Memories of Childhood Reading

ndHave you always been an avid reader or is it a newly acquired habit? I’ve been an avid reader since I first encountered Dick and Jane in first grade. But my love of books goes back even further. My earliest memory involves sitting on a baby blanket in the sun with my mother, surrounded by books.  I don’t remember all of the books but do recall two – Nurse Nancy and The Gingerbread Man – because they were two of the first books I read by myself.

Two recent events have me thinking a lot about the books I read – and loved – as a child. First, I was sitting in a favorite restaurant enjoying a leisurely brunch, mimosa in one hand and Kindle next to my plate, when a family was seated at the table next to me. I immediately cringed, afraid that my peace would be spoiled by fighting children.  Fortunately, I was wrong. While the parents and son quietly scanned the menu, the daughter (about 10 years old) pulled a book out of her pack and began reading. When the waitress came to take their order the girl briefly looked up, gave her order, and began reading again. I stayed for about 45 minutes longer, and the girl read the entire time.

I thought about that girl a long time afterward. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, and rarely ate meals in restaurants. But reading during meals at home? Oh yes! My brother and I were encouraged to read whenever we wanted, and we often read during meals.

But what types of books did I read? One of my fellow AAR staffers, LeeB, recently sent around a link to a USA Today article that lists the 100 Greatest Books for Kids as ranked by Scholastic Parent & Child magazine.

I immediately looked at the list and discovered that I had read 8 of the top 10 but only 22 out of all 100.  I started feeling bad about this low number and checked out the editors’ methodology to see if they were flawed in their selections. Then I checked the list in more detail and discovered that many of the books I haven’t read were published well after my childhood years. And since I don’t have children, I don’t regularly read newly published children’s books unless they capture my attention, Harry Potter being a key exception.

But did I read books of comparable quality to those on the list? Frankly, my parents didn’t care what I read; they just wanted me to read. My brother and I, along with our mother, spent many days on our back porch reading piles of comic books – Archie, Batman, Superman, Richie Rich – whatever we could get our hands on. I’ve talked here before about my love of girl sleuth mysteries, particularly the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series. But my brother and I regularly read each other’s books, so I also read a lot of the Hardy Boys and Rick Brant series, as well as many books featuring race car drivers (a particularly favorite of his).

I know I read many of the childhood classics both in school and at home. My parents made certain we had cheap versions of all “important” books in our home (often picked up at thrift stores). Once a week my father took us to the public library where we would walk out with anywhere from 10 to 20 books piled high in our hands. But honestly, it’s not the classics that stick in my mind. In addition to those girl sleuth mysteries, the books I enjoyed the most are decidedly non-classic books.

As an early reader I loved what I thought of as books set in “olden times” such as the Bobbsey Twins and the Little House on the Prairie series.  I also dearly loved the books I purchased through the Scholastic Book Club. Three of my favorites, that I’ve recently bought copies of, are The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink, Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians by Mary Nash, and Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine by Jay Williams and Raymond Abrshkin. All three of these books feature children engaged in exciting adventures. The latter two had at least one child who was either brilliant or had particularly interesting talents. These books engaged my mind and made me want to have adventures. And most of all, they were fun.

I guess it’s that sense of reading as fun that has remained with me into my adulthood. Yes, I’ve read lots and lots of classic adult fiction, both in literature classes in college and on my own. I even briefly belonged to a classic literature book group. But I quickly came to the conclusion that as an adult, my reading tastes are very similar to my childhood tastes. I’ll read a classic book from time to time if it’s compelling. But for a daily diet, I want fun, enjoyable reads, the ones I get most frequently these days from romance and mysteries.

So let’s talk childhood reading. Does the Scholastic Parent & Child magazine list of top children’s books match with your childhood reading? Are there classics you think are missing? And what are the children’s books that have stayed in your memory the longest?

- LinnieGayl AAR

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60 Responses to Memories of Childhood Reading

  1. Lori says:

    Haha, Like you, LinnieGayl, I’m too old/childless to have read most of these books as a kid, though a few I read later on. I remember being mesmerized by A Wrinkle in Time…

    An avid reader, we had this cool (I thought it was cool, ’cause I was a reading geek :-) ) “SRA” color-coded reading series. If you could demonstrate comprehension of enough short stories of one “color,” you were allowed to move on to the stories in the next color, and the stories got progressively more difficult of course.

    To your topic, I also have fond memories of these Baby Boomer childhood reads, though I couldn’t tell you how they “stack up” against some of the more recent books on the Scholastic list:

    Beverly Cleary – Beezus and Ramona series
    The Encyclopedia Brown stories
    Curtis Bishop – All of his sports books
    Patsey Gray – All of her horse books
    Albert Payson Terhune – Lad A Dog and his other dog books
    Louisa May Alcott – Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys
    Matt Christopher – Touchdown for Tommy and his other sports books
    The “Danny Dunn” stories
    Pat the Bunny – I still love that book!

