I can’t wait to build a library for my own children someday, God willing. I love children’s books–sometimes even more now as an adult than I did as a child. Madeleine L’Engle is my go-to reference regarding books “for” children, because she understood and articulated an extremely important truth about books intended for children, with which I could not agree more:
“If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children. If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grownup, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books. And words.” – from A Circle of Quiet
If only every author of children’s stories would heed those words!
I was raised by story-reading parents who taught me from a very early age how to appreciate a truly good book, and I can never repay the debt I owe to both their example and to the life-shaping books that I read as a child and throughout my adolescent years. I still love to come back to a great children’s book now and then–not only for the nostalgia, but because of the much-needed reminder to once again see the wonder of the world through the eyes of a child.
Here are some of my very favorite stories “for” children:
- Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – A riotous, gripping story of adventure, the battle between good and evil, and camaraderie and love shared among siblings. I discovered Susan Cooper in my early 20’s, actually, but how I would have loved to read this book as a youngster.
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – I distinctly remember closing the cover on this book and feeling as though I had never come to know and love a heroine so deeply as Kit Tyler. A remarkable story in a fascinating historical setting.
- Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes – What happens when everything you thought you wanted to do with your life evaporates – and you’re only 14 years old? Johnny Tremain is one of the most relatable, genuine, and compelling protagonists in all of children’s literature.
- Anything by Robert McCloskey – Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine, Lentil – the list goes on! Some of the sweetest picture books you will ever see.
- Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel – I actually didn’t grow up on this one, but my husband’s family loved it, and I can’t wait until my nephews and niece are old enough to read this one with them. The sing-song poetry language is delightful to a child’s ear.
- Swimmy by Leo Lionni – This was always one of my brother’s favorites, and we all loved to stare at the beautiful illustrations.
- The Four-Story Mistake [and anything else] by Elizabeth Enright – I love the Melendy Quartet series so much that I have often been tempted to buy a set for myself, but I am still trying to convince myself to wait and buy it for my own kids. Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away were also among our childhood favorites.
- The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong – A charming story set in a Dutch fishing village where the curiosity and tenacity of the village children help not only to solve a mystery but to change an important element of their town’s future. I remember sheer delight reading this one.
- Ginger Pye [and anything else] by Eleanor Estes – Who could forget Jerry and Rachel Pye, Uncle Bennie, Mrs. Speedy You-Bet, and most of all, Ginger, the smartest dog you’ll ever know. This is quite simply one of the best read-alouds ever!
This anything-but-exhaustive collection of favorites doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the countless truly delightful children’s books that I have found over the years, but I had to stop listing titles before I spend the rest of this series on children’s books alone! Hmmm, maybe an idea for next year?!?
What favorite books did you have as a child? Tell me about them in the comments!