I discovered several years ago that one of the fastest ways to bond with a new friend is to discuss the books you read as a child. If this other person has a long list of books he or she loved as a child, than I know that we are going to be good friends. If the list contains many of the same titles that I loved to read, then I know we are going to be GREAT friends. “Kindred Spirits” as Anne of Green Gables would say.
I think this is because books are such a formative part of a child’s life (at least, they were for mine). What you read contributes to who you are. I am now going to share with you the books I loved as a child (as well as several that I loved as a teenager and wish I had discovered sooner).
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If any of these books are unfamiliar to you, I recommend that you check them out. Not just for the sake of the young people in your life, but for your own enjoyment as well. Whether you’re fifteen or fifty-five, there are times when a classic children’s book is exactly what you’re in the mood to read.
Let’s start with the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne is imaginative, intelligent, and never shuts up (kind of like me as a kid). This is a charming series with characters that I still love.
After the Dancing Days. A thought-provoking book about a young girl’s friendship with a disfigured war veteran in post-WWI era. It raises so many questions about the nature of heroism and people’s response to tragedy.
The Chronicle of Narnia. My favorite may be The Horse and His Boy, but every book is worth reading more than once. I practically have these memorized. C. S. Lewis has a great narrative voice, and he’s created an engrossing and enthralling world.
The Freddy the Pig books. The first is called Freddy Goes to Florida, I believe, and tells the tale of a group of farm animals who decide to go south for the winter. These are quite possibly some of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and the older I get, the more I appreciate their humor.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle lives in an upside-down house and has magical cures for children’s bad habits. One of those rare books that actually inspired me to help around the house more, while not being preachy at all.
The Wizard of Oz. Dorthy finds herself not in Kansas any more…What more do I need to say? It’s a classic.
Little Women. One of those books I wish I had found sooner, it recounts the trials and joys of the March girls’ comings-of-age.
The Pushcart War. Trucks start to take over the streets of New York, so the pushcart peddlers fight back using some surprising weapons. (I’m pretty sure I thought this was a true story the first few times I read it).
101 Dalmatians. The Disney movies are great, but they can’t hold a candle to this book.
Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins is snippy, mysterious, and magical in the original series by P. L. Travers.
Ella Enchanted. Ella was given the gift of obedience at birth by a fairy, but she’s no damsel in distress. The heroine of this Cinderella story is spunky and lovable, and she finds her own solutions to problems.
My Father’s Dragon. When he was a boy, the narrator’s father went to rescue a dragon. This story has a unique narration, and it’s really memorable. I’m surprised more people haven’t read it.
Heidi. Another classic, the tale of a girl who melts her grandfather’s cold heart. It makes me want to move to the mountains every time!
Because of Winn-Dixie. A preacher’s kid and a dog in a little southern community. Surprisingly heartwarming.
Time at the Top. A girl takes the elevator to the top of her building and goes back in time. This book has a interesting narrative frame and a well-written plot.
The Borrowers. Ever wondered where those little things (like safety pins, etc.) disappear to? The Borrowers took them! They could be living in your house this very minute without you ever knowing…
The Secret Garden. Mary, a cross and lonely girl, is transformed by the secret garden and the friends she makes there.
Charlotte’s Web. Can Charlotte the spider come up with a plan to save Wilbur the pig from being turned into bacon and ham? I also love Trumpet of the Swan, by the same author. It’s about a trumpet swan who was born without a voice and his adventures.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Mr. Popper writes a letter to an Arctic explorer and ends up receiving penguins! What will the Poppers (an incredibly normal family) do with them?
Dragon Rider. Fantasy novel about a boy and a dragon and other incredible creatures.
A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t know how to describe this book, but it’s fantastic. Journeys to other worlds, a fight against an evil brain who is basically the personification of Orwell’s Big Brother, a story about friendship and family–it’s all these things.
Henry Reed Inc. A boy comes to live with his aunt and uncle for the summer in a super small town. Henry wants to earn money, so he starts a business doing pretty much anything and everything. He has lots of quirky adventures, but he usually comes out on top.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Mrs. Frisby is an ordinary field mouse, but a secret community of rats may be her only hope to save her family.
Ginger Pye. Ginger Pye is a beloved dog living in a small town, but when she mysteriously goes missing, her owners know that someone else has taken her because she’s such an amazing dog. Will they ever find her again?
The Rescuers. Bernard and Miss Bianca are sent by the mouse Prisoner’s Aid Society to provide companionship for a man who’s been unjustly imprisoned. Can they help him escape?
The Illyrian Adventure. (Or pretty much any book written by Lloyd Alexander). I wanted to be Vesper Holly after reading this book. Set in 1872, this book incorporates reality, fantasy and myth in a really intriguing way.
The Story of Doctor Dolittle. Doctor Dolittle is a vet who loves animals so much that his trusty parrot teaches him to speak their languages so that he can treat them better. Another classic.
The Little House on the Prairie Series. Based on the author’s actual childhood experiences, this series shows what it was like to be a pioneer.
Robin Hood. Okay, I admit it: Robin Hood was my first literary crush. He robs from the rich and gives to the poor, and he’s so clever while he does it…
Walk Two Moons. The ending to this blew me away, but the whole book is a solid and engaging mesh of secrets, as well as a lesson in seeing other people’s perspectives.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A poor boy wins a trip to Willy Wonka’s fantastic chocolate factory.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. A girl runs away from home with her brother in order to live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Green Book. Deceptively thin, this sci-fi book packs a lot of interesting ideas into a small space.
Gone-Away Lake. Two cousins discover an abandoned lake resort and the people who still live there…
The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh. Piglet. Tigger. Kanga. Roo. Owl. The original book by A. A. Milne makes me want to stay in the Hundred Acre Woods with them forever.
The Gammage Cup. A fantasy novel that explores the idea of belonging in an extremely powerful way. The plot and characterization are strong and sensitive. I love this book and this world more than I can say.
Beauty. Written by Robin McKinley, this book is a lovely retelling of an old story, breathing new life into a tale as old as time.
The Indian in the Cupboard. A boy discovers that when he locks his action figures into a cupboard, they start to come to life…
Pippi Longstocking. Pippi has crazy hair, sleeps with her head at the foot of the bed, and generally shakes things up when she comes to town.
Frindle. The class clown invents a new word, but his teacher disapproves. Can he get it to catch on? Great thoughts about words, dictionaries, and the nature of language.
The Boxcar Children. Mystery, adventure, and great family dynamics. (The first nineteen or so in the series are the best, because they were written by the original author.)
Peter Pan. For the young and young of heart. Peter is surprisingly conceited in the book, but all the characters will remind you what it’s like to be a kid again.
Alice in Wonderland. There is so much wordplay and parody in this book, it adds a new level to the craziness once you are mature enough to pick up on it.
The Phantom Tollbooth. Another great book with a ton of word play. Miles goes through the Phantom Tollbooth to escape his boredom, and ends up on an epic quest to save the sisters Rhyme and Reason and bring back peace to the land.
Half Magic. Some children find a mysterious object that grants them whatever they wish for, but only half as much as they ask for…
What books did you love as a child? I’m sure I left lots of amazing books off this list, so tell me some of your favorites in the comments!