Top 10 Best Children's Books from the 1980s

The 1980s was a wonderful decade for children's books, as shown by this list of the very best! Ordered by publication date, these fantastic books from the 80s have captivated kids for decades. Highlights include We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Matilda and War Horse.

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1. Where's Spot?

Eric Hill | Toddlers | 1980

The adorable, much-loved little dog Spot stars in this sturdy, interactive board book. Spot's gone missing, but little ones will have heaps of fun searching for him under the flaps! With fun repetition and an engaging story, this book is hugely entertaining for younger readers.

2. Goodnight Mister Tom

Michelle Magorian | 9+ | 1981

This heart-breaking, illuminating tale follows Willie Beech, a deprived child who lives in London with his abusive mother. But when war breaks out and Willie is evacuated to the countryside, he is taken into the home of Tom Oakley, an old man who turns out to be kind and loving. Willie also makes a wonderful friend in Zach, who loves to go cycling. But what will happen when Willie's mother demands he come home - and tragedy strikes?

3. War Horse

Michael Morpurgo | 9+ | 1982

Children can discover the horrors of the First World War in this dramatic, exciting tale. It recounts the experiences of Joey, a horse who is despatched to the front line of the army in France, and the efforts of his former owner Albert to bring him safely home. This is a stunning and gripping story, which won't fail to move young readers.

4. The Polar Express

Chris Van Allsburg | 3+ | 1985

A quintessentially Christmassy adventure, this thrilling story features a young boy who hears a magnificent train pull up outside his house on Christmas Eve. He joins a throng of excitable children on-board and they set off for the North Pole. The boy meets Santa and receives a beautiful silver sleigh-bell - but soon discovers it has fallen through a hole in his pocket! Will he ever get it back? This magical, festive picture book is great for Christmas - or any time of year!

5. Howl's Moving Castle

Diana Wynne Jones | 9+ | 1986

This thrilling, funny novel is set in the fantastical world of Ingary, where young Sophie Hatter is put under a terrible curse by the malevolent Witch of the Waste, and made to look like an old crone! In Sophie's efforts to find a way to break the spell, she will go on all sorts of adventures in a magical, moving castle, accompanied by the charismatic Calcifer the Fire Demon, the formidable Wizard Howl and Howl's apprentice, Michael.

6. The Jolly Postman

Janet & Allan Ahlberg | 3+ | 1986

This captivating, interactive book for children aged 3+ features a host of favourite fairy-tale characters and exciting back stories! Discover letters tucked into the pages of this gorgeous book, including a letter of apology from Goldilocks to the three bears, a postcard from Jack for the giant, a solicitor's letter on behalf of Little Red Riding-Hood for the wolf who ate her grandmother, and more!

7. Where's Wally?

Martin Handford | 5+ | 1987

The first book in the ingenious Where's Wally? series was published in 1987, and has gained plenty of parent approval for the hours of entertainment it provides for children as they explore the colourful, intricate scenes. With plenty of hectic goings-on covering every inch of each vibrant page, the Where's Wally? books develop discriminatory and scanning skills, too.

8. Matilda

Roald Dahl | 7+ | 1988

Much-loved heroine Matilda Wormwood is super smart, a voracious reader, and has the awesome power to move objects with her mind! Her parents may be nasty to her, but she's a very special girl who will go on a thrilling adventure to take down her cruel-hearted and horrible headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Children will love this amusing, timeless tale from the wonderful Roald Dahl, as well as the wonderful illustrations by Quentin Blake.

9. Bill's New Frock

Anne Fine | 7+ | 1989

This classic book is perfect for introducing kids to the topic of gender in a fun, engaging way. One life-changing morning, Bill Simpson is surprised to find he has woken up as a girl - and his mum is making him wear a frilly pink dress to school! Will he be able to cope with a whole day like this? How will people treat him differently, now he's a girl?

10. We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury | 3+ | 1989

This beautiful children's classic features fun sing-song verse and stunning pictures by the wonderful illustrator, Helen Oxenbury. It features an eventful family walk as they squelch through mud and splash through puddles in search of a bear! But will they be prepared for the surprise that awaits them in the cave? Kids will love this engaging story.

