Even if the 1990s don’t seem that far behind us, many kids who came of age in that decade now have children of their own. Fortunately for that younger generation, their parents and teachers can hand down some enduring reads that every kid of the ’90s remembers. Here are 50 of our favorite children’s books that are as popular now as they were in the ’90s.
Picture and Young Reader ’90s Children’s Books
1. The Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole
No list of ’90s children’s books would be complete without mentioning the Magic School Bus series. Journeys to space, to the ocean floor, and even to the inside of the human body—Ms. Frizzle and her class took plenty of outlandish field trips and invited kids along for the ride!
Buy it: The Magic School Bus series on Amazon
2. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
This perennial kids’ favorite launched a number of sequels and a recent animated series. Originally published in 1985, it kept ’90s picture book readers charmed with its chain of funny events.
Buy it: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie on Amazon
3. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
This Caldecott Honor book had no qualms about reimagining fairy tales in a most irreverent way, and it still holds up.
Buy it: The Stinky Cheese Man on Amazon
4. Miss Nelson Is Missing! by Harry Allard
Miss Nelson is a bit of a pushover, but her class’s substitute teacher, Viola Swamp, is not. Clever kids love the twist in this hilarious picture book.
Buy it: Miss Nelson Is Missing! on Amazon
5. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
This book feels like a baby’s nursery essential and was originally published in 1994. Kids born that year may now be buying it for their babies!
Buy it: Guess How Much I Love You on Amazon
6. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Silverstein’s wacky and wild poetry collections predate the 1990s, but they were a familiar favorite in classrooms throughout the decade (and still are now).
Buy it: Where the Sidewalk Ends on Amazon
7. Little Critter books, by Mercer Mayer
While Mercer Mayer started his author-illustrator career in 1966, his Little Critter children’s books were a ubiquitous find on every ’90s kid’s bookshelf—and they are still read today!
Buy it: Little Critter books on Amazon
8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The, um, appetite for Eric Carle’s iconic children’s books from the ’90s has always been large, and this tale of a caterpillar that eats its way (literally) through a buffet of options should be a kid-lit mainstay for the next several generations.
Buy it: The Very Hungry Caterpillar on Amazon
9. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
A kids’ picture book where the main character isn’t happy-go-lucky and having a great time? Viorst was onto something with this picture book, published before the 1990s but so well done and real that its popularity continues to endure.
Buy it: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Amazon
10. The Arthur series by Marc Brown
More than 5 million Arthur books have been sold since the series’ inception in the mid-1980s. The PBS cartoon series of the same name was what helped make these books and their bespectacled aardvark lead part of the ’90s kids canon.
Buy it: The Arthur books on Amazon
11. Berenstain Bears series
Whether they’re teaching lessons or just going on fun adventures, the hundreds of children’s books featuring the Berenstain Bears are familiar and beloved by many kids of the ’90s. Mama, Papa, Brother, and Sister Bear hold up for today’s kids too.
Buy it: Berenstain Bears books on Amazon
12. The Clifford series by Norman Bridwell
While Clifford the Big Red Dog children’s books came to be well before the 1990s, his status as a mainstay of Scholastic Book Fairs (which arguably were a 1990s kids’ rite of passage) makes him a familiar face to anyone who grew up in that era.
Buy it: The Clifford books on Amazon
13. Shrek by William Steig
Before Shrek became an icon, he was the title character of Steig’s modern fairy tale. This book was published in 1990 and the movie didn’t come out until 2001, but now kids of the ’90s are introducing their kids to the lovable ogre.
Buy it: Shrek on Amazon
School-Age and Middle Grade ’90s Children’s Books
14. Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
The first book in Stine’s just-scary-enough series debuted in 1992, setting the stage for a kid-horror juggernaut that still thrills young readers today.
Buy it: Goosebumps set on Amazon
15. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Hard to believe that Captain Underpants—the titular character of both Pilkey’s series and the book-within-the-book created by Pilkey’s character pals George and Harold—has been around for 25 years. Parents who grew up with the Captain now may have kids who read Pilkey’s other best-selling series, Dogman and Cat Kid.
Buy it: Captain Underpants series on Amazon
16. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
Hilarious, relatable, and bad at grammar, Junie B. Jones was a must-have series for new readers in the 1990s. Her mishaps and misspellings kept kids hooked to the tune of 65 million books sold.
