We asked you to tell us about the favorite books from your childhood (not your children’s). At the top of your lists were these favorites:
- Any book by Dr. Seuss
- Good Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- Nancy Drew series
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
A parent from Texas writes: “My favorite books are the Dr. Seuss series. My mother had signed me up in a book club, and I received two books in the mail each month. I couldn’t wait to read them. I still have the original books, and have read them over and over to my children who are now 14 and 11. My 11-year-old still reads them every now and then. We plan to pass them on to the next generation.”
The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and Little Black, A Pony
A New Hampshire mom of four writes, “The books I remember reading the most – or having read to me – were The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. I loved horses so Little Black, A Pony was also a favorite. I have three boys and a girl, ages 9, 19, 23 and 30! I have been reading children’s literature for a long time! I mostly remember that all the kids loved the funny, silly books of Dr. Seuss and I do still have the worn out copies I read as a child.”
Where the Wild Things Are, Good Night Moon, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit
A parent in Washington, D.C., writes, “I loved to read as a child. As I began to type, memories unfold about reading in bed with my mom. My favorite books were the Little Golden books. As a 33-year-old woman, I believe I still have a few packed away. I also have fond memories of reading on my own. Some of my favorite books as a youth (3-12) were:
- Where the Wild Things Are
- Good Night Moon
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
- The Hobbit
I also liked to read the Archie comic books with my sister. Reading helped to pass the time and was also a great source of joy and amusement for me.”
A single mom in New York City writes, “I will never forget that book. It was one of the first chapter books I read, and I read it twice, and a third time as an adult. There is a whole series. My son is 7, and I don’t know how he will respond to it because he is not ready to read chapter books yet, but we could read it together.”
Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys
A California mother of three writes, “As a young child, I loved the book, Where the Wild Things Are. My favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series and Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. As a young child, I loved the book, Where the Wild Things Are.”
A Connecticut mother of a 12-year-old boy writes, “When I was a young girl I loved to read the Nancy Drew series of books. I was drawn in by the danger, intrigue and happy endings. My cousin also enjoyed Nancy Drew books and when we were together we would pretend we were private investigators out to solve a mystery and were always able to relate our surroundings (we traveled a lot) to one of the stories.”
The Runaway Bunny, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Shogun
A single mother of three children, ages 12 to 19, who says she “works for one of the world’s largest banking institutions and works harder at being happy,” writes, “My mother was a kindergarten teacher, and her classroom had shelf after shelf of eye-catching books that begged to be read. For her, reading was the most important gift she could give a child. She fostered a love of reading in our family that lasts to this day.
“As a child of divorce in a time and place where divorce was not acceptable, I found a wonderful outlet in reading books about children who faced pain or lived through difficult situations. Books have a way of giving kids permission to own their problems and realize, not only that they are not the only ones who hurt, but also that it’s OK to be confused or angry. From the message of the angry bunny in The Runaway Bunny to the kids who run away in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, to the constantly-changing power struggles of Shogun, stories that tell of important life passages can provide comfort and direction to a child in a way that a mother or father may not be able to.
“Some classic books that I loved, and have shared with my children are: For pre-readers:
- Good Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – my middle daughter still keeps our original copy and shares it (she’s 17) with anyone she deems a true friend.
- The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd – every night, my eldest daughter, with whom I have always shared a contentious relationship, would have me read this story of a bunny who pushes his mother away, and the mother who always follows him and brings him back.
- The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese – we recently bought a small statue of a duck for our garden, and my middle daughter cried out “Mom, it’s Ping!” when I brought it home.
- The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak – four tiny books in their own case, a delight for a child to hold, full of wonderful rhymes, imagination and rhythm. I first got these as a second-grader at a school book fair, and wore out several copies as a child. My kids cherished them – and all Sendak books – as much as I did.
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – while some would argue the point, I found this a very subtle and accurate rendition of the relationship between the sexes. Everyone in my family, from my eldest brother to my youngest son, still considers this one of the best books they’ve read.
- Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss – a wonderful fantasy of what to expect out of life. I didn’t read this as a child, though I did read it to my own kids. Hence, I don’t know whether you really get this as a kid … but wow, as an adult, it sure comes home.
For elementary school readers:
- From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – as early as third grade for a good reader; more likely fourth grade.
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – second or third grade, a good beginning “novel” for the reader who is beginning to be proficient.
- Holes by Louis Sacher – I did not read this as a child, but each of my children has read and loved it. It was in the fifth grade curriculum at their school.
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – about fifth grade.
High school (10th to 12th grade):
- The Once and Future King by T.H. White – a recommendation from my 11th grader.
- The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – explores the workings of King Arthur’s court from the women’s perspective. I have lost count of how many copies I have bought of this book for intelligent, blooming young women. For parents who are religious, this, like Harry Potter, acknowledges and explores the energy sometimes called “magic” (although this book is somewhat more accurate than Harry Potter). I urge you to let your children read this kind of literature, so that they have an opportunity to experience the rich variety of beliefs that exists in the world.
- The Cuckoo’s Egg by Cliff Stoll – I lived through this era, which describes the first computer hackers. This is an interesting account of the early days of the computer industry, set in Berkeley, California.
- Shogun by James Clavell – so many wonderful concepts appear in this book that it is hard to enumerate. Power, prejudice, love, death, beauty and many others are artfully painted in this rich novel that beats the movie hands down.
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – especially good for any up-and-coming writer. Be prepared for your student to start writing in sparse, lean sentences … it’s good practice!
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Though it appears to be set in the 1940s, this is a futuristic story for anyone who’s thinking of a business career.
“Kids who read are kids who think. I don’t mention the obvious books that should be on every reading list (every Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, Shel Silverstein and Mark Twain book ever written). I would add John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac, but those really are authors for kids who have become esoteric readers and are reading Shakespeare, Donne and Milton already and are in the mood for some ‘light’ reading.
“I believe that kids are a gift from God; people who habitate the house of tomorrow, citizens who have been entrusted to us for their care, but who must find their own paths. I do not believe that parents should forbid their children to read certain authors or books, because that implies censorship; it implies that the child is not fit to think for him or her own self. What a waste that would be, to assume that the child you birthed had no mind! As the proud parent of thinking, loving, effective and mature children, I encourage all parents to stock their libraries and always have a ready book at hand. You will be glad you did.”
Little House on the Prairie, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Pippi Longstockings
A Michigan mother of two writes, “I’ve always loved reading. I was the kid with the flashlight under the blankets when I should be sleeping. I loved the Little House on the Prairie series. I got the boxed set for Christmas from an Aunt. I loved reading about a real historical time with characters I felt were genuine and tender. I also loved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I sometimes felt like Claudia, underappreciated, and thought about how wonderful it would be to have an educational, mysterious adventure. But my favorites were the Pippi Longstockings books. I would read them in the big old tree in front of the farmhouse (that had a hole for hiding things just like in the books) my family lived in for a year, and imagine that I was as smart and strong as Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim’s Daughter Longstocking, with such wonderful friends as the neighbor children and a horse and monkey. Even thinking about these books makes me want to go back and read all my old favorites!”
A New York mom writes, “I am only 36, but grew up in an area where electronics were limited or not accessible, needless to say, TV! I always shared a story with my 7-year-old, Nikko, that Ms. Bercovicci read a page or two a day of Charlotte’s Web, in my fourth-grade class. I was able to picture each animal, and grew anxious with every new adventure in Wilbur’s story. As well, the whole class cried at the end when Charlotte dies (even the boys!)
“Some time ago, I received a hardcover donation of Charlotte’s Web which I put away in his library. This past school year has been his ‘reading’ year, so we two spent each evening reading five-10 pages of Charlotte’s Web, prior to the movie premiere.
