06 July 2009

rewind the clock : best kids' books

i was happy to read the nytimes this morning and see nicholas kristof's sunday article on the best kids' books ever. for anyone who's ever known me for even a short amount of time, there's almost always a book within reach (or i talk about one). as a child, i watched tv (mostly "saved by the bell"), but was more into the written word.

in short, kristof's list:

1. charlotte's web
2. the hardy boys
3. wind in the willows
4. the freddy the pig series
5. the alex rider series
6. the harry potter series
7. gentle ben
8. anne of green gables
9. the dog who wouldn't be
10. little lord fauntleroy
11. on to oregon
12. the prince and the pauper
13. lad the dog

agree/disagree? some of these i myself haven't read [those i have, in red], but it inspired me to make my own list of children's books (non-picture) that i've read over and over again (in no particular order) :

1. the trumpet of the swan _ about a boy who meets a mute swan and together regain its voice, in the most unusual (adventurous, and sweet) way

2. the dark is rising series _ i've always been fascinated by magic and its intersection w/ the real world. very well written and pre-harry potter, about brothers and sisters who encounter a magical realm closer to their own than they realize.

3. anne of green gables _ a dear favorite portrait of a spunky, rebellious girl who shakes up a conservative community, also coined the phrase "bosom friend," which i've used

4. a wrinkle in time series _ it's been a while since i've read these, but truly well written, about children who must step into another world to save their father

5. the phantom tollbooth _ probably one of my all-time favorites and the most read book of all, about a simple boy named milo who travels into a world [see a trend?] where everything is letters, numbers, and quite literally taken

6. the redwall series _ definitely the longest series i've kept up with (except for lately), each one about a different young hero/heroine who must prove him or herself in the face of adversary. it's a bit formulaic over time, although the classic characters (martin, etc.) are always great to read about. did i mention they're animals? and that the food is amazingly mouth-watering?

7. james and the giant peach _ sail away with a peach...and bugs! roald dahl was magical with words. i really appreciated the fact that his stories aren't cutesy like many other kids' books, incorporating peril and some aspect of the grotesque along w/ the fun and heroic.

8. harriet the spy _ i reread this recently - this nosy girl who gets in trouble for her honest (and sometimes abrasive) observations of her classmates lead me to keep my own notebook.

9. the indian in the cupboard series _ it took a leap of imagination to think that toys come to life, but isn't that what most kids wish for anyways? and it happens - with the help of a magically mysterious cupboard. the social commentary around omry's neighborhood also starts to come through with multiple readings.

10. the little prince (le petit prince) _ although i originally read this in english, it became more meaningful in french. many bites of knowledge and wisdom in this slim, magical volume.

11. the chronicles of narnia _ this series needs little introduction or summary... the description, narrative, conflict, and resolution in the end have all lead me to read through the entire series and love it. the movies don't really do it true justice, but are good all the same.

12. misty of chincoteague _ i really loved horses when i was younger (and still love them), and this book revealed to me the beauty of the animal and the fascination of chincoteague, one of the few places in the US with wild horses. later on i went camping on assateague island (right next door) to see the wild horses.

13. the wind in the willows _ toad and frog. friendship. hilarity. and i like animals who are portrayed in such a human-like way.


  1. Whoa, I haven't heard of some of those books on the NY Times list! Are we too old? The only one additional one I've read was The Prince and the Pauper (Little Lord Fauntleroy I've seen as a movie and found it a bit much).

    I definitely share most of your list, except Misty - so I won't bother making one of my own :) I can't think of any solid additions, except for maybe a few of my classics tossed in for good measure.