  2. Lynn M says:

    Out of that list, I’ve read probably 50 of the titles. However, only maybe 5 of those books were ones I read myself as a child and the rest are ones I’ve either read to my kids when they were young or have read more recently as my kids have grown and the titles appear on lists of books they should read. Like you, LinnieGayl, I was a huge fan of Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins and the Little House series. I also read all of Judy Blume’s books as a young teen, and I was just mad for the Silhouette First Love line of category romance books. I always had a book in my hand, and I was the kid whose mother had to shove her out of the house in the summer time because I’d rather stay inside and read.

    What’s been intriguing for me in recent years is how many titles I remember from my young days that I’ve tried to track down. Rereading them is interesting, seeing how they match up with my memories. Books like The Iron Peacock, Miss Osbourne the Mop and Landslide! made a huge impression on me as a new reader. To this day, I remember a book about a girl who told everyone that she owned a life sized doll and had to steal a department store mannequin to save face – I can’t remember the title nor find the book, and it’s driving me crazy!

  3. Lynnd says:

    Like you and Lori, I am also too old and childless and only read 10 of those books when I was young. I loved the Little House books, Judy Blume and all of L.M. Montgomery’s books (not just Anne). Encylopedia Brown was my favourite detective and Peanuts was my favourite comic. I much preferred getting books as treats rather than candy :-) and I loved going to the library. I recently had to clean out my parent’s and found that they had kept many of my old books – it was like seeing old friends during a particularly difficult time.

  4. EmilyW says:

    I read quite a few of these as a child. The ones with the most impact were Anne of Green Gables, Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I read so much as a kid and a teen. I used my free time wisely back then and I would surely be that girl at the restaurant. I always had a book in hand (or two or three). I gravitated to books that had animals as the main characters or as cenral to the plot. So many of my favorite childhood reading memories are books about animals: Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, Come On Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody, Where the Red Fern Grows, Summer of the Monkeys…the list goes on and on. In grade school, we had a Troll Books order form given to us every month I think? I would look forward to those brochures tremendously and mark all the books I wanted and then my mom would tell me how much I could spend. I was always the one in class to get a giant box of books delivered to my desk… Ah, such wonderful memories this post has brought back!

  5. LeeB. says:

    I LOVED reading when I was a kid and read as much as possible. And yep, ordered LOTS of books through the Scholastic Book Club. I couldn’t wait to get the catalog each month (or quarter) and select my choices.

    And Lori, I remember the SRA reading series too. Gosh, that brings back memories.

    Was a big fan of the Little House books, Louisa May Alcott’s “An Old Fashioned Girl,” Harriet the Spy books, some Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins books, and the All-of-a-Kind Family books. Oh, and the Betsy-Tacy-Tib stories!

  6. Jane O says:

    I’m afraid I predate practically everything on this list except for Anne of Green Gables. But where are The Five Little Peppers, Little Women, Little Men, the Little House books, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Kidnapped, Treasure Island, Ivanhoe, The Three Musketeers, The Prisoner of Zenda, Lad, a Dog, Misty, Scottish Chiefs, The Deerslayer, and a host of others? To say nothing of Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton.

    What a bizarre list.

  7. maggie b. says:

    I’ve been an avid reader since second grade. Many people have already listed lots of the series I read so I’ll add a few unusual ones. Rosemary Sutcliff, read everything of hers I could get my hands on, The Black Stallion books, as well as Black Beauty. Anything to do with King Arthur and the knights of the round table. Andre Norton’s sci fi books. Lloyd Alexander’s wonderful Black Cauldron series. Chery Ames the nurse with a thousand jobs. Anne of Green Gables (fabulous!!!), the books of Gladys Malvern and Margaret Leighton.

    There are so, so many good memories thinking to back to the books of my youth.

  8. Marianne McA says:

    I’ve read 16, I think. And I have children, but against that, I’m not from the US, which perhaps makes a difference. I wouldn’t have picked ‘Charlotte’s Web’ as the best children’s book.

    I was always an avid reader – though I’d have got into trouble if I had read at mealtimes. (Which was probably good: I wouldn’t have ever talked to my family if I’d been allowed to read at table as well.)

    I just read anything that came my way from Pooh to the Bible: though, to be fair, as a child I believed that as long as I had read and understood every word I’d read the book. I’d a dictionary by my bed and I conscientiously looked up any word I didn’t know. I remember triumphantly finishing ‘Vanity Fair’ without having a clue about what had happened in the book, but in my head I’d read it, because I’d decoded all of the words. But I liked fairy tales best, and I think whatever I found in fairy tales then is the same thing I find in romances now.

    Books that are missing from the list – not counting authors who already have at least one book on the list – I’d definitely have Noel Streatfield somewhere, Susan Cooper, C.S. Lewis, the Molesworth books… And I loved books like ‘What Katy Did’ and ‘Pollyanna’ and ‘Daddy-Long-Legs.’ And from my children’s childhood I’d have a Jill Murphy picture book, and a Martin Waddell picture book, and something by the Ahlbergs. Anything you can read aloud a zillion times and still enjoy has to be good. And Spot as well.