“Because of its intensity, and depending on your child’s age, it is probably a whole summer read. Enjoy!”
Lesser-known books (but still well-loved):
Sue Barton, Anne of Green Gables and The Bobbsey Twins
A mom of two writes, “My list of favorite children’s books could be endless. I loved reading from the start of first grade. My mother took me to the library every two weeks, so I read all seven books I took out at least two times each. When I was learning how to read, I belonged to the Dr. Seuss book club and received a new book every month. I loved to read books in series such as Anne of Green Gables, The Bobbsey Twins and Sue Barton (a nurse with a variety of nursing positions).”
Where the Red Fern Grows and Island of the Blue Dolphins
The mother of a 5-year-old and 3-year-old writes, “Two books I remember reading over and over, and loving the story each time, were Where the Red Fern Grows and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I still get emotional thinking about how much I loved those books, and I cannot wait until my children are old enough to read them themselves.”
A mom in Indiana writes, “I love this opportunity to share my favorite books as I grew up. My ultimate #1 favorite was I’m Suzy. I wish I could find that book again to pass onto my daughter. I then loved the book, I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. I must say those were my favorites, to the point, when I lost my I’m Suzy book, my parents went out and bought me another. With the help of reading at an early age, I was reading very well by the time I was 4. Thank you again for this opportunity to share.”
The Velvet Room
“One of my favorite books is unfortunately not published anymore. It was called The Velvet Room. It is about a girl who is the child of migrant farm workers. She finds one room in an otherwise derelict house and it is full of books and has velvet curtains and a window seat. She spends many peaceful moments with books in an otherwise hard life. Books have always been my refuge, the next page always something to look forward to even when things are hard. I am happy that my son also loves reading. We have spent many good times snuggled in bed reading a new story. He will soon be going to high school, but still loves to read. One of my favorite series we used to read together was the Frog and Toad books. The characters are cute and kind and each story has a good lesson for young readers.”
Harry the Dirty Dog and Trixie Belden
A former first-grade teacher and a mother writes, “Some books I remember as a kid were Harry the Dirty Dog and as I got older (preteen) I enjoyed Trixie Belden books (they were a Nancy Drew knock off, but loved them the same!). The books I’ll enjoy reading to my children (ages 6, 4, 19 months) will probably be carefree and silly books such as Bad Kitty, Skippyjon Jones and BootsieBarker Bites. (I like this one because it opens up conversation to bullying). We’ll do some informational text, too such as spiders and/or insects and learning about animals. We have quite the library.”
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Where the Sidewalk Ends
An Illinois mother of an 8-year-old girl writes, “We love to read! Some of our favorites include the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book series and Where the Sidewalk Ends. These are great summer readings because they are laid back and can be put down and return to fairly easily with out losing focus or interest.
“Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the lady in the neighborhood that all parents turn to when their child is over-dramatic, clumsy, a bully or doesn’t want to take a bath. She concocts life-saving remedies while teaching a lesson to kids in a fun, comical manner. All the children love and respect Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and the parents are forever grateful that their kids are no longer whinnying and crying rivers.
“Where the Sidewalk Ends is a collection of poems/verses that are imaginative and inspirational. Shel Silverstein also made a recording of the verses and they are hilarious. My daughter and I will pop the CD in the car and read along, making funny voices and almost reciting by heart ‘the crocodile went to the dentist,’ ‘Silvia who wouldn’t take the garbage out’ and ‘the long-haired boy who flew away to his own world when teased.’ This is a great collection that introduces children to poetry and the accompanying illustrations are wonderful.”
The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood
A Nevada mom writes, “I liked fairy tales most of all – The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood etc. – my mom read them for me every night before going to bed, so my first book I read by myself was The Sleeping Beauty, and I was 5. I just could not wait for my mom one night – and letters seemed to be familiar – I put them into words, words into sentences. Usually I was on her lap while she was reading to me – that helped too to learn letters! I am a mom of a 14-year-old boy. I used the same technique for him.”
