Children’s Books from the 90s You Need on Your Bookshelf
Were you a 90s kid?
This book list of over 25 children’s books from the 90s is a perfect way to take a trip down memory lane, introduce your child to stories from your past that are important to you, and discuss books with your little ones in a memorable way.
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The 90s are a time of nostalgia for many parents. We can still remember exactly how certain books affected us during that decade and how they contributed to shaping exactly who we are right now.
There is something very special about sharing books that had an impact on your own life with your children. From children’s picture books to fairy tales to the Harry Potter franchise, there is something for everyone in this book list.
Our Top Picks:
The Best 90s Book for Little Ones: The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
The Best 90s Book for Young Readers: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
The Best 90s Books for Ages 7 to 10: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
The Best 90s Books for Middle School Students: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Best 90s Book for Deep Thinkers: The Giver by Lois Lowry
How We Chose Our Favorites
We chose our top picks by looking back on children’s books that were popular in the 1990s and by consulting with real parents and kids of varying ages to find out their favorites.
We also considered important themes and representations to make sure that there is something that will resonate with every child.
The Best 90s Books for Little Ones
1. The Rainbow Fish
The Best 90s Board Book for Little Ones
We love this beautiful story because of its sparkling, and eye-catching illustrations. Parents will especially love the touching themes of friendship and generosity that will be life lessons for all regardless of age.
If it’s your child’s first time picking up a book, this one is a great choice to start with.
“This is a wonderful book. It has a message about not being selfish, giving of ourselves, putting others first, and being a friend. I am an adult and I have it in my library, and occasionally have an opportunity to share it with young ones. I gave them away as gifts also.”
2. The Kissing Hand
The Best 90s Book for Separation Anxiety
This is a go-to book for parents whose little ones are dealing with separation anxiety as they start daycare, preschool, or kindergarten.
It will leave both you and your little one feeling much better about being apart, and it may start a beautiful new kissing hand tradition for you as well.
“Oh how I love love LOVE this book. Like so many little ones, my daughter was having a really hard time adjusting to kindergarten. She would cry every day before she got on the bus. She would tell me constantly how much she missed being home. She seemed so sad and lost. I reached out to a friend whose daughter had gone through something similar a few years ago. She recommended this book. This book, above anything else we tried, helped my daughter adjust to going to school.”
3. Go Away, Big Green Monster!
The Best 90s Book for Little Ones with Big Fears
This is the ultimate children’s book for little ones who develop fears of monsters and being in the dark. It’s also a fun book to read at Halloween time!
“This book has become a fast favorite in our household. My daughter is 3 and has just entered the phase where she's scared of monsters and the dark. "Go Away Big Green Monster" is brilliant in its approach to helping kids conquer their fears.”
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Best 90s Board Book with Eye-Catching Pictures
This world-renowned bestseller by Eric Carle will captivate babies and toddlers with its bright colors and adorable story. Your little one will be grabbing this book as a favorite for sure.
“My baby loves loves loves this book! He is 2 and really likes the pictures of the different foods with the holes. It makes him laugh and smile and he loves saying the names of the different foods…I think every baby needs this book.”
5. The Giving Tree
The Best 90s Keepsake Book
This is a beautiful story to read and reread with your children from the time they are very young and for as long as they will let you keep reading to them. The themes of generosity and the value of nature are unforgettable.
“One of my favorite books as a child, and now I read it to my children. This story teaches the reader the importance of giving generously, without expecting anything in return.”
The Best 90s Books for Young Readers
1. Guess How Much I Love You
The Best Board Book About Love
Parents love how this book is all about love. The charming animal illustrations stand the test of time, and this is a classic book that belongs in every child’s home library.
“This is one of the most brilliantly and simple books ever written for little ones! It is simple and sweet. The art is cute. The iconic “I love you to the moon - and back!” lives on in my family and my youngest is now 9 years old.”
The Best 90s Picture Book for Little Ones
This book is known for its gorgeous illustrations, fantastical story details, and touching theme. Parents and children will appreciate the theme of being true to themselves no matter what.
“This is a classic book for preschoolers, and my 3.5-year-old loves it. I had to call him Stellaluna for weeks, and answer by the name of Mother Fruit bat! We love our copy so much that we've been buying it as gifts for friends. This is a sweet story with just the right amount of plot and text for an older preschool-aged child.”
