The Best-Selling Children's Books of All Time
The world's most beloved children's stories
Harry Potter, and how. It's very difficult to get exact sales figures for books; doing so requires combining the sales information from thousands of global retailers and distributors. Since manufacturing might be done in many different locations, and different companies will handle the rights in different countries, that means that the best we'll get is estimates.
Another problem we face is that there just aren't many reliable data; the last broad study, by Publisher's Weekly, was conducted in 2001. There have been at least three high-performing wizardly adventures since then. We've had to stitch together a lot of different sources. Even then, a lot of these sources are as old as 2008.
But, the estimates say that the Harry Potter series has sold a comically high number of volumes. Over 500 million, to be more specific. That means that each person in J. K. Rowling's native England could own a copy of each book, plus some extras on the side. There aren't clear sales figures for each individual book, however, so we've done a bit of averaging based on the total sales.
But, despite the widespread dominance of English writers near the top of the list, the best-selling children's book of all time is actually Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French author. The Little Prince, as it's also known, has been widely translated and been in constant print since it was released nearly 80 years ago.
We've also expanded this list beyond the normal top 10, so we can showcase some of the other high-selling books that aren't about a young English wizard and his friends. The most startling result is that even going out to the top 20, we still fell just shy of the top-selling individual book by Dr. Seuss; the Cat in the Hat, with around 11 million copies sold.
The following list shows hard copy sales figures from a slew of sources; the fact that they come from different sources means that they don't follow the same criteria, and so they aren't directly comparable.