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Here's to the kids! Best working child actors

From Abigail Breslin to AnnaSophia Robb, these kids have careers that are moving on just the right track.

AnnaSophia Robb

Image: AnnaSophia Robb
HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 06: Actress AnnaSophia Robb arrives at Overture Films' screening of \"Sleepwalking\" held at the Director's Guild of America on March 6, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Overture)Frazer Harrison / Getty Images North America

While she doesn’t get the gushy press coverage or Oscar nominations that some of her peers can boast, Robb is steadily building up a résumé of strong, unflashy juvenile performances. From her heartfelt and attention-getting breakthrough performance in “Because of Winn-Dixie,” Robb has played both good kids (Leslie, the wise girl of “Bridge to Terabithia”) and bad (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s” sweets-addicted Violet Beauregard) with equal conviction. Her work in “Terabithia” left audiences devastated, and even her brief appearance in “Jumper” made you regret that her character would grow up to be the vapid Rachel Bilson. With the Disney remake “Race to Witch Mountain” coming up next year, it looks like Robb will continue to win over both audiences and casting directors.

Josh Hutcherson

Image: Josh Hutcherson
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 3: Actor Josh Hutcherson attends the premiere of Walt Disney's \"Bridge To Terabithia\" at the El Capitan Theater on February 3, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images North America

You may not yet know Hutcherson’s name, but it’s likely you’ve seen him: His hits of recent years include “Kicking & Screaming,” “Zathura,” “RV,” “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Firehouse Dog,” with “Journey to the Center of the Earth” coming up later this summer. Unlike the well-scrubbed Disney Channel pin-ups who are dominating the teen brigades of late, Hutcherson’s on-screen presence always feel a little rough around the edges, which is to say that he always comes across as a real kid and not a manufactured pop idol. Zac Efron may be making the little girls swoon, but Hutcherson is out there actually acting, and with high profile projects like “Winged Creatures” and “Cirque du Freak” on the horizon, it looks like he’ll get to go on doing just that.

Abigail Breslin

Image: Abigail Breslin
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 14: Actress Abigail Breslin arrives at the premiere of Picturehouse's \"Kit Kittridge: An American Girl\" at The Grove on June 14, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)Kevin Winter / Getty Images North America

It’s not just her Oscar nomination for “Little Miss Sunshine” that makes Breslin stand out from the crowd; her work in this summer’s “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” confirms that the actress has a gift for creating characters that are striking without being irritatingly precocious. While she was at one point slightly overshadowed by her brother Spencer, who entered the business first, she’s now the kind of performer around whom an entire movie — “Nim’s Island,” for instance — can be structured. (She gets an A for effort for “Definitely, Maybe” and “The Ultimate Gift,” two mawkish movies so horribly written that even Meryl Streep couldn’t make them work.) With so many of her peers heading into high school, Breslin is nearly unassailable as queen of the tweens.

Freddie Highmore

Image: Freddie Highmore
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 31: Actor Freddie Highmore arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures \"The Spiderwick Chronicles held on the Paramount Studios lot on January 31, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images North America

It could be argued that “Finding Neverland” wouldn’t have worked if it hadn’t left audiences in tears and further argued that audiences’ eyes would have remained dry without Highmore’s turn as young Peter Davies, a child who finally allows himself to grieve over the death of his father with the help of author J.M. Barrie (Depp). Highmore and Depp obviously hit it off between takes, since Depp insisted the lad be cast as the lead in Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Even working with sappy material, Highmore manages to remain clear-eyed and unaffected, resulting in screen work that’s crisp and smart. His bravura work in “The Spiderwick Chronicles” — in which he not only convincingly played twins but also gave both characters a very believable U.S. accent — promises more great things to come from this teen Brit.

Dakota Fanning

Image:  Dakota Fanning
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 01: Dakota Fanning attends the Lupus LA's 2008 Orange Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 1, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)Noel Vasquez / Getty Images North America

There’s no discussing young actors working today without taking a moment to pay obeisance to Fanning; she’s the juvenile star who probably gets first crack at the best scripts, and that Entertainment Weekly chart a few years’ back that showed her as Hollywood’s most bankable actress didn’t hurt, either. Whether she’s holding her own against stars like Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise or winning over her fellow kids in movies like “Charlotte’s Web” or “The Cat in the Hat,” Fanning seems to top everyone’s list of Child Star Most Likely to Survive Puberty. (If the controversy over the critically panned Sundance flick “Hounddog” can’t sink her, nothing will.) With five movies set to go in the next few years, Fanning isn’t going anywhere just yet­ — unless, like her apparent predecessor Jodie Foster, she ditches Hollywood for a few years to get a college education.