3. I Spy Book Series
The Best 90s Activity Book
This series is a perfect one to pass the time and involve kids of all ages. There are many different theme choices, and it’s an activity book that never grows old.
“I used to love these books as a kid and now I love playing them with my nieces and nephews! There are different levels and you can find the age groups in this one but typically there are some items on each page that are easier and some that are harder so most ages can have the delight of finding something!”
The Best 90s Books for Ages 6 to 10
1. Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
The Best All Round 90s Book for 3rd Graders
This classic by Dr. Seuss has delighted young children (and adults!) for over 30 years. The rhyming style stories will whisk your child away on many exciting adventures that they won’t want to come back from!
2. Where the Sidewalk Ends
The Best 90s Book to Introduce Kids to Poetry
This book of hilarious poems and illustrations is one to count on for a surefire way to help kids learn to love poetry and reading in general. It’s both silly and thoughtful, and it’s fun for kids to read on their own or with a family member.
“This is a timeless book. I still enjoy reading it from the copy I received when I was 7 years old. This is my go-to gift for any future moms at baby showers. It'll last a lifetime, they'll read it to their children for bedtime stories, the child will eventually read it by themselves and then they can read and enjoy it as an adult. I highly recommend this book and others by the same author.”
3. The Magic School Bus
The Best Magical Realism 90s Book Series
The Magic School Bus picture book series, which eventually became a famous franchise, is beloved by children everywhere. Bruce Degen illustrates the antics of Ms. Frizzle and her class, who ride on a magic school bus that takes them on trips to weird and wacky places.
4. Magic Tree House Series
The Best 90s Series to Introduce Kids to Historical Events
This book series is amazing for getting kids into reading an actual series of books. Parents also love how they introduce children to important events from history as well as historical figures in a magical and age-appropriate way.
“Great birthday gift for my 7-year-old niece who wanted chapter books. Kids fall in love with the characters who become their friends and they travel right along with them as discoverers, detectives, and researchers of exciting new places!! Easy for kids to become addicted to reading this series.”
5. The Boxcar Children Series
The Best 90s Mystery Series for Kids
This is an excellent mystery series that will hold children in suspense (without getting scared). The family bond that is depicted through the siblings creates a heartwarming message, too.
“I remember reading (and loving!) the Boxcar Children books when I was younger, so when my oldest daughter was old enough to enjoy reading chapter books, I immediately bought these for her. Just as I had hoped, they are a hit! We often read the books together before bedtime and we cannot get enough of the good old-fashioned adventure.”
6. The Eyewitness Book Series
The Best 90s Nonfiction Series
This series is perfect to get kids hooked on non-fiction. They include eye-catching photographs and interesting facts about all kinds of topics ranging from dinosaurs to weather to ancient Egypt.
“My nephews loved this. They're 'advanced' dino kids and needed something beyond cutesy. This fits the bill.”
7. The American Girl Historical Girls Series
The Best 90s Series with Strong Female Leads
This series makes history come alive for young girls. Elementary readers will see themselves in girls with very different backgrounds, and American Girl offers plenty of extensions including the actual dolls to make the characters accessible.
“It's a dramatic story for elementary-age children. It's a nimble tale that nonetheless hits all the hard notes of what slavery was, and more importantly, what it means to be a slave. Highly recommended.”
The Best 90s Books for Middle School Students
1. The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
The Best 90s Book to Introduce Your Child to the Civil Rights Movement
This book makes being a Black family in the 1960s come alive as a relatable experience for modern-day kids. It’s funny and real and kids will genuinely enjoy this wonderful family.
“When I first chose this book to read, I only went by the brief description that told what the book was about. Little did I know that when I began to read the book, I would feel as if I, myself, was living through the Watsons. They had normal family drama, sibling rivalry, and behavioral issues. There are high points in the book as well as low points. But the family pulls together to get through the tough times. Although the book takes place in the 1960s, it seems to encompass some modern-day problems in our society.”
2. The Harry Potter Series
The Best Fantasy Series Series from the 90s
Harry Potter has taken the world by storm for good reason. There’s something to enchant all kids here: magic, amazing characters, adventure, mystery, deep emotions, and so much more.
“These books are awesome page-turners and are accessible to a wide range of age levels. Anybody looking for a way to get into quality fantasy or to just get lost in a magical and engaging world should look no further and purchase this box set!”