    Childhood books I’d like to find again – I’d love to find reasonably priced copies of the Hugh Walters series (Passage to Pluto etc.), just to see how they read now. (I did pay something like £25 for a replacement copy of the picture book ‘Susie Saucer and Ronnie Rocket’ – clearly, even as an infant, I loved my romance.)

  9. Barb in Maryland says:

    Hi! Another ‘older’ reader checking in–
    Lori–SRA reading program–I aced that back in the day! Hadn’t thought about that in a long while.
    And you can add me to the list of voracious readers from the time I learned to read. You had to pry the book out of my hands.
    I wasn’t keen on animal books (except for Black Beauty),but I did love the Little House books, the Borrowers series, the All of a Kind Family series. My favorites, though, all had history in them and adventure (and a touch of romance!)–Armstrong Sperry, Joseph Altshelter, Merritt P Allen, Gladys Malvern, Elizabeth George Speare and the like were my go-to authors.
    Over the years I have managed to acquire copies of some of my all-time childhood favorites–most of them are very obscure (Muskets along the Chickahominy,anyone?)–but they gave me hours and hours of pleasure.

  10. DabneyAAR says:

    I read constantly as a child, teen, and, still do as an adult. Of the Scholastic List, I’ve not read 23 of them and I can certainly think of books I think they’ve missed.

    I read all the series you mentioned when I was growing up–the only ones I read to my kids were the Wilder and, in from another vein, many of the Oz books.

    I’m not crazy about this list–I think it misses some classics and, in newer books, gets the author right and the book wrong. But it is interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  11. maggie b. says:

    The Prisoner of Zenda and the follow up Rupbert of Hentzau how could I forget those? I absolutely loved those!

  12. dick says:

    I can’t recall a time that I didn’t read…a lot. But my early school reading was in the Elson Gray (or Grey) basic readers, which included a large number of condensation/reduced difficulty Greek myths, the Odyssey, Song of Roland and similar lit. As with other posters, Albert Payson Terhune was a great favorite, but like Jane O, the most memorable ones were the adventure stories. Not only were they exciting reading, they were also longer and meatier. Any others of those on the list, I know only because I read them first to my children and then to my grandchildren, although I’ve never consider the Anne Frank book to be a children’s book.

  13. maggie b. says:

    One of the problems with that list is that it is all over the place in terms of age. Green Eggs and Ham is for a different audience than Tuck, Everlasting. I read about 25 of them I think. Hated Percy Jackson. Can not understand the popularity of that series.

  14. Marianne McA says:

    It also depends what you mean by children’s books – books written for children, or books children might enjoy? It’s ages since I read the Zenda books, but I hadn’t thought of them as children’s books.
    (If we’re going for hated: I never liked Robert Louis Stevenson at all. And I recently reread Swiss Family Robinson. Terrible mistake – in my memory, it’s a brilliant children’s book, but reading it as an adult, it is such a peculiar book.)

  15. Victoria S says:

    Lori, I thought I was the only SRA reading geek still left. I absolutely loved being able to read as fast and as much as I wanted to get to the next color. Oddly enough, the books I best remember reading as a kid were my mom’s Science Fiction books. She was a huge SciFi fan, and I learned to read fast and accurately, ’cause I would sneak and read them before she could take them back to the library. I have loved books my entire life. The earliest books I can remember were from The Scholastic Reading Program and the Book Fairs at my schools, does anyone else remember Bookmobiles :-) ?

  16. Syd says:

    @Lynn M… has a forum in its childrens’ book section where you can ask for help locating a “lost” book. They’ve found a few books for me even though some of my memories and descriptions were a bit obscure. Good luck!

  17. RobinB says:

    I have been reading for as long as I can remember; one of my favorite photos from my early childhood shows me sitting in a toddler chair “reading” the New York Times! (I was probably just looking at the pictures! LOL)

    I’ve read most of the books that others have already mentioned–some authors and series were favorites and some weren’t. I read the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series, and decided that I liked Trixie better than Nancy, because Nancy was just too “perfect”! I loved just about anything that Beverly Cleary wrote, as well as the books by Madeline L’Engle. (Although I liked “A Wrinkle in Time”, my favorite L’Engle book was “Meet the Austins”.) My other favorites are series set at the turn of the 20th century: All of a Kind Family and the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books.

    These days, I volunteer at the local public library, and I get a kick out of watching children borrow books that I read so many years ago!

  18. PatH AAR says:

    Our standard baby gift is #17 – Pat the Bunny, mostly because it’s a book, but also because it has my name in the title. (Some parents get the joke; most don’t.)

    My grandmother, who never spoke English although she lived in the United States her entire life, would read Madelaine to me in French. It still sounds strange to me in English.

    (I’ve read most of the books on the list.)

