August 23, 2010

The Charm of Children’s Literature


A few weeks ago, I was craving comfort in a big way. I was getting over a lingering summer cold, and feeling neither interested nor able to deal with grown-up problems. I plucked Anne of Avonlea off the shelf, and for as long as I was flipping through those very old and faded rough-edged hardback pages, I did feel comforted. Anne’s is not a world in which she wonders about the meaning in her life. Meaning is as sure and tangible a thing as Marilla’s plum jam. The questions instead are how to extract oneself when you’ve fallen through the roof of a chicken coop and what to name a particularly enchanting place in the woods. There are scrapes, to be sure, but Anne snakes her way out of them.

I love ambiguity, questioning and grays, of course. But there is something deeply appealing to me about simpler worlds where families eat dinner together every night, self-worth and love are givens, and humans are replaced by bears and anteaters.

After turning the last page on Anne, I took myself to Books of Wonder and reacquainted myself with old friends like Mrs. Frisby and Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I pulled aside several different teenage female clerks and asked for recommendations based on my love of spunky, fierce heroines like Anastasia and Laura. They introduced me to Mary Alice and Sheila the Great.

I shelved Joan Didion and Annie Dillard. Enough darkness, rumination, and underbelly. I parted the curtains to let in some light. And in these last very happy weeks of time spent at reading level age 10 and up, I’ve learned that when life feels a bit clouded and the way is unclear, these scrappy young heroines remind me of everything I need to know. Adventure is where you find it. Smart girls are cool. Being kind is more important than being beautiful. Work for good. Follow your passions. Love yourself and love with another will follow. But in the meantime, we’ve got bigger fish to fry, like learning to write novels, befriending old ladies in stone houses, and finding our home on the prairie, our dreams in the tall sea grasses.

So, friends: I’ve got Anne of the Island on its way from a used bookstore in Michigan. A Wrinkle in Time is in the queue, and when it gets chillier, I plan to read through all the Little House books. What are your favorites? What childhood books do you visit again and again? Which heroines taught you what kind of woman you want to be?

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  • beth: this is so well put, sarah. i have an enormous soft spot for the characters i read about as a girl. anne, of course. of course! and caddie woodlawn, too — we signed out books from my elementary school library, and for a while there the card inside that one was filled with nothing but my signature because i read over and over again.7 years ago

  • beth: p.s. is that anne in the drawing up at the top?7 years ago

  • lisa strawberry: Love this post! For me it was the Little House books and Little Women by Alcott. Those Victorian girls and young women developed so beautifully, so humanely and in such a down to earth way. I admire them still, and one day soon hope to spend quite a lot of time in their company. Thank you for the reminder.7 years ago

  • Kristi: Yes Anastasia books. I loved them. Another childhood favorite of mine was the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series. I also like to read old fairy tales from time to time. I have an ancient fairy tale book that was my grandmothers.7 years ago

  • Beth, Caddie Woodlawn is on my to-read list. The illustration up top is from my favorite picture book, Miss Rumphius. Definitely worth a purchase if you haven’t read it. I have long wanted to buy an extra copy just to have the gorgeous illustrations framed around the apartment.

    Lisa, I can’t believe I’ve never read Little Women! I’ve seen the movie so many times, but I think I pretty much have to read the book. It seems like a POP requirement.

    Kristin, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle! I loved her!7 years ago

  • martha: Ah, the Lupin Lady! Both my husband and I have fond memories of that book.

    Aside from my beloved red-headed Canadial girl, I think I was supposed to be a child in England. I love real and psuedo-Victorian fiction like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (a must-read!) and The Railway Children. There was also a series of YA fiction by English author Brian Jacques called Redwall and I gobbled them up when I was a kid. Sort of a mix between Watership Down and The Sword in the Stone. With animals as the heroes. Don’t laugh.

    I’m also a Pooh-devotee, and can still recite many of Pooh’s little observances about lunch and the meaning of life.7 years ago

  • Kelly: L.M. Montgomery is my go-to comfort. During a very bleak period last winter, all I wanted to do was soak in a bubble bath with Rilla of Ingleside. Those old stories from a simpler time, and a simpler time in my own life, help me to find the courage to pull myself together and soldier on.7 years ago

  • Ann: It seems serendipitous that you posted this today. I spent yesterday with a good friend, watching the wonderful Anne of Avonlea miniseries that was on PBS years ago. It’s one of the rare films that manages to capture the magic of the books on which it’s based. It inspired me to retrieve my Anne books from my parents’ basement next time I go home.

