Where would I be without Beverly Cleary?
For that matter, where would I be without Judy Blume and Zilpha Keatley Snyder? I can’t say for sure, but likely living in a van down by the river.
These fabulous women along with Ann M. Martin, she who wrote The Babysitters Club series, and Francine Pascal of Sweet Valley High legend, inspired within me a lifelong love of reading.
The first books I recall absolutely totally falling in love with are about the inimitable Ramona Quimby. How I loved Ramona and the cast of characters that populate her world. But there are so many more.
Who remembers Mrs. Piggle Wiggle? Pippi Longstocking? The Boxcar Children? How To Eat Fried Worms? Bonus points if you remember the series of books about a boy named Soup!
If, like me, you’re hoping to inspire within your kids a lifelong love of reading and are looking beyond the standard Harry Potter/Diary of a Wimpy Kid mania that is currently all the rage, click onward for dozens of the best books for kids ever written. Even if you don’t have kids the books are definitely worth a click down memory lane.
*Note: whenever possible I used images of the book covers I had as a kid so I might spark your memory too. What I’m saying is, you will not be seeing Selena Gomez associated with Ramona Quimby here although you will see a photo of Megan Follows as Anne Shirley because DUH.
From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 1 of 25Who didn't dream about hiding out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after reading this awesome adventure starring Claudia Kincaid and her little brother, Jamie? Author E.L. Konigsburg is one of only five authors to win two Newbery Medals - one for this book.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle 2 of 25Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is the title of a series of books by Betty MacDonald. The first book in this series is called Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and sequels include Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm, Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. In case you have forgotten after all these years, the very excellent Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has a chest full of magic cures left by her pirate husband. Each chapter highlights all the children she cures including The Answer-Backer Cure, The Won't-Pick-Up-Toys Cure, The Selfishness Cure. Remember The Interrupters Cure? A magic powder takes away the voices of those who interrupt? I could not get enough of these and reread them dozens of times.
Author: Betty MacDonald
Harriet The Spy 3 of 25I was enthralled with any book that took place in New York City. And Harriet was especially savvy all the time writing clues down in her notebook. A very happening chick, little Harriet is.
Author: Louise Fitzhugh
Pippi Longstocking 4 of 25Another happening chick with excellent style. I wanted to be Pippi when I was little but didn't have the guts. I mean, seriously, everyone wants to live without their parents and own a pet monkey and call him Mr. Nilsson. It's just so monkeylicious.
Author: Astrid Lindgren
Little House On The Prairie 5 of 25Like almost everyone else I was infatuated with the television series starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert before I discovered the books. When I finally did read them I couldn't believe they were from the mind of the actual Laura Ingalls - I thought the TV show was just some Hollywood producer's creation. There was something so delightful about reading of the Ingalls family travails and the combined history lesson of life in the United States during the late nineteenth century is invaluable. But I think what spoke to me most about this book - being from a divorced family - is the unity amongst the family and how hard life used to be for folks.
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Boxcar Children 6 of 25I didn't do it on purpose but I named my children after two of the main characters in this book. Henry and Violet. Growing up and reading this book several times I never imagined that would be the case, but there it is. There's something about children on their own, without adults, that appeals to other children. From Claudia and Jamie Kincaid alone at the Met, to Pippi Longstocking and now, the orphaned Alden children - Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny - who make their home in a boxcar to avoid having Benny taken away from them. They find furniture from a dump to put in the boxcar and even land a pet dog named "Watch".
Author: Gertrude Chandler
The Headless Cupid 7 of 25My 5th grade teacher first read a book called The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case during class. I was stone cold sold on Zilpha Keatley Snyder after that and snapped up everything she's written. You cannot go wrong with The Headless Cupid, The Egypt Game or Blair's Nightmare. The books revolve around yet another family - David, Janie, Blair and Esther Stanley and their new stepsister Amanda - having a series of adventures together. These books are awesome but my very favorite book has to be one called The Changeling. It's definitely for girls and is about the friendship of two girls over the years named Ivy and Martha. This book was one of the first that made me cry at a young age. Such a good read and a departure from Keatley Snyder's usual fare.
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 8 of 25Do I really need to tell you why Beverly Cleary is one of the all-time greats? From Beezus and Ramona to Ramona Forever, you CANNOT GO WRONG.
Author: Beverly Cleary
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret 9 of 25Perhaps one of the greatest book titles ever... This book is a must-read for all young girls. Even though I wasn't in the camp of girls desirous of getting my period to prove my womanhood, the book is hilarious. But Judy Blume's body of work goes well beyond our heroine, Margaret. What about Blubber? Or Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great. Freckle Juice. And does anyone remember Iggie's House? That book about a girl named Winnie befriending an African American family who moves into her neighborhood? Kind of like Judy Blume's version of an After School Special, but I loved it.
Author: Judy Blume
Bridge To Terabithia 10 of 25Okay, so not the happiest book around but an excellent read nonetheless. In the effort of not spoiling it for you if you haven't read it, it's the story of fifth grader Jess Aarons, who becomes friends with his new neighbor Leslie Burke.
Author: Katherine Paterson
How To Eat Fried Worms 11 of 25I remember being shocked as a child that this was a children's book. I mean, an adult author promoting the eating of worms? The cooking and eating of worms? Oh my. But still, they're just worms. Nonetheless the book has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association's list of most commonly challenged books in the United States of 1990-2000 at number 96. But so have a bunch of other books including the previous, Bridge To Terabithia, Harry Potter and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I say pshaw! How To Eat Fried Worms is a classic!