  19. AAR Sandy says:

    When I was a little girl in the summer, I always was a star of the local library’s reading club. My mother who seemed to think that children should play outside in the summer was happy if I just sat outside reading. Which I did for hours and hours and hours in our treehouse. Happy, simple times.

  20. Diane says:

    I loved the Nancy Drew series and yet when my daughter was old enough to read them she didn’t like them at all…

  21. LinnieGayl says:

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments, everyone. You have reminded me of some wonderful childhood reads. So many of you have mentioned Pat the Bunny I have to check that one out  And several of you mentioned the Betsy-Tacy-Tib (?) books. I do not recall ever reading those and am going to head to Amazon to take a look.

    Lori, I loved the Beverly Cleary books! I liked A Wrinkle in Time so much, and remembered it as an adult, that when I was in my 20s or 30s I bought every book she wrote and read them all.

    Lynn, M, glad to meet another Trixie fan  It is fun rereading childhood favorites. Every year I find myself picking up a few more beloved childhood books. That book about the girl who told everyone she had a life sized doll sounds interesting. Keep searching for it.

    Lynnd, I had completely forgotten about Encyclopedia Brown. Thanks for reminding me.

    EmilyW, you bring up an interesting point about animal books. My favorite books always featured children, but some of my friends favored animal books.

    LeeB, the Scholastic Book Club flyers were definitely a highlight for me. I just loved looking through them.

    Jane O, we had most of those books you mention around the house. I can remember my father reading The Five Little Peppers to me each night when I had the measles.

    Marianne McA, you gave me a really good laugh with your childhood philosophy on reading, in that if you’d decoded all the words, and finished, you had read the book.

    Barb in Maryland, I really enjoyed the Borrowers series.

    Victoria S, I remember Bookmobiles  But we never had Book Fairs at my school. I think I would have loved those.

    RobinB, what a wonderful photo to have from your childhood. And hooray that you liked Trixie better than Nancy. I forgot about Meet the Austins! It was great!

    Oh, AAR Sandy, the summer reading clubs! How could I forget those. I would whip through the whole summer’s worth of reading in about a week. Such fun.

  22. LinnieGayl says:

    OMG! I just looked up the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books! For years and years I’ve been trying to figure out what this series of books was that I had read as a girl. I had the time period wrong and thought they were written around WWI. These are the books! I recognized the book Betsy and Joe!

    Thank you, thank you! I’m heading off to buy some! Thank you!

  23. SunnyC says:

    I read many of the books listed (but far from all)! Some I read as a child; others I read to my daughter and her friends. Like LinnieGayl and AAR Sandy, I was an avid summer reader winning certificate “stars” for the student reading the most during break. I think I have the certificates glued in a pink scrapbook somewhere! :)

    But perhaps someone can help me here. I recall reading biographies of famous people such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, etc. I LOVED these books and I recall that each sported blue hardcovers. Does anyone else remember these? Does anyone know who published them. Thanks!

  24. RachelR says:

    Lynn M – I think the the book you’re looking for is by Carol Ryrie Brink (author of Caddie Woodlawn) called The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein, though it may have been originally published as Irma’s Big Lie. Reading your post brought to mind the cover of the edition I read (way back when) of a girl carrying a mannequin with one arm pointing up, so I had to go find it.

    I also seem to be in the category of “too old” to have read many of these books as a child. But, I don’t see how the list could be complete without Frances Hodgson Burnett (A secret garden, A Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntelroy) or the Mary Poppins books.

    I was very happy to discover ebay many years to go so that I could create a home library that allowed my children to grow up reading the same books I did. In no particular order – Carolyn Haywood (Betsy, Eddie, and the more obscure Primrose Day, Away Went the Balloons, Here Comes the Bus, Robert Rows the River…), Catherine Woolley, Helen Fuller Orton, Elizabeth Honness, Enid Blyton, Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes, Ruth Chew, Miss Pickerell, The Happy Hollisters… plus many of those already mentioned above. As most of these are out of print, they would have missed out on them otherwise.

    Haven’t though about the SRA in years, though my strongest memory tied to those little booklets, is being annoyed with the initial level I was assigned to. I was not assigned the highest level in the class and remember feeling very insulted!

    Great topic and great memories, Thanks LinnieGayl

    • Lynn M says:

      RachelR: Lynn M – I think the the book you’re looking for is by Carol Ryrie Brink (author of Caddie Woodlawn) called The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein, though it may have been originally published as Irma’s Big Lie. Reading your post brought to mind the cover of the edition I read (way back when) of a girl carrying a mannequin with one arm pointing up, so I had to go find it.

      Holy Cow! Thank you so much – I always remembered the title as “Emma’s Big Lie” but could never find it for obvious reasons. Now I’m off to see if I can track it down.

      @Syd – thanks, I’ll try Yay!! I’m so excited to have this mystery solved.

