The Timeless Appeal of Children’s Literature


appeal of classic children's book

The hallmark of a classic book with eternal philosophy is going to stand the test of time. They can be called classics because of their timeless themes, characters, and storylines. Regardless of the era, these books were written in, they genuinely speak to the lasting essence of childhood that children instantly recognize. In other words, even though the books were set back in times long ago, they are appealing to children and drawn them in.

The meaningfully written text and beautifully illustrated pictures will make it the kind of book that stays in your mind forever and is loved by both children and parents alike. It isn’t some transitory experience where a child “outgrows” the book after only one read, already understanding it lacks depth and substance.

A true classic is a book rich with insight and wisdom that sweeps you away into an imaginative whirlwind of human truth.


Timeless Classics

So, what literature is considered “timeless” and universally known and loved?

A great example is, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This book is fifty years old and a classic that continues to win over the hearts of readers all ages. With simplistic language and vibrant original art, this is a quintessential picture book is a place where readers can recognize themselves and their wild side in protagonist Max. And while the language might be modest it should be noted that each word is carefully chosen to look at the complexity of human emotion such as fear, wonderment, anger, and frustration. This book is and will likely continue to be one of the best-loved books of all time.

Master storyteller Roald Dahl has created more than one timeless classic and has a way of directly appealing to an individual’s imagination on a personal level. His books explore children’s fears and desires while sending a deeper message, which is helping children to survive in a confusing world. One theme that often comes up is how to escape loneliness. His books are full of positive messages that entertain audience’s year after year.

Timeless treasure Matilda was published in 1988 and is considered a fundamental building block for the Millennial generation. Matilda is an enduring heroine who deals with serious, relatable issues like violence and the abuse of authority and power. Many people can see parts of themselves in Matilda and feel inspired by her ability to stick up for the underdog with her charming wit, sincerity, and intelligence. She empowers children to take control of their lives. The stunning artwork in this book is a large part of the reason it is wildly successful.

Character development is critical for a book to become a classic and you should be able to see the progression up until the very end of the book. Take for instance adventure novel Treasure Island, by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a coming-of-age book that uses descriptive language to set the scenes and express opinions. The author allows perspectives to change within the story which allows the reader to see the context—not just told. The book has been one of the first to develop the narrative arc—with a formal introduction, problem, solution and then a happy conclusion.


Re-Reading the Classics

The amazing thing about timeless literature is that we can re-read these books as adults and love them just as much as when we were children.

It is amazing how long children’s books can last, and most of us would agree that at least one childhood book had a significant impact on us. Children’s writers often design books with the idea of “re-reading” them in mind. Children will re-read their favorite book many times over—and each time they come back to it, they look at it in a different way. This is an excellent way for a child to go deeper into the multiple layers, allowing it to become more profound each time a child reads it.

Many fairy tales hold timeless appeal and often contain powerful life lessons—showing both the good and the bad. These stories are a unique experience for each person at a given point in time, and often we can find a little of ourselves in each story.

Cinderella has universal appeal and allows us to learn about what it means to have a character in the face of jealousy, greed, and evil. Cinderella was in a sense “bullied,” by her stepfamily, much like many children are today. The story ends with good prevailing over evil, leaving an overall positive feel. Fairy tale characters can be relatable to many and carry important messages for the audience.


True Classics of the Future

As the publication of children’s books continues, more real classics of the future are created—and will get handed down generation to generation just like the timeless classics we love.

Books like Harry Potter by JK Rowling has shifted the world of children’s literature but allowed us to remember that the imagination is truly ageless.

Talented author Julia Donaldson has sold millions of copies of The Gruffalo, a story adored by children and adults. This is an example of an instant classic, where the audience and critics grant approval upon its release. The book stimulates your inventiveness and allows all readers to lose themselves in a creative world. Donaldson doesn’t miss a beat in the rhythm of her writing, and the detailed illustrations are exceptional.



Great works of children’s literature that stand the test of time and hold timeless appeal will often touch us to our core while allowing us to learn about love, life, death, truth, faith, beauty, and much more. These books help us make connections and engage us with their unique style and powerful literary elements. So by all means, grab your beloved bedtime classic like The Railway Children—or maybe Alice in Wonderland—and discover the glorious freedom of losing yourself in the exciting world of your imagination. And don’t forget to share these moments with your young reader, as they begin the journey of finding their own timeless classics.


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4 thoughts on “The Timeless Appeal of Children’s Literature

  1. Love this post Shiela! Never get tired of re-reading classics 🙂 Lisa

    1. Thank you Lisa! Glad to hear from you! Yes I love reading classics, it’s the nostalgia, isn’t it?:)

  2. This is so true! I had the privilege to teach in Thailand and told a very old South African story: Red little riding hood. To my surprise, the children loved it and wanted the hear it again and again… Fond memories. 🙂

    1. Wow! It must be so fun! and also I didn’t know Little Red Riding hood is a South African Story or were you referring to Pretty Salma? I searched it online and I would love to sit done and read it some time. Thank you! 🙂

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