Broadway Musicals

#5 on The Best Broadway Shows for Kids

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