Author: Thomas Rockwell
Sideways Stories From Wayside School 12 of 25If you haven't read this book you are missing out. Just a quick glimpse of the character synopsis on Wikipedia should give you an idea of the great riches contained within the covers of this book. The book is about the 30 students on the 30th floor of Wayside school. Do yourself and your kids a favor and pick this one up pronto. $5.99 on Amazon, people. You cannot go wrong.
Author: Louis Sachar
Island Of The Blue Dolphins 13 of 25This story is UH-MAZING. The story of a young girl stranded for years on an island off the California coast, Island Of The Blue Dolphins is based on the true story of Juana Maria, a NicoleÃ±o Indian left alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island in the 19th century. Think The Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields but with a young Indian girl instead. And no hot guy. Still. Awesome.
Author: Scott O'Dell
Anne Of Green Gables 14 of 25Is there any self-respecting young woman alive who does not know the story of the indomitable Anne Shirley? I must have read this series of books at least a dozen times. My favorite, aside from all scenes featuring Gilbert Blythe, is when Anne has Diana Barry over to tea and accidentally gets her drunk on raspberry cordial. If you know what I'm talking about then we are, like, kindred spirits and should totally be bosom buddies.
Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Emily Of New Moon 15 of 25When I was fresh out of new Anne Of Green Gables books to read my mom got me the Emily series beginning with Emily of New Moon. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote these books after the Anne series and they are quite similar in vibe. Emily is an orphan girl who is raised by relatives. Although Emily isn't quite as charismatic as the adorable Anne, I love this series of three books just as much as the Anne of Green Gables series.
Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Tuck Everlasting 16 of 25A fountain of everlasting youth! There! That enough to grab ya? And a young romance to boot. A wild fantasy about living forever, it'll really get your child's mind spinning.
Author: Natalie Babbit
The Moffats 17 of 25Another family adventure novel in the vein of Little House On The Prarie or The Boxcar Children. I'm not sure how widely known The Moffat books starring The Moffat family are. I sure loved them when I was a kid. Their adventures are based on a working-class, single-parent American family during World War I but the stories are still applicable today.
Author: Eleanor Estes
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever 18 of 25One of THE FUNNIEST books I've ever read. Truly. Should be read to the children each night of December so that you finish the book on Christmas Eve. It's about six delinquent children who go to church for the first time after being told that the church offers snacks (communion). The Hermands ultimately keep going to church and become a part of the Christmas pageant. A fantastic book that doesn't necessarily need to be read around Christmas.
Author: Barbara Robinson
The 21 Balloons 19 of 25This book has stuck with me over the years. A great adventure, it's about a retired schoolteacher whose ill-fated balloon trip lands him on the secret island of Krakatoa, which also happens to be home to a volcano. The island is populated by twenty families sharing the wealth of a diamond mine. The book begins and ends with a bang and while my description may not lead you to believe it's a children's book, believe me, it is. du Bois was awarded the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature for the book a year after it was published.
Author: William PÃ¨ne du Bois
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe 20 of 25This, the first in The Chronicles of Narnia series, is yet another book featuring sibling adventures. When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are evacuated from London to escape The Blitz during World War 2 they end up living with their uncle in the countryside and discover a secret doorway leading to a magical world called Narnia. If you've only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and get the book, for yourself and your kids.
Author: C.S. Lewis
James And The Giant Peach 21 of 25This wacky book comes from the same man who wrote Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and is credited with first writing about Gremlins. The cast of characters, including the protagonist, young James, is superb and the ensuing adventures as they travel on the giant peach are beyond compare.
Author: Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle In Time 22 of 25Similar, in a way, to The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time absolutely blew my young mind. The book is about misfit Meg, her young super-genius brother Charles Wallace and Calvin O'Keefe, a school friend. Meg's parents are scientists and her dad was working on some kind of crazy transportation device before his mysterious disappearance. Ultimately, travels through space and time ensue and crazy, mind-blowing adventure are had. There are two later books featuring the same characters: A Wind In The Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Soup 23 of 25I've not heard much ado about these books but they are must-reads for all children. The books are about two young boys, Robert, the narrator and his well-meaning but mischievous friend Luther - better known as Soup. Soup is always getting up to shenanigans, very excellent shenanigans that always land him and Robert in trouble. I think there are something like 14 books in the Soup series, all featuring the boys. Think The Babysitters Club but for boys. Except I'm a girl and I adored these books.
Author: Robert Newton Peck
The Secret Garden 24 of 25This book fascinated me and I must've read it at least ten times. Orphaned 10-year-old Mary Lennox is sent to live in Yorkshire, England with her rich, old Uncle. She is told she must stay in two rooms but she soon learns that there are mysteries throughout the old home. While exploring the many gardens on the grounds Mary finds a secret key that unlocks a secret garden. Inside she finds... Ha! If you haven't read this book I'm not going to spoil it for you. Read it chapter by chapter with your kid!
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Where The Sidewalk Ends 25 of 25Shel Silverstein is a genius, plain and simple. Do your family a favor and pick up a copy of this and A Light In The Attic to always have in your home!
Author: Shel Silverstein
So I left stuff like Charlotte’s Web off the list for obvious reasons. I mean, if you aren’t aware of Charlotte’s Web you should get your citizenship in humanity revoked.
But what other stuff am I missing? What books do you think of first when you think of your childhood? What books will you absolutely share with your kids?
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You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.
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