Even as an adult, I still find that many of my favorite stories are children’s stories. Maybe it’s because I got in more than my fair share of trouble as a child, but there’s always been something endearing to me about a precocious kid (or kids) who find themselves having improbable adventures.

In this list of children’s stories adults will love too I’ve included tales that involve the magical, the scary, the unlikely, the hilarious, and even the seemingly mundane that make up what I believe to be some of the best reads in this category.

12 Children’s Stories Adults Will Love Too

I decided to make what I’m calling a few intentional omissions, they are: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak; and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.

Due to their extreme popularity I began making this reading list with the assumption that if you’re a fan of this sub-category then you’ve probably already read those books multiple times and don’t need me to remind you of them. And I’m sure a few of my picks below may still be “too familiar” but nevertheless I thought the above three a no-brainer for exclusion on that basis.

Beyond that, you will not find much for very young children either. Again, this is a personal preference, but beyond great artwork I find it really hard to get into books that are written for kids below, say, six years old (give or take).

And with that, I’m done justifying my choices. Enjoy the reading list!

1. The Graveyard Book

It takes a graveyard to raise a child.

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family.

2. The Thief of Always

Mr. Hood’s Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles, a blissful round of treats and seasons, where every childhood whim may be satisfied… for a price!

3. Artemis Fowl

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous.

Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them…but then they stop playing by the rules.

4. The Bad Beginning

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVETS #1

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.

In the first two books alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, a lumpy bed, a deadly serpent, a large brass reading lamp, a long knife, and a terrible odour.

In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted. Never before has a tale of three likeable and unfortunate children been quite so enchanting, or quite so uproariously unhappy.

5. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, and–in two dramatic foldout spreads– the vertiginous drama of Petit’s feat.

6. Where the Sidewalk Ends

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer,
A wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er,
A magic bean buyer . . .

Come in . . . for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins. You’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.

7. Matilda

“The Trunchbull” is no match for Matilda!

Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

8. The Little Prince

Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as The Little Prince. Richard Howard’s new translation of the beloved classic-published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s birth-beautifully reflects Saint-Exupéry’s unique and gifted style. Howard, an acclaimed poet and one of the preeminent translators of our time, has excelled in bringing the English text as close as possible to the French, in language, style, and most important, spirit. The artwork in this new edition has been restored to match in detail and in color Saint-Exupéry’s original artwork.

9. Snow White

This particular version of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale is devoid of the bright, glossy imagery made popular by Disney. It’s illustrations are beautiful, dark, and otherworldly. Almost a different tale altogether when seen through this new (old) lens.

10. The Spider and the Fly

“‘Will you walk into my parlor,’
said the Spider to the Fly…”

is easily one of the most recognized and quoted first lines in all of English verse. But do you have any idea how the age-old tale of the Spider and the Fly ends? Join celebrated artist Tony DiTerlizzi as he — drawing inspiration from one of his loves, the classic Hollywood horror movies of the 1920s and 1930s — shines a cinematic spotlight on Mary Howitt’s warning, written to her own children about those who use sweet words to hide their not-so-sweet intentions.

11. Boy: Tales of Childhood

In Boy, Roald Dahl recounts his days as a child growing up in England. From his years as a prankster at boarding school to his envious position as a chocolate tester for Cadbury’s, Roald Dahl’s boyhood was as full of excitement and the unexpected as are his world-famous, best-selling books. Packed with anecdotes — some funny, some painful, all interesting — this is a book that’s sure to please.

12. Nicholas

Nicholas is the first of five books that bring to life the day to day adventures of a young school boy – amusing, endearing and always in trouble.

An only child, Nicholas, appears older at school than he does as home and his touchingly naive reaction to situations, cut through the preconceptions of adults and result in a formidable sequence of escapades.

This first book in the series contains a collection of nineteen individual stories where, in spite of trying to be good, Nicholas and his friends always seem to end up in some kind of mischief. Whether in the school room, at home, or in the playground, their exuberance often takes over and the results are calamitous – at least for their teachers and parents. Whether confusing the photographer hired to take the class picture, dealing with having to wear glasses for the first time, or trying desperately to help the teacher when the school inspector pays a visit, Nicholas always manages to make matters worse.

What are YOUR favorite children’s stories?

There are so many great children’s stories to choose from that my list above is bound to be missing many that still fit within my constraint of “children’s stories adults will love too.” Do you know of any?