    In addition to the Anne books (and everything else by L.M.Montgomery), I also loved the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. If you haven’t read them, it’s worth seeking them out, especially the last six books in the series, which were recently republished. They’re sweet and funny and charming, but never saccharin or didactic.7 years ago

  • Martha, Have you read I Capture the Castle? I wouldn’t really call it a YA book, but it definitely captures that child in England mood, and I think you would love it! It’s definitely one of my faves!

    Kelly, Beautifully put. I have felt the same way many times in my own life.

    Ann, So amazing that you mention Betsy Tacy, as I just discovered those for the first time myself! I was feeling a little overwhelmed by starting at the beginning, but I think I will skip to the last six based on your suggestion.7 years ago

  • beth: i’ll have to look for that one — it’s the red hair that had me thinking it was anne shirley. which makes me think there must be something about redheads these authors love. (caddie’s one, too.) it’s almost like character description shorthand for pluckiness.7 years ago

  • heather: i was just betsy-tacy daydreaming this weekend!

    I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU HAVEN’T READ LITTLE WOMEN!!!1!!!ONE!!! (dabs at forehead with hanky) then there’s little men, and jo’s boys, which (obvs) aren’t QUITE the same, but are nice in a ‘remember ‘little women’?’ kind of way.

    yes yes, mrs. piggle wiggle! and the borrowers books! (i always had a secret crush on spiller. a coincidence that my husband was nicknamed spiller, years before i met him? I THINK NOT.) also, ‘the secret garden,’ natch.

    there are SO many more that i remember loving, that are just hazy enough now that i can’t remember titles, authors, main characters, or specifics…it’s kind of maddening, but even the ethereal fog of my memory is rather sweet.7 years ago

  • Ariel: Island of the Blue Dolphins
    Julie of the Wolves
    Dealing with Dragons
    The Wrinkle in Time series
    The Dark is Rising series (by Susan Cooper – not as dark as they sound)

    I devoured the Black Stallion books…

    I love YA books!7 years ago

  • Claire: Sarah, what a wonderful post. I knew it was Miss Rumphius the moment I saw her; that was one of our favorite family “before bed” books. I am also warmed to know that Anastasia (my heroine) and Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler have not been forgotten — I am headed home over Labor Day to see my parents and will spend a good portion of that time raiding old boxes of books (I’m fortunate enough to have a nostaligcally-minded father who saves *everything). I recently returned from a week in Michigan where I was bound and determined to reread all of my Ramona books — it didn’t happen, but the intent is still there!7 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: I love Anne too, of course – and Little Women, and oh, so many others. Betsy Ray is a perennial favorite (my sister is named after her), and Caddie Woodlawn,and the Little House books, and Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time. I’ve been dipping into these comfort books too, lately. Have you read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice? It’s gorgeous, and such fun.7 years ago

  • anne: Definitely a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. Farmer Boy is one of her best.7 years ago

  • Katie: I’ll always have a soft spot for Matilda – love Roald Dahl. My college roommate always read Little Women every Christmas season and I’ve started doing it too – it is a comforting tradition for sure!7 years ago

  • Blob: Loved Farmer Boy also and Roald Dahl books, Matilda & the Witches in particular.

    I also loved the Westing Game. Turtle is a wonderful character.

    I still read and re-read children’s literature, it takes me back to a time when I loved reading most.

    And I still love, love, love picture books.7 years ago

  • Bee: I could’ve written this post myself! So very very very ‘me’.

    I’m a die-hard ‘Anne’ fan as well, and I re-read the entire series every few years when life seems overwhelmingly adult and I just need to escape into something gentle.

    I too add my recommendation for ‘Little Women’. Oh, that book…

    AND! Other L.M. Montgomery books! I love the ‘Emily’ series, as well as stand-alones like ‘The Blue Castle’ — which, if you haven’t read, you MUST. It’s indescribably good, and the heroine is one of my all-time favorites.7 years ago

  • Tori: The Anne books are my all-time favorites! You HAVE to read the whole series (Rilla of Ingleside makes me cry!).