Buy it: Junie B. Jones set on Amazon
17. Holes by Louis Sachar
This darkly comic tale by Sachar—about a boys’ detention camp where attendees are forced to dig holes under the supervision of a suspicious warden—won the Newbery Medal and was made into a feature film. It’s endured with middle-grade readers because it’s wildly entertaining.
Buy it: Holes on Amazon
18. The I Spy Series by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
This book series was something of an obsession for many ’90s kids. Marzollo’s tricky rhyming riddles paired with Wick’s elaborate and detailed photo illustrations made for hours of seek-and-find fun.
Buy it: I Spy books on Amazon
19. The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin
Martin’s series kicked off with Kristy’s Great Idea in 1986, but the 100+ children’s books in the series kept coming all through the 1990s (with book #131 published in 1999). Modern readers can now find graphic novel adaptations of the originals too.
Buy it: The Baby-Sitters Club series on Amazon
20. The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
New books continue to be released in this series about Jack, Annie, and their time-traveling adventures, but the first book in the series, Dinosaurs Before Dark, was published in 1992.
Buy it: Magic Tree House boxed set on Amazon
21. Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate
The 54-book Animorphs series—about kids who gain the power to shapeshift into animals—kept kids enthralled throughout the 1990s. Recent reprint editions are finding new fans.
Buy it: Animorphs series on Amazon
22. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lowry’s Newbery Medal–winning novel about the dark secrets lurking beneath the surface of a seemingly perfect community came out in 1993 and set a high bar for the many dystopic novels that followed it.
Buy it: The Giver on Amazon
23. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Schwartz’s compilations of scary tales from American folklore have circulated among school-age kids for decades, proving that a good thrill never goes out of style.
Buy it: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series on Amazon
24. Choose Your Own Adventure series by R.A. Montgomery
Kids always like to see themselves in books, and ’90s kids fondly remember seeing themselves in these action-packed reads, where different choices lead to different pages and totally fresh outcomes.
Buy it: Choose Your Own Adventure series on Amazon
25. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Spinelli’s Newbery Medal–winning 1990 novel about an orphaned boy humorously navigating life in a racially divided town has remained timely.
Buy it: Maniac Magee on Amazon
26. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda, an exceptional child of many gifts, is unwanted by her parents. Fortunately, Dahl’s titular character has been at the top of kids’ reading lists for decades now. Multiple adaptions—including a new musical—will make this book equally popular with kids and parents who remember reading it in the 1990s.
Buy it: Matilda on Amazon
27. The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
This Newbery and Coretta Scott King honor book, published in 1997, is considered a modern classic. It’s a great way to introduce young readers to historical fiction.
Buy it: The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 on Amazon
28. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
There’s a fair chance that today’s middle-aged parent once wrote a book report on Paulsen’s award-winning—and page-turning—survival story.
Buy it: Hatchet on Amazon
29. Garfield by Jim Davis
The 1990s were an era of must-read Sunday funnies, and Garfield was king of the comics. Compilations of comic strips featuring the lasagna-loving cat were passed around many a grade school, and now these compendiums are sure to ignite some nostalgia as well as win new fans.
Buy it: Garfield series on Amazon
30. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Every ’90s kid had a friend in Calvin and his stuffed tiger/imaginary friend Hobbes. Considered one of the greatest comic strips ever written, the collections of these strips continue to delight fans new and old.
Buy it: Calvin and Hobbes collection on Amazon
31. The Wayside School series by Louis Sachar
Another entry penned by Sachar, kids of the ’90s were well acquainted with the weird goings-on of this bizarre school. Sachar recently published a new entry to the series that will capture the attention of parents who recall reading these in the 1990s.
Buy it: Wayside School books on Amazon
32. Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry
While only the last two books in this series were published in the 1990s, readers of the era are inevitably on familiar terms with Anastasia and her very relatable real-world problems. The series was one of the most frequently challenged by book banners according to the American Library Association.
Buy it: Anastasia Krupnik on Amazon
33. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
While published in 1979, this lighthearted comic mystery about a bunny who just might be a vampire has found fans every decade since. A new 40th anniversary edition is perfect for devotees.
Buy it: Bunnicula on Amazon
34. Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald
The first book in the Judy Moody series didn’t hit shelves until 1999, but McDonald’s series about a girl with big emotions and an oft-smart mouth was and remains a hit for its hilarity.