3. A Picture of Freedom
The Best 90s Book to Help Kids Understand Racism
This book’s main character is relatable despite the different times and historical background. She will inspire kids and also help them understand slavery on a deeper level.
“A MUST read for kids! I read the book with my 6th grader and we LOVE it! What a brave woman!”
4. A Wrinkle in Time
The Best 90s Book for 5th to 8th Graders Who Love Science Fiction
This book has it all: family bonds, embracing individuality, finding courage, magic, and science fiction. This is the kind of classic story that can be read again and again. No one is ever too old to appreciate A Wrinkle in Time.
“A must-read for every young woman. This was the pivotal book of my early adolescence and is still a touchstone for me as an adult. No other book has had such a profound effect on my thinking, personality, spirituality, and character.”
5. The Goosebumps Series
The Best 90s Scary Series for Kids Who Love a Fright
This is the book series to choose for kids who are not easily impressed or who get bored easily. You can’t be bored when reading a Goosebumps scary story! These books will captivate even the most reluctant readers.
“Many years ago I bought these books for my 12-year-old youngest son. He was having a hard time reading anything. But these books turned him around. Yes, they are scary and that’s what kids like and are interested in. I can’t help it. He is 35 years old now and reads a series of books 2 inches thick. He loves reading to this day. And I have to say the Goosebumps books got him started.”
6. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
The Best 90s Book About Racism for Middle Schoolers
This book is an important story for children as it confronts racism in a way that’ll stay with kids for the long term.
“I listened to this book as an audiobook in middle school for part of my history curriculum. That was more than ten years ago, and several sections of the story just stayed with me this long. A month ago I had a bad day, saw this book for less than a dollar on kindle, and decided some literary therapy was in order. It was as good as I remember it being. Relatable, real, passionate, clear, and honest as a child trying to understand the world. It's a story that stayed with me for more than ten years, I suspect it will stay with me a lot longer than that.”
The Best 90s Books for Teens
The Best 90s Book for Tweens and Young Teens Who Love Adventure
Hatchet is a great choice for tweens and young teens who are interested in adventure and the outdoors – or for teens who could use a bit more of that in their own lives to break out of a different kind of life. This page-turner will have kids completely invested in the main character’s ability to survive.
“I could not stop reading Hatchet. The story is astonishing - not least because author Gary Paulsen says he himself experienced nearly everything that happens to the book's only real character, Brian. The adventures and threats and risks and successes of trying to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness are told in rich detail. But the most riveting parts of Hatchet are those that show how Brian's mind works, because his brain, even more than his body, has to make sense of his new world.”
The Best 90s Book for Deep Thinkers
This book will shake teens out of thinking there is any one way to view the world. It will have them questioning and thinking about life on deeper levels, and it will hopefully be one that they reread again in college and later as adults.
“Although this novel was published about 25 years ago, it has an immediacy that makes it timeless. Primarily targeted as a children’s book, it manages to captivate both young and old readers with its identifiable dystopian themes.”
The Best 90s Book to Help Teens Find Their Voice
This book addresses challenging themes, but it is also an important one for teens to consider. This story is for mature teens, as well as teenagers who could use some encouragement to find their own voice in the face of very difficult times.
“The beauty of this novel is that it could have survived alone without the much more sinister story behind it. But, that said, it also served as a very sad and moving voice for rape victims, particularly the vast amounts who feel at fault or scared or embarrassed by what happened. It was a quick, easy teen read but it's also the kind that plays on your mind repeatedly after finishing it.”
Finding My Voice
The Best 90s Novel About Teen Stress
This book will speak to kids who know what it’s like to feel pressure and be torn between two different worlds. It also addresses the stereotypes and racism experienced by Asian Americans in a very real and relatable way.
“Ellen is torn between two worlds. Her parents expect her to be obedient, get straight-A's, go to Harvard, and become a doctor. Ellen doesn't know what she wants. She wants to make her parents proud and live up to their impossibly high expectations. Yet she also wants to go to parties, do gymnastics, have a boyfriend...be a typical American teenager. This would make life hard for any teen.
Ellen faces the additional pressure of growing up as the only Asian teen in her small town in the Iron Range. The Iron Range of Minnesota is located in the northeast corner of the state; this rural mining area is not known for its racial diversity. Ellen's classmates and teachers frequently make little racist comments to needle her and even escalate into ugly hostility.”
If you want to read more recommendations on books for kids, check out The Ultimate Bucket List of Books to Read for Kids.