    Don’t forget Cricket magazine (my childhood favorite and now, through some ridiculous luck, my employer) for a huge dose of childhood nostalgia and charm…7 years ago

  • Suzy: I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins, the Anne Books (though I haven’t read all of them–must rectify that), and lots of British ballet novels my Dad used to bring me back from the Puffin bookshop in Covent Garden. Still have them all. One I ADORED (and I believe is another by L’Engle, but not science fiction) is And Both Were Young. Takes place at a Swiss boarding school. Yum.7 years ago

  • yelumb: My flatmate just moved out and she left her Anne of Avonlea books to me (I think because I was annoying her all the time with that ;). Of all the classic books for girls these are my absolute favorites! What you really have to read, too, are the Pippi Longstocking books. There are no better children books than by Astrid Lindgren!

    p.s. my english is not perfect, because actually german is my mothertong, but I stumbled about your blog and I love it!7 years ago

  • SaraB: I love this post! I’ve been having a difficult time lately, and I chose Anne of Green Gables to perk me up. I had a moment in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble looking for something to read, where all my childhood memories came back and I turned to Anne for a little comfort. I think I’ll pick up Anne of Avonlea next.7 years ago

  • karisa: I am reading Anne of the Island right now too! My other favorites are Little Women, (and of course Little Men & Jo’s Boys), the Secret Garden, & A Little Princess. I always come back to these when I am feeling a bit lost.7 years ago

  • Mariah: -Madeleine L’Engle- I second And Both Were Young! My copy is worn out, I’ve read it so much
    -Any of the Anne Books, or the other Avonlea Books (Books like the Golden Road and The Story Girl which were the inspiration for the tv series “Avonlea” that used to be on the Disney channel which, by the way, is the most adorable tv series. She also has a three part series starting with Emiliy of New Moon which is along the same lines as the Anne series.
    – I loved Little Women but I think my favorite Alcott novel is Eight Cousins- I’ve read that so many times I’ve lost count!
    -Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster (then there is a sequel “Dear Enemy.” If you like Daddy Long-Legs there are two similar books she writes that are a little harder to find- When Patty Went to College and the prequel “Just Patty” My copies are from the early 1900’s but I just read them for the first time and they’re both fun reads- insight to life at a boarding school and woman’s college at the turn of the century.
    -A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is another book on my ‘every girl should read this’ list7 years ago

  • KBG in DC: The Little Princess and the Secret Garden are escapist classics, and any of the “Shoes” series by Noel Streatfeild will lift the spirits, especially when you are questioning your choices and purpose in life. Charlotte’s Web, ‘natch. And the greatest, the best, anything by Beverly Cleary, especially if you love spunky heroines or want to get in touch with your inner brat.7 years ago

  • SaraJane: I absolutely loved the Little House series. I read them over and over again as a child. The Secret Garden was my very favorite, though. I remember checking it out of the school library so many times over the years they stopped letting me check it out! haha.

    Another great series is the Grandma’s Attic series by Arletta Richardson. I just had to google to find out what they were called! They’re super cute and in the same vein as the Little House books. About two best friends, Mabel and SarahJane and their many adventures.

    And really, you have to read Little Women. As always, the book is far superior to the movie.

    If you’re in the mood for an even younger kid’s book, another favorite of mine is Hope For the Flowers. Adorable illustrations and a great message.7 years ago

  • Hope: I do LOVE kids books. My favorite has to be Little Men (the second book in the Little Women series. . .I like LW too, but LM is just. . . better.)

    I also have started collecting the Roald Dahl books. He was my favorite when I was a kid and just love his style.

    What else? Um, The Boxcar Children is good and you’ve already mentioned the Anne books.

    I guess that’s about it. Of course, now I want to go out and get Anne too. Maybe I’ll make a trip to the Library tomorrow!7 years ago

  • BethP: So many favorites mentioned here. And how cool to see fans of AND BOTH WERE YOUNG! I worked on the new edition, out this past spring:

    And I have wanted to buy an extra copy of Miss Rumphius and frame certain spreads too, Sarah! I think we should just go ahead and do it.7 years ago

  • Jessica: Oh, so much! I can’t count the number of times I’ve read all of the Anne books. Each is so special for a different reason–I used to read the one where she and Gilbert finally get together whenever I was sick (physically or emotionally!).

    And I think I’ve said this here before, but after a really scary car accident shook up our fam, my little sister and I reread the entire Little House series together. Now one of our phrases that means so much more than it says is, “claim shanty!” As in, the world is too much right now, and all I want is a claim shanty on the prairie 🙂

    Also, have