Buy it: Judy Moody series on Amazon
35. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
While Judy Blume published most of her children’s and young adult titles before the 1990s, they’ve all endured and continue to be bestsellers. Series like the Superfudge books are great for school-age readers, but for a hilarious standalone, try Freckle Juice.
Buy it: Freckle Juice on Amazon
36. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
It goes without saying that the juggernaut that launched the Harry Potter series is one of the most well-known books of the 1990s and each subsequent decade. While most of the books were released in the 2000s, the first volume came out in 1997. Rowling has also said that the story takes place in the 1990s.
Buy it: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on Amazon
37. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Setting the stage for princesses who were more than just pretty, Carson Levine’s Newbery-winning series launcher features a princess who’s been given the “gift” of obedience and wants nothing to do with it. A fabulous feminist fairy tale.
Buy it: Ella Enchanted series on Amazon
38. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
The first book in her Immortals quartet, Wild Magic helped cement Pierce’s legacy as a premier writer of children’s fantasy novels. Because of her female protagonists, like this series’ 13-year-old Daine who has a magical gift to communicate with animals, Pierce also broke new ground in the genre.
Buy it: Wild Magic on Amazon
39. Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume
Originally published in 1986, Judy Blume’s novel about a friendship going through growing pains has remained in regular preteen rotation for a reason: Blume just gets what it’s like to be a kid.
Buy it: Just as Long as We’re Together on Amazon
’90s Young Adult Books
40. Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal
Before there was Gossip Girl, there was Sweet Valley High. The Wakefield twins and their classmates will be familiar companions for any ’90s kid.
Buy it: Sweet Valley High series on Amazon
41. Remember Me by Christopher Pike
Remember Me is among the most popular of Pike’s work, and anyone who was a teen in the ’90s probably remembers staying up late to see his thrillers to the end.
Buy it: Remember Me on Amazon
42. Forever … by Judy Blume
Controversial for its portrayal of teen sexuality, Blume’s book is a seminal coming-of-age tale that has never stopped resonating.
Buy it: Forever … on Amazon
43. Fear Street by R.L. Stine
Kids of the ’90s who outgrew Goosebumps no doubt picked up Fear Street novels. Stine proved a master at teen horror, and the nail-biting books recently were re-released with new covers.
Buy it: Fear Street on Amazon
44. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Though milk cartons no longer bear the faces of missing children, ’90s kids both remember the fear those photos inspired and Cooney’s gripping novel about a kidnapping.
Buy it: The Face on the Milk Carton on Amazon
45. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Originally published in 1999, Anderson’s National Book Award finalist was a heavy YA book that reached ’90s kids just as they were coming of age. This novel, which blends an acerbic wit with a deep emotional core, centers on a high school girl who faces social ostracism for busting up a party—and who has a deeper truth about that night to confront and reveal.
Buy it: Speak on Amazon
46. The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
The basis for the hit TV show, Smith’s series predated Twilight and captured a ’90s fan base eager for teen vampires (perhaps thanks to hit movies like The Lost Boys and the popularity of adult vampire novels like Ann Rice’s Interview With the Vampire).
Buy it: The Vampire Diaries on Amazon
47. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Another 1999-published coming-of-age novel, Chbosky’s award-winning cult favorite features scenes and music ’90s kids grew up with. Eventually made into a motion picture, this observant book has endured and—along with Speak—set the tone for many of the contemporary YA novels teens love today.
Buy it: The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Amazon
48. The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
While tonally much different than Speak or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the first entry in this charming series debuted in 2000. The ’90s kids leaving elementary and middle school graduated to the tales of Princess Mia, and now are likely to be introducing their own children to the books and films based on them.
Buy it: The Princess Diaries set on Amazon
49. The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman
Teens who took to less-mainstream offerings of the ’90s were likely fans of Gaiman’s dark and thoughtful Sandman series. Now available as graphic novels, these are a great read for older teens.
Buy it: The Sandman box set on Amazon
50. The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike
Now a Netflix series, The Midnight Club was originally a gripping ’90s teen horror novel from Christopher Pike. In it, five terminally ill teens tell each other stories of all kinds, and then they make a pact: The first to die must visit from beyond the grave to prove there’s life after death. Teens who love modern YA horror should read this ’90s entry.
Buy it: The Midnight Club on Amazon
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