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50 Best Classic Old Children Books: 1900s Vintage Reads

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Old Children's Books arranged on a stained brown paper background with bold black letters and a faded vintage white bunny with a yellow flower.

The ultimate collection of old Children Books. This booklist is packed with classic picture books from the 1900s. Vintage reads? Does that strike a nerve with anyone? I am with you, but let’s not get our feelings hurt. We aren’t old. 🙂

This is an incredible list of timeless classics from each decade. I was very picky. I only included classic books that have stood the test of time and only books that I have enjoyed with my little kids. Do you remember any of these old books from your own childhood?

If you are trying to build your young readers’ home library, these vintage children’s books are an excellent place to start. Here are some tips for thrifting books for kids.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you on qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate. 

50 Classic Children’s Books from the 1900s

My focus is primarily on picture books through the decades. The years 1900-1929 were the most difficult to find. However, many chapter books were later canonized into classic children’s literature, such as Winnie-The-Pooh, Wind and the Willows, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, The Secret Garden, Doctor Dolittle, and Old Mother West Wind.

1900-1929

1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902)

Beatrix Potter illustrated letters to children that turned into classic children’s books. In 1893, she illustrated a letter about Peter Rabbit to a friend’s five-year-old child. This became her first book. A book about a little brown rabbit named Peter that rebelled against his mama’s wish to avoid Mr. McGregor’s garden. In this sweet children’s treasury, the little rabbit finds himself in all kinds of trouble.

2. The Original Mother Goose (1916)

This wonderful book is filled with classic nursery rhymes such as “The Three Blind Mice,” “Humpty Dumpty,” and more. It is the mother of all story books. Did you know the first printing of Mother Goose was in 1697?

It can be tempting to pass on Mother Goose BUT…”Children entering kindergarten would have better speech habits, and first-grade children would have a greater power with and feeling for words if more were done with Mother Goose in the homes. Knowing dozens of the verses expands the imagination, increases the vocabulary, and develops an ear for the music of words. Enjoying Mother Goose predisposes children to other books” (May Hill Arbuthnot, of Flora Stone Mather College, Western Reserve University from her book “Children and Books,” 1947)

3. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco (1922)

Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” In this beloved book, a toy is transformed by a child’s love. At the end of the book, a fairy comforts the toy rabbit and turns him into a real rabbit. This story has truly lasted the test of time.

4. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag (1928)

An elderly couple desires to have a cat, but in their search, they bring “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.”

1930-1939

5. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (1930)

It’s time to introduce your little readers to the smallest, most determined blue engine. The historical little engine that could pull all the toys and goodies for “all those good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.” This is such a valuable lesson for all.

6. The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff (1931)

Babar, the little elephant, escapes the hunters that kill his mom and later returns to the great forest to be crowned King of the Elephants.

7. The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack (1933)

Oh, Ping! This spirited little duck that lives on a boat on the Yangtze River finds himself in a predicament after a misadventure. He fears returning home because the last duck to cross the ramp into the boat gets spanked.

8. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (1936)

Ferdinand is not like other bulls. He doesn’t desire to run and butt heads. He prefers to smell the flowers. But he is mistaken for a rowdy bull after he sits on a bee. His strength and rage are noted, and he is carted to fight in the bullfight in Madrid.

9. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (1939)

Mary Anne, Mike’s faithful steam shovel, gets put out of work by the new fancy machines. However, Mike bets that Mary Anne can dig in one day as much as one hundred men can in a week. Their hard work and ingenuity are tested in the little town of Popperville.

10. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines the smallest one was Madeline.” Madeline is a fearless young girl who has a medical emergency in the middle of the night and demonstrates courage as she rests and recovers.

1940-1949

11. Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina (1940)

Can the peddler outwit these silly hat-loving monkeys? I love the introduction to colors, the simple text, and the contrasting patterns for babies and toddlers.

12. Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1941)

Mrs. Mallard brings her eight little ducklings safely home to the pond in the Boston Public Gardens with the help of the Boston Police.

13. Curious George by H.A. Rey (1941)

The book is the beginning of the adventures of George and the man with the yellow hat.

14. Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (1942)

The steadfast love and devotion of a mother are on display in this good book. A baby bunny imaginatively runs away from his mother. This book is a great way to reassure your little one that you will always be there for them no matter what.

15. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey (1942)

This curious little puppy loves to dig holes under fences which leads to no strawberry shortcake before bed. This is my favorite title of the Golden Books.

16. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (1942)

An enchanting story about the journey of a happy home through the years. The house’s journey begins in the countryside, but the city keeps creeping closer and closer.

17. Stone Soup by Marcia Brown (1947)

Three hungry soldiers travel through a French village. The people see the soldiers coming and quickly begin to hide their food. But all they need are three stones to make a delicious soup. The old tale is packed with wit and humor as the village people make various offerings to the stone soup.

18. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947)

Say goodnight to all the familiar objects safely tucked in the great green room. This classic board book for young children contains simple text and high-contrast images appropriate for babies.

19. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (1948)

Sal goes to pick blueberries with her mother. When Sal wanders off, a little mix-up happens between a mama bear and a baby bear.

1950-1959

20. Petunia by Roger Duvoisin (1950)

This sassy goose finds a book. Because Petunia is now the owner of a book, she must be wise.

21. The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio (1954)

One day the Happy Lion’s enclosure is left open, and he adventures into the city. The Happy Lion is confused and concerned because everyone is acting odd and unfriendly except for the little boy.

22. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955)

One night Harold and his trusty crayon draw adventures of sea, land, and woods, returning to his safe in his bed with the moon shining through his bedroom window. This book is a great way to spark a child’s imagination.

23. Harry The Dirty Dog by Gene Zion (1956)

This dog strongly dislikes baths. After an adventurous day, he returns home, but no one recognizes him. He is no longer a white dog with black spots but is not dirty and black with white spots.

24. Anatole by Eve Titus (1956)

This honorable mouse with an exceptional palate works to provide for his family by sampling the cheese at the Duvall Cheese Factory and leaving notes of improvement.

25. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss (1957)

This silly cat with the striped hat and his buddies, Thing 1 and Thing 2, teach your kids a way to take a boring day and make it a memorable day. But don’t forget the mess. Dr. Seuss has so many best children’s books, here are our favorites.

1960-1969

26. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (1960)

Dr. Seuss’s book Green Eggs and Ham is a longer read but do not count it out. It is a great book to encourage little ones to try different things.

27. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman (1960)

A baby bird goes on a hunt for his mother. This one is a beloved book in our house. With its torn binding and roughed-up edges, it remains a frequent read even as my kids grow.

28. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (1963)

A great book for young readers. The text is filled with humor as the literal-minded housekeeper, Amelia, does exactly what she is told. Her famously delicious lemon-meringue pie provides job security. Older children will delight in the humor.

29. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)

Max, the wild child, misbehaves and is sent to his room. Immediately, his imagination takes off, and he travels a long way away and becomes King of the Wild Things. This is a must for children’s literature.

30. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber (1965)

A grumpy neighbor strongly dislikes this happy crocodile and insists that Lyle go live in the zoo. An escaped Lyle aids this cranky neighbor and becomes the welcomed and friendly neighborhood crocodile again.

31. Corduroy by Don Freeman (1968)

A little girl named Lisa falls in love with this cozy teddy bear dressed in green overalls. Corduroy notices he is missing a button and hunts for his button so that he looks his best when Lisa returns to the department store. His desire for a home is strong, and Lisa gives him a home and friendship.

32. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (1969)

This classic picture book is a must for a child’s home library. I cannot say enough great things about this beautiful book. The very hungry caterpillar has its fill of many different foods throughout the week. With a tummy ache, he munches on a green leaf before being a part of one of the most miraculous marvels of nature.