A Staten Island, New York, mom writes, “I remember as a child, my mom reading me a book called The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. My mom would read it to me every night. One day I was talking to my mom about book reading over the summer and she also remembered reading the book to me, she told me she still had the book, I read it to my then 4-year-old, who loved the book just as much as I did. I now have two girls, ages 13 and 8, who love reading this book. I hope one day to pass it on to them for their children to read as well. “P.S. The book was sent to me for free in the mail by a weekly reader children’s book club that we never sent for.”
The Boxcar Children
A teacher writes, “When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher, Miss Parker, read The Boxcar Children to us in class. When I started teaching school, nearly forty years ago, I read this amazing book to each of my fifth-grade classes.”
Misty of Chincoteague, Black Gold
A Florida mother writes, “Personal childhood favorites which my children have also enjoyed and I highly recommend (even if you have never having owned a horse) are Misty of Chincoteague, Black Gold and any other Marguerite Henry or Wesley Dennis books.”
A Child’s Garden of Verse
“I’m 62, but my favorite childhood book was Robert Louis Stephen’s A Child’s Garden of Verse. Unfortunately, my mother gave my copy away. Every time I go into a used bookstore, I still look for the version that I had with the peach-colored cover. Please encourage parents to keep some of their child’s favorite books. What a joy it would be for them to share the exact book with the next generation.”
Miss Suzy the Squirrel
“I have ordered a republished version of Miss Suzy the Squirrel by Miriam Young. This was a favorite book of mine as a child. It was not published and I kept on the look out for a used book, then as luck would have it, it was republished. My son, who is now 7, asks me to read Mama’s favorite book quite often.”
Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat
A parent wrote, “Excellent book.” [Editor: We were intrigued by this odd title and upon further research found that this book has been republished after 50 years to a chorus of happy and emotional reviews on Amazon.]
An Arizona mother writes, “My parents were always reading with us as kids and promoting the idea that books are an ever-useful presence in our lives. One of the books that stands out in my mind is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I was born in Australia and moved with my family to the US when I was 10-years-old. My sisters and I thought it was hilarious to read about Alexander and his delusion that every day would be better … if only he lived in Australia!”
Hard to find books (check your library first):
Little Britches, Indian Paint
An Arizona mother of five and a grandmother of three wrote, “I loved anything from Ralph Moody. The one I loved the most was Little Britches. Another one I loved was Indian Paint. Sorry but I can’t for the life of me remember the author’s name, if any one can find out I would appreciate it.” [Editor: The author of Indian Paint is Glenn Balch.]
Ookpik in the City, Gypsy from Nowhere
The dean of instruction at a Texas high school wrote, “As an avid reader all of my life, I have several, some of which you may not have heard of. My all-time favorite is Ookpik in the City by Barbara Hazen and illustrated by Irma Wilde. Ookpik, a little Arctic owl, decides to travel to the city to learn more. He makes friends with a small poodle-like dog named Princilla. I still have the book! My second all-time favorite is Gypsy from Nowhere by Sharon Wagner. The story is about a young girl who is afraid of horses until she tames a wild colt. Last, but not least is The Velveteen Rabbit and The Giving Tree at a tie.”
Sinbad and Me
“This summer, both of my boys are going to read Sinbad and Me by Kin Platt. It’s probably the best kid detective story ever written. Be sure to check it out at your local library – it is out of print and sells for $200.00 + on Ebay or Amazon.”
Some readers were very succinct
There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, Bed-knobs and Broomsticks, The Gingerbread Man, Briar Rose
A first-grade teacher wrote, “There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, Bed-knobs and Broomsticks. Lots of Fairytales: The Gingerbread Man, Briar Rose.”
My Family and Other Animals
“It’s by Gerald Durrell. A historical adventure of boys in the mid 1900s.”
Mr. Pine’s Purple House
An Idaho mom wrote cryptically, “To this day, I can’t have anything off the rack!”