The Best-Selling Children's Books of All Time

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

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.
Rank Book Hard Copies Sold
1. The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943) 140 Million
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling (1997) 120 Million
3. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1865) 100 Million
4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis (1950) 85 Million
5. The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi (1881) 80 Million
6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling (1998) 77 Million
7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling (1999) >60 Million
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling (2000) >60 Million
9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling (2003) >60 Million
10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling (2005) >60 Million
11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling (2007) >60 Million
12. Heidi, Johanna Spyri (1880) ~50 Million
13. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1908) ~50 Million
14. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell (1877) ~50 Million
15. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White (1971) ~50 Million
16. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter (1902) 45 Million
17. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (1969) 43 Million
18. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1908) ~25 Million
19. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak (1963) ~20 Million
20. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl (1964) ~20 Million
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