1970-1979

33. Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack (1971)

Danny needs a birthday gift for his mother. He asks all the barnyard animals, who eventually insist that he ask Mr. Bear. I love reading this delightful book with my girls because it always ends in a bear hug for me.

34. Frog and Toad Go Together by Arnold Lobel (1972)

This book is a collection of short stories of two best friends who do everything together, from learning to be brave, binging on irresistible cookies, and planting a garden. The Frog and Toad collection is part of the young readers series “I Can Read Book.”

35. Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard (1977)

The class misbehaves, and their sweet teacher disappears. An old lady, Viola Swamp, is their strict substitute teacher. The class misses Miss Nelson. It’s in her absence that the class learns to respect her.

36. The Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton (1977)

This classic counting story is the beginning of Sandra Boynton’s work.

37. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (1978)

The tiny town of Chewandswallow is unique in its weather forecast. It rained meals three times a day, and the townspeople enjoyed it until the weather got out of hand.

1980-1989

38. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (1982)

This great book is an old friend in our home. Miss Rumphius’ story challenges us “to make the world more beautiful” with a gentle reminder that this task is the most difficult. She sows seeds of lupines along the country roads, hillsides, schools, and churches. While the flowers are beautiful, her legacy is stunning. I highly recommend reading this book to the young children in your life.

39. Jamberry by Bruce Degen (1982)

This book is filled with rhyme and rhythm as these two berry-loving friends embark on an adventure of berry-seeking and good things.

40. Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang (1982)

Another precious bedtime book on this list of books for six-month-old babies and up. A father prepares his little daughter for bed with cuddles and kisses in the bedtime countdown.

41. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (1984)

Keep a tissue handy because this is a beautiful story and a profound book. Wilfrid often visits his elderly friends. He is informed that his favorite, Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, has lost her memory. This precious boy sets out to help her find it. This is one of the best books to teach compassion and kindness.

42. The Napping House by Audrey Wood (1984)

This board book is perfect for bedtime giggles as Granny, a little boy, the dog, the cat, the mouse, and a wakeful flea pile into the comfy bed in the Napping House but the flea bites…

43. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

The little mouse hurries to retrieve a red, ripe strawberry, but the narrator taunts him about the big hungry bear.

44. The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone (1985)

This is a classic story of reaping what you sow. When the little red hen asks for help from all the different animals, no one wants to help. So, she is left to do all the work herself.

45. We’re Going on A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen (1989)

The whole family goes on a bear hunt in the great outdoors. They traverse over various terrains and into a cave where they find a big shiny nose.

1990-1999

46. Time for Bed by Mem Fox (1993)

This precious book is a perfect bedtime book. Cuddle up and cozy in as the animal mamas tuck the baby animals to sleep.

47. Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (1995)

The students didn’t find Officer Buckle’s safety speech exciting until Gloria assisted with a little bit of mayhem on stage.

48. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare try their best to describe how much they love each other but soon discover that words cannot adequately express their love.

49. Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Mirette’s mom runs a boardinghouse in Paris with some interesting guests. A famous tightrope walker has become fearful and hides out at the boardinghouse. Mirette observes him walking across a wire outside his window. He teaches Mirette to walk gracefully across the wire, and she helps him overcome his fear. This great book is filled with beautiful illustrations.

50. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

After a vicious attack from an Owl, Stellaluna is adopted into a nest of little birds. She is cared for by a mother bird. To remain in the nest, Stellaluna must put aside her differences and be “birdlike.”

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More Booklists Coming Soon!

Thanks for Stopping By!

Finally, I want to thank you for stopping by! Please say Hi in the comment section and share one of your favorite books from your childhood or one you are excited to read with your children. I hope you and your children find a favorite book from this list of old childrens books.

– With Great Joy, Katie

PIN IT FOR LATER!

Old Children's Books arranged on a stained brown paper background with bold black letters and a faded vintage white bunny with a yellow flower.

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