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Just For Fun

The Best Characters in
Children’s Literature

by Devon A. Corneal

Photo credit: Jupiterimages, Stone/Getty Images

I have spent thousands of hours of my life in the company of imaginary people. The wise wizards, brave adventurers, mischievous troublemakers, and evildoers of children’s books have traveled with me from childhood through young adulthood and into parenthood, where I’m seeing them with new eyes.

I love them all, so trying to limit these extraordinary creations to a “best of” list was a challenge. Who do you leave off when each one has their own unique charm and purpose?  But sacrifices must be made, so take a look and see if you agree with who made the cut. If not, share your own choices in the comments!

  • The Wise

    Heroes would be lost without a wise counselor to guide them. That’s why Albus Dumbledore, Merlin, and Gandalf rank among my favorite characters in children’s literature. But wizards aren’t the only ones with knowledge to share. The gentle Charlotte and the thoughtful Skin Horse made sure their young charges learned what they needed to know.

  • The Smart

    There’s wisdom, and then there’s smarts. A quick trip to the library and these resident geniuses can solve a mystery, find the answer to a riddle, and save the day while everyone else is still scratching their heads. Thank goodness for Nancy Drew, Hermione Granger, and Encyclopedia Brown.

  • The Naughty

    Then there are the characters who refuse to follow the rules and are usually only one step ahead of the law, the parents, or the headmaster. Who are the quintessential troublemakers? Peter Pan and his Lost Boys, Huckleberry Finn, The Weasley Twins, and The Cat in The Hat are my picks. I’m grateful for them because, otherwise, things would get awfully dull.

  • The Fun

    Some of my favorite characters, however, are just plain fun. They don’t mean to cause mischief, they just want to enjoy life. Pippi Longstocking, Eloise, and Ramona Quimby top my list.

  • The Lovable

    Where would we be without our lovable, huggable, snuggly, just plain darling favorites like Winnie-the-Pooh, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Corduroy?

  • The Curious

    Then there are the curious – the ones who always have to see what’s around the next corner. Can you imagine a world if Alice hadn’t gone through the looking glass, or Peter Rabbit hadn’t ventured into Mr. McGregor’s garden? How boring would things be if George weren’t always getting into trouble? Sometimes you need to take an unexpected risk to keep a story moving.

  • The Bad

    Every story needs a great villain and children’s literature is filled with detestable scoundrels. Who are the worst of the worst, you ask? Why, the Wicked Witch of the West, Lord Voldemort, Cruella de Vil, and Count Olaf, of course.

  • The Brave

    For every baddie, there’s someone who battles insurmountable odds to put things right. Harry Potter and those poor Hobbits, Bilbo & Frodo Baggins, are my heroes in every sense of the word.

  • The Kind and Inspiring

    Although I love them all, my very favorite characters are the ones that inspire me with their kindness and their goodness and their gentle approach to life. I only wish Augie Pullman, Aslan, Ferdinand, and Wilbur were real.