BEST KIDS' BOOKS EVER

Here's my list of the Best Children’s Books — Ever! in ascending order of difficulty, adapted from my column (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/opinion/05kristof.html).
  1. 1.
    “Charlotte’s Web.” The story of the spider who saves her friend, the pig, is the kindest representation of an arthropod in literary history.
  2. 2.
    The Hardy Boys series. Yes, I hear the snickers. But I devoured them myself and have known so many kids for whom these were the books that got them excited about reading. The first in the series is weak, but “House on the Cliff” is a good opener.
  3. 3.
    “Wind in the Willows.” My mother read this 101-year-old English classic to me, and I’m still in love with the character
  4. 4.
    The Freddy the Pig series. Published between 1927 and 1958, these 26 books are funny, beautifully written gems. They concern a talking pig, Freddy, who is lazy, messy and sometimes fearful, yet a loyal friend, a first-rate detective and an impressive poet.
  5. 5.
    The Alex Rider series. These are modern British spy thrillers in which things keep exploding in a very satisfying way. Alex amounts to a teenage James Bond for the 21st century.
  6. 6.
    The Harry Potter series. Look, the chance to read these books aloud is by itself a great reason to have kids.
  7. 7.
    "Gentle Ben.” The coming-of-age story of a sickly, introspective Alaskan boy who makes friends with an Alaskan brown bear, to the horror of his tough, domineering father.
  8. 8.
    "Anne of Green Gables.” At a time when young ladies were supposed to be demure and decorative, Anne emerged to become one of the strongest and most memorable girls in literature.
  9. 9.
    “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be.” This is a hilarious, poignant and exceptionally well-written memoir of childhood on the Canadian prairies. (Note, if you prefer sweet to funny, try “Rascal” instead.)
  10. 10.
    “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” This classic spawned the Fauntleroy suit and named a duck (Donald Duck’s middle name is Fauntleroy).
  11. 11.
    “On to Oregon.” This outdoor saga, written almost 90 years ago, is loosely based on the true story of the Sager family journeying by covered wagon in 1848, in the early days of the Oregon Trail. The parents die on route, and the seven children — the youngest just an infant — continue on their own.
  12. 12.
    “The Prince and the Pauper.” Most kids encounter Mark Twain through “Tom Sawyer,” but this work is at least as funny and offers unforgettable images of English history.
  13. 13.
    “Lad, a Dog” is simply the best book ever about a pet, a collie. This is to “Lassie” what Shakespeare is to CliffsNotes.