  25. LinnieGayl says:

    SunnyC, I remember reading a lot of biographies as well, although I don’t recall the covers. Hopefully someone can help.

    RachelR, I remember loving Miss Pickerell as well as The Happy Hollisters. Off to Amazon to check those two out :)

  26. Barb in Maryland says:

    Sunny C and LinnieGayl–
    Those bios were in the ‘Childhood of Famous Americans’ series. I am not sure when they were first published–I read through the (then) available titles in the late 1950′s. But I am sure they kept adding famous people. Some of them were still in print, as paperbacks, in the early 2000′s!

  27. LinnieGayl says:

    Thank you, Barb!

  28. Missie says:

    Oh, what memories! I, too, was encouraged to read as a child, and to read almost anything and everything!

    I will say, though, that the “classics” often get a bad rap, in my opinion — most of them are compelling, well-written, meaningful reads with vivid characters and storylines…but because they are often from a different era than our present time, and written in a different style, we slap the moniker “classic” on them and suck all the fun out of them.

    Trust me, Chaucer’s tales are as saucy and funny and relevant today as they were in his day.

    Don’t get me wrong — I seek a diet of fun and entertaining reads, as well — it’s just that I’ve long felt that “classics” have earned a undeserved bad rap.

  29. Kari S. says:

    Thanks for bringing this list to my attention, Linniegayl. I don’t pay enough attention to the current news and commentary most of the time.

    Since I work as an elementary school librarian many of the newer books are familiar, though some even I have never heard of! But I seriously question some of those choices. Captain Underpants? Yuck. Wimpy Kid? That series is driving me crazy because it’s the newest “hot” one. I can’t keep it on the shelf, but I fail to understand the appeal. Many of the books seem like best sellers named because they’re familiar titles, not necessarily ones that hold up well to criticism.

    Others I can agree with completely, particularly The Pigeon series by Mo Willems, and anything by Patricia Polacco or Allen Say. Diary of a Worm is hilarious. Lincoln, a Photobiography, When Marian Sang and Martin’s Big Words are masterpieces of nonfiction. Jerry Pinkney is another must-buy and he’s an author/artist I buy for my personal collection.

    My own reading history starts with The Happy Hollisters, which really caused my interest in reading to take off. Elizabeth Enright is one of my all-time favorites. I also loved The Dana Girls, and preferred that series to Nancy Drew. Edward Eager only published a few books, but I still reread him today. He wrote fantasies modeled upon the stories of his hero, E. Nesbit. I didn’t
    discover Anne of Green Gables until I was an adult, but of all her books I prefer Rilla of Ingleside and The Blue Castle, and both are YA. No one has mentioned Ruth M. Arthur (ghost-fantasies), Margot Benary-Isbert (post-WWII stories), Joan Aiken (who wrote everything, but her fantasy for children was brilliant) and I also loved YA authors Lenora Mattingly Weber (who doesn’t hold up well today) and Rosamund DuJardin. I echo many others in loving Laura Ingalls Wilder, P.L. Travers and the Oz books. Does anyone remember Eleanor Farjeon’s The Silver Curlew, Monique de Ladebat’s The Village that Slept, or Nicholas Stuart Gray’s Over the Hills to Fabylon? All favorites of mine, then and now. By the way, the Happy Hollisters even has web pages devoted to the series, and they’ve gotten a little more expensive! But fortunately I have all 33 of them, bought before the market took off. I even reread them now and then.

  30. escschwartz says:

    I was a big reader as a kid and of course still am. Some of the books on the list were ones I read as a child and some were ones I remember my children reading or that I read to them, but the book that wasn’t on the list that had the greatest impact on me as a pre-teen was “Harriet the Spy.” It started me on the habit of keeping my own “notebooks” which evolved into journals that I have kept up to some extent for over 45 years.
    I also read many of the “series” books. I wasn’t a big fan of Nancy Drew but I did read Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames and of course Bobbsey Twins. One series I loved when I was about 9 or 10 was the entire Betsy & Tacy series. I very much enjoyed historical fiction and some sci/fi especially if it was character driven. I was also a big biography fan. Some “children’s” books I didn’t read until I was an adult like Little Women and the entire Anne of Green Gables series.
    One comment I will make is that just as I used to want to stay up late at night to read when I was a child (often taking a flashlight under the covers when my mom would tell me to turn off my light and go to sleep), I still love to have a book in my hand constantly and will stay up late at night with a book that I can’t put down. As a parent I loved seeing my children with a book in hand and I hope someday to have grandchildren that I can introduce to the joy of reading anything they can get their hands on.

  31. Gayathri says:

    What a wonderful post. I am not from US and so I have not read many of the books in the list. However I have been reading from a very early age. Started off with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drews and would cross read Hardy Boys, Biggles as well. I still remember finishing Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre when I was in 5th grade (didnt understand most of the book – just knew all the words!!). Just like the kid, most mealtimes were with a book in hand as well. My local library had a rule that I could not return the books within the same day and I had to prove to them that I had finished reading my books before they made an exception for me!!