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    Bestselling author-and-illustrator team Janet and Allan Ahlberg will capture your child's imagination with the Jolly Postman's familiar faces and exciting back stories!

    There's a letter of apology for the three bears from Goldilocks, a postcard from Jack for the giant, a solicitor's letter on behalf of Little Red Riding-Hood for the wolf who ate grandma, and more!

    A lovely bedtime story for children aged 3 and over.
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    A new look for one of Diana Wynne Jones' funniest and most popular novels. In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste and is put under a spell. Deciding she has nothing more to lose, she makes her way to the moving castle that hovers on the hills above Market Chipping. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls! There she meets Michael, Howl's apprentice, and Calcifer the Fire Demon, with whom she agrees a pact. But Sophie isn't the only one under a curse -- her entanglements with Calcifer, Howl, and Michael, and her quest to break her curse is both gripping -- and howlingly funny!
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    Bill's New Frock is a classic story from former Children's Laureate, Anne Fine.

    Bill Simpson wakes up one morning to find he's changed into a girl - and even worse, his mum's forcing him to wear a frilly pink dress to school. How will he manage to survive a whole day like this? Everything is just so different when you're a girl...
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    Late on Christmas Eve a boy boards a mysterious train that waits for him: the Polar Express, bound for the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for one bell from the reindeer's harness. It turns out to be a very special gift, for only believers in Santa can hear it ring.
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    From the genius mind of Roald Dahl, Matilda Wormwood is a heroine with a love of books and some truly magical powers. Her parents may call her terrible things all the time, but the truth is she's a very special little girl.

    Forming a special bond with her caring teacher Miss Honey, both her parents and the angry, spiteful headmistress Miss Trunchbull soon find out they were wrong to underestimate Matilda so much...

    In 1996, this magical book was adapted into a popular film directed by and starring Danny DeVito and it's also now an award-winning musical across the world. Complete with Quentin Blake's illustrations, Matilda is a timeless classic that will be returned to again and again.
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    In Michelle Magorian's classic Goodnight Mister Tom, a young Willie Beech is evacuated to the countryside due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

    A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of a kind old man, Tom Oakley. But then his cruel mother summons him back to war-torn London... Will Willie ever see his friend Mister Tom again?

    Full of characters to both love and hate, moments of grief and joy, and a marvellous, emotion-grabbing narrative, Goodnight Mister Tom will captivate adults and young readers aged 9 and over.
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    Martin Handford's ingenious Where's Wally? book wins him lots of parent approval because of the amount of time the average young reader will spend glued to each page.

    With tons of interesting goings-on in every inch of space, this book is fun and intriguing. Where's Wally? is a great book to develop the attention span of readers aged five and above and it will cultivate scanning and spotting skills, too.
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    Award-winning children's classic, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, has a perfect sing-song verse for plodding along to on a family walk.

    Learning the words off by heart should be compulsory for children and grown-ups! Helen Oxenbury's illustrations beautifully capture the obstacles of squelchy mud and splishy-splashy river.

    The fabulous text and pictures are totally in tune and this simple book will have young children returning to it again and again.
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    Created by Eric Hill, Spot the dog has entertained generations of toddlers and this sturdy and interactive board book gives little ones the chance to have hours of fun searching under the flaps for him!

    Children will love the repetition of "Is he in the clock? Is he in the box? Is he under the rug?" and will enjoy predicting what's going to happen with the turn of every page!

    A fun and interactive children's book that will be returned to again and again - Spot books never fail to impress.
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    In War Horse, award-winning children's author Michael Morpurgo allows readers to understand the horror of the First World War by recounting the experiences of a farm horse who is commandeered to join the front line.

    The unbeatable storytelling skills of Michael Morpurgo make War Horse a stunning, unputdownable tale that won't fail to move all readers from 9+. As Steven Spielberg's epic film version gained a whole new audience for this stunning piece of literature, there's never been a better time to read the book.