1. Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann
A girl plays with matches and burns to death. A boy who sucks his thumb has them cut off by a roving tailor. You can always count on rhyming German stories to teach good moral fiber in the most terrifying way possible.
2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A philosophical French tale about a pilot who crashes into the desert and meets a young prince who fell to the earth from his tiny planet. The prince teaches the pilot profound lessons on the meaning of life, the nature of love, and the beauty of existence.
3. Karlsson on the Roof by Astrid Lindgren
In this Swedish classic, a very self-confident little man with a propeller on his back lives on the roof of a lonely little boy’s building and takes him on exciting flying adventures.
He was especially popular in the Soviet Union, where he was ginger and particularly plump:
4. Krokodil Gena and His Friends by Eduard Uspensky
Immortalized as a popular 1960s cartoon, Cheburashka is a funny little creature who arrives in Russia having fallen asleep in a crate of oranges. He befriends Gena, a cultured crocodile who plays the accordian, and together they teach valuable lessons on true friendship.
5. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng-en
Written all the way back in the Ming Dynasty, this is an enduring Chinese tale about the adventures of a Tang Dynasty priest and his disciples — Monkey, Pig, and Friar Sand — as they search for a Buddhist Sutra.
6. Grandmother Apple by Mira Lobe
The Austrian story of a little boy named Andi who’s very sad he doesn’t have a grandmother, so he imagines one that lives in a tree and takes him on exciting adventures. The book was beautifully illustrated by Polish illustrator Miroslaw Pokora, which means it’s a vintage classic in Poland as well.
7. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
A classic Australian series about a koala named Bunyip Bluegum, a penguin named Sam Sawnoff, and a sailor named Bill Barnacle, who own a magical pudding that rematerializes no matter how often it is eaten. They must defend it from The Pudding Thieves that want it for themselves.
8. The Adventures of Tin Tin Series by Herge
One of the most popular comics of the 20th century, this beloved Belgian series follows the adventures of a brave, young reporter who solves mysteries around the world with the help of his faithful dog, Snowy.
9. The Cholito Series by Oscar Colchado Lucio
Weaving together Peruvian fairytales and legends, the series follows the adventures of a little boy named Cholito as he travels the world.
10. A Bell for Ursli by Selina Chonz
A classic Swiss story about Ursli, a little boy who lives in the Swiss alps who must find a big cowbell so he can lead the spring procession through his village. It’s famous for its striking illustrations by Alois Carigiet, as well as its message of being courageous against all physical odds.
11. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
In the original 1883 tale, Pinocchio is still the wooden boy whose nose grows longer when he lies, but he’s a little more spoiled and selfish than in the Disney version.
12. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery
Another literary classic that surpassed its country of origin, this Canadian novel about a spirited young orphan named Anne and her life on a farm on Prince Edward Island deserves a special place because it was published by a woman in 1908.
13. Japanese Fairy Tale Series by Hasegawa Takejirō
This incredibly popular 20-volume series was composed of stories based largely on well-known Japanese folk tales. Because they are chirimen-bok books (books printed on crepe paper) the illustrations are cultural relics in their own right.
14. Goodbye, Rune by Marit Kaldhol
Used to help children deal with loss and grief, this Norwegian book tells the storyof a young girl named Sara trying to come to terms with the tragic drowning of her friend Rune. It’s famous for its soft, understated watercolor illustrations by Wenche Oyen.
15. The Gardens of Dorr by Paul Biegel
In this Dutch modern fairytale, Princess Nevermine of Dorr falls in love with the gardener’s apprentice, Evermine, and in a jealous rage the witch Sirdis turns him into a flower. For seven summers, the princess searches the lost gardens of Dorr for the flower that will turn back into her beloved.
16. The Moomins Series by Tove Jansson
This series of books about a family of carefree, funny-looking creatures called the Moomins is a double-whammy since the illustrator/writer was Swedish-Finnish and the book was an instant classic in both countries. But only Finland can boast of a Moomin World theme park in Naantali.
17. The Wandering Cat by Aino Pervik
A pregnant mommy cat begins wandering the earth looking for the best place to give birth. It’s a simple Estonian picture book that little kids can enjoy, but, like the best children’s books, its beautiful illustrations and genuine emotions resonate with adults too.
18. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
The English tales of this curious, whimsical bear and his friends Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, and Christopher Robin are some of the most successful and widely translated stories of all time.