    Recently, I read Ann M Martin and Goosebumps to understand the type of books that my kids are choosing to read. It was fun enough that I catch up on the series along with my kids.

  32. RobinB says:

    RachelR, thanks for mentioning Carol Ryrie Brink! I was racking my brain yesterday trying to remember the author’s name because she was another author whose books were all just wonderful! In particular, there were two of hers that were personal favorites of mine, “Family Grandstand” and “Family Sabbatical”. They were about a Midwest family–the father was a professor at a local college, and the characters were wonderfully written.

    One nice thing about children’s literature is that rarely does the fiction go out of print. So, if you would like to introduce your childhood favorites to your children and/or grandchildren, it’s relatively easy to do!

    • RachelR says:

      RobinB: RachelR, thanks for mentioning Carol Ryrie Brink! I was racking my brain yesterday trying to remember the author’s name because she was another author whose books were all just wonderful! In particular, there were two of hers that were personal favorites of mine, “Family Grandstand” and “Family Sabbatical”. They were about a Midwest family–the father was a professor at a local college, and the characters were wonderfully written.

      RobinB – I actually own both of those books as well as a number of others by the same author.

      Kari S – I also enjoyed the Ruth M Arthur books. I has a friend all through school who tended to have the same taste in books as me, and we both read them. We would go to the library every Friday on our way home from school to stock up for the weekend. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken was another favorite I purchased for our home library (along with the sequels).

      Anyone besides me have fond memories of – Linnets and Valerians by Eileen Goudge, The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom, Dot for Short by Frieda Friedman, The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, Twenty-one Balloons by William Penn du Bois or Time at the Top and All in Good time by Edward Ormondroyd? Not to mention The Three Investigators series, Henry Reed books (Keith Robertson) or Herbert books (Hazel Wilson)?

  33. EmilyW says:

    These books will never make a “best for children” list but I seriously inhaled R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. I still remember my “aha” moment when I realized the formula of building suspense to just a false alarm every chapter break just didn’t work for me anymore. That was about the time I meandered over to the adult section of the library and discovered Victoria Holt whose extensive backlist kept me busy for awhile. :) I so hope at least one of my children is a reader like me. Books have brought such joy to my life and I hope it does for them too.

  34. Ann Stephens says:

    I’m old, so I’ve missed a lot of those on the Scholastic list. I didn’t read more than 15, although I read others to my kids. I did read a lot, although we weren’t allowed to during dinner. (There would have been no mealtime conversations if we could — my mom, dad & two sisters ALL read constantly.)

    My most favorite childhood books ever aren’t even on Scholastic’s list. Where is ‘Swiss Family Robinson’? Where is ‘The Hobbit’? Where is ‘A Child’s Treasury of Poems’? (Okay, I actually read that to my kids.) And yes, where is ‘Nancy Drew’?

    Even as a kid, I read a lot of non-fiction. There was a whole series called ‘How and Why Wonder Books’ that covered everything from ballet to kid-level explanations of electricity & magnetism. I found them at Woolworths along with the Nancy Drew books. And one of the best Scholastic offerings I ever got was a biography of Florence Nightingale. I kept it for years.

    Thanks for taking me back. :)

  35. Beth W says:

    I’ve not read many books on that list (another older, childless person here) but I was an avid reader when a kid too. One of my first memories is my mom reading Heidi to me – it was a very old book from her childhood and had these marvelous color plates in it. If I was very careful, I got to turn the pages as she read.
    When I started reading myself, I read just about anything I could get my hands on. I read my mom’s Bobbsey Twin books (from the 30′s and 40′s) and also the more “modern” Bobbsey Twins (from ’60s – ’70′s). I read my mom’s Cherry Ames. Loved Encyclopedia Brown and all the Judy Blume books. My sister gave me a box set of the Little House books for my birthday one year which quickly became a prize possession. The Narnia series is still my all-time favorite series of books, I remember reading all of the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in one afternoon. I read some Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys but they were never my favorites. There were lots of other books I read too, I just can’t remember them all at this time.

  36. Mary Skelton says:

    I have read about half of the list, but most were ones I read to or with my children. I started reading at age 3 1/2 when I begged my mother to teach me. She labeled everything in the house and within a few weeks, I was reading independently. I read the same type books as many of you: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Robin Kane, the Bobbsey Twins, etc. I remember one summer we moved to a new city and the library was pretty thin on fiction, so I read their entire selection of children’s biographies and autobiographies. I remember several like “Florence Nightingale: Lady with a Lamp” and “George Washington: Father of a Nation,” but I was never able to find them when my kids were young. I think I was around 10 or 11 when I discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and Jane Austen. So I went through a classics stage. I almost HAVE to have something to read. I have even resorted to Field and Stream while waiting for my car to be fixed. Reading is an addiction I am proud to have.

  37. Kari S. says:

    Rachel, I’m happy to know that someone else remembers Ruth M. Arthur. Those might be considered YA today, and many had a very lightly sketched “romance.” Dido the evil witch doll (A Candle in her Room) is an unforgettable character.

    I do remember Dot for Short, but I didn’t discover Elizabeth Goudge until I was an adult. I love Joan Aiken’s Alternate England series (she wrote about a dozen of them before she died) but I also have a special place in my heart for her fantasy anthologies of short stories, particularly the Armitage family series. A complete Armitage short stories collection was published in 2008, The Serial Garden. I can’t recommend that highly enough. Screwball fairy stories is the best way to describe them.

    I think I’ve read all of Carol Ryrie Brinks’ books. For some reason I was particularly fond of Baby Island, in which two capable young girls and a group of babies were stranded on (what else?) a desert island. I particularly remember when they mixed up the twins… The girls sang patriotic Scots ballads to retain their courage through multiple disasters.

    More commonly considered boy’s books, I did love The Mad Scientist’s Club series, and Alvin’s Secret Code. Also great – and still in print today – John Christopher’s Tripod series. Those books started my brother’s love affair with reading. I could go on and on… Thanks, LinnieGayl for giving me the opportunity!

  38. escschwartz says:

    Kari…OMG, Alvin’s Secret Code…thanks for the memory. As a tomboy I also loved “boy’s books.” I was a fan of Alan E Nourse (Star Surgeon and The Universe Between) which led me into Sci Fi and the works of Asimov and Heinlein in my teens. I think it very significant when a novel sticks with you decades after you have read it. I still remember the phrase “four parallel lines meeting at right angles” from The Universe Between. I also wonder to what extent my choice of fiction at that time led to my later interest in science as a career. Did I become a chemist because I was fascinated with the mom in A Wrinkle in Time who cooked dinner over her bunsen burner or was it my interest in science that led to my selection of pleasure reading. Considering the age I was when I read those books, I suspect that it was my love of the subject in books that led to incorporating that into my life. I hope authors of children’s and YA fiction realize the power they might hold to influence their readers in ways far removed from just what they read at that time.

  39. Lori says:

    Thanks for the reminders about the Catherine Woolley books–I’d totally forgotten about Ginnie and Geneva!

    Also, I wanted to add I was a huge fan of Lee Wyndham’s ballet books, starting with “On Your Toes, Susie!” Thank you, TAB/Scholastic Book Club!

  40. SunnyC says:

    Thanks so much Barb in Maryland! :)

  41. Kathleen says:

    What a wonderful column. It and many of the comments have brought back so many happy memories. I am a much older reader (63) so many of the newer books are unfamiliar to me. Many of the books on the list I became familiar with by reading to my children – Madeline L’Engle’s series being one of my favorites.

    As a kid I loved Albert Payson Terhune’s dog books. I also loved Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels (which I still re-read occasionally). The Bobbsey Twins and Cherry Ames were long running series that I waited for book after book. Kari S just reminded me of Rosamond DuJardin – I took them from the library compulsively I think, and I re-read them many times.

    Miss Pickerell was also a favorite. There may be something to reading about strong and scientific women as a child since I grew up to be a Civil Engineer during a time when women were not encouraged to do such things.

    I passed many of my favorites along to my kids – it was very satisfying when one of my kids loved a book that I had also loved.

  42. LeeF says:

    SO enjoyed reading everyone’s memories. I still have four Cherry Ames, two Trixie Beldens, Eight Cousins and Five Little Peppers on my bookshelf. My sister and I still still talk about the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I read all of the Carolyn Haywood books in the library and was delighted by Betsy and Star being snowbound. My first romances were the books by Rosamond du Jardin (I was fascinated by her Marcy series). And loved all the Janet Lambert books, especially the Penny and Tippy Parrish series.

    Did any of you ever read Those Miller Girls, set in the early 1900′s- two girls with a widower father and a school teacher with a telescope? The adults fell in love and it was very sweet.

  43. Julie says:

    Wow, lots of good memories here! (And very good timing for me, as I’ve been trying to recall and make a list of books I read pre-1975, when I actually started keeping book diaries instead of random notations that may or may not be hiding in boxes somewhere). I also loved Those Miller Girls, and the sequel The Motoring Millers. IIRC, the widowed father was the professor with the telescope, and he fell in love with Miss Kate who owned the hat shop.
    Some favorites I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned above: Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Phyllis A. Whitney (juvenile mysteries), Eleanor Cameron, Frank Bonham, S.E. Hinton, E.L Koningsburg, Robb White’s sailing adventures, Leon Garfield, and John & Patricia’s Beatty’s westerns.
    Best-loved and still frequently re-read: Joan Aiken’s alternate history; Sally Watson’s historicals featuring adventurous heroines who meet up with really appealing guys – I still like them better than most current romance heroes; and the Dorothy Dixon mystery series from the 1930′s, with a 16-year-old heroine who has her own airplane, carries a gun and knows ju jitsu.

    • RachelR says:

      Julie: Some favorites I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned above:Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Phyllis A. Whitney (juvenile mysteries), Eleanor Cameron, Frank Bonham, S.E. Hinton, E.L Koningsburg, Robb White’s sailing adventures, Leon Garfield, and John & Patricia’s Beatty’s westerns.

      My three favorite books by Patricia Beatty were – The Queen’s Own Grove, O The Red Rose Tree and The Nickel Plated Beauty. I own copies of all three. Eleanor Cameron’s Mushroom Planet books were great, but I haven’t found inexpensive used copies yet. One day….

    • LeeF says:

      Julie: I also loved Those Miller Girls, and the sequel The Motoring Millers. IIRC, the widowed father was the professor with the telescope, and he fell in love with Miss Kate who owned the hat shop.

      Thank you for clarifying- it’s so nice to know someone else remembers an old favorite.

  44. Kari S. says:

    Julie, thanks for mentioning Sally Watson! I am fortunate to own several of them, and I actually have a photocopy of Highland Rebel. My favorite was its sequel, the Hornet’s Nest – I love Andy, who keeps proposing to the heroine throughout the story, and how her brother doesn’t realize he’s serious until the end! I also owe my early education about the birth of Israel to her novel To Build a Land. Last I checked, her books are hard to find and very pricy.

    I still have many of Lee Wyndham’s ballet books in battered book club editions. I also loved her YA title, Beth Hilton, Model. Does anyone else remember Madye Lee Chastain? She wrote wonderful historicals and also
    more contemporary girl’s books, and I loved the Fripsy family series. I’ll have to see whether I can find any of those titles now.

  45. Kari S. says:

    Back again. I apologize – I am writing on an iPad, and just brushing the wrong key posted my message before I was finished. I wanted to mention Patricia Beatty’s Hail Columbia, about the early women’s movement. A great introduction to the subject.

    I mentioned her before in my first post, but wanted to also say that Elizabeth Enright is an author who writes such lyrical prose that she shouldn’t be missed. If I could describe the natural world just a tenth as well as she did, I’d be happy. Her portraits of happy children interacting with older adults is also exceptional. Her list of titles is short, but (with the exception of her first book, Kintu: a Congo Adventure) all of them are treasures.

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  47. Anne says:

    Like most everyone else I was an avid young reader, too (another cheer for SRA!), but I have to say my 9 year old daughter has eclipsed even me. She tore through the Bobbsey Twins series (all 11 of them) last summer, and she is one of those kids who reads at the table, in the car, even while she walks in the halls at school, LOL. The school librarian is her favorite teacher. And while she loves so many new books/authors, I have to say I really love the older books for her because of their interesting yet sweet content. We will definitely be looking for some of those books people have recommended above for her to read.

    The books we read as youngsters can really make an impression on us. There was a book I remembered so fondly from my childhood (not a novel, but rather a storybook with pictures), but I could only remember a few vague details about it (not the author nor the actual title). I loved that book, but we hadn’t kept it. I knew there was no way I would ever find it again. (This was before the internet was such a vast resource for information, btw). But as I shopped at an out-of-town antique store a number of years ago, I happened to look towards the floor to see a book, half hidden behind something else. All I had to see was the corner of the book and I KNEW it was the book I had been remembering. I’m not kidding when I say that I sat down on the floor and had to wipe away tears as I turned the pages. I had no idea I would be so emotional about it! And the title, if anyone is interested, is The King with Six Friends by Jay Williams.

  48. Anne says:

    Oh, and a comment about the Little House books – I remember loving those books when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. When my daughter was 7 I started reading the series with her. While there was much to love about them, I became increasingly uncomfortable with the way Native Americans were portrayed. I know they were written in a different time, but I increasingly felt the need to explain to her why all the “white” people classified all the Indians so disdainfully. So although it was an opportunity for some lessons on stereotyping and some less-than-positive aspects of American History, it started to ruin our enjoyment of the stories.

  49. joyce says:

    Mrs Coverlet’s Magicians was always and still is one of my favorite books. I can’t tell you how many times I read it as a child. Reread it in my 20′s and then when my 3 children were old enough, each got read this very special story!

  50. annmartina says:

    To one Anne from another Ann,

    Your daughter sounds like I me. One summer vacation my mom came into my bedroom and said “I don’t care if you read all summer, but could you read outside sometimes?”

    I drove her crazy during a family driving trip through the Canadian Rockies, missing the scenery with my nose buried in a book. And the best part of that trip for me? An overnight ferry trip with a tiny state room and a top bunk with a little light in it and curtains I could shut. A heavenly place to read.

    Anyway, if you can find the Danny Dunn books, your daughter might like them. I really liked them. Kind of like Bobbsy Twins with a sci-fi twist. My most memorable was Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine.

    In a couple of years she might enjoy Victoria Holt books. I think I was in seventh grade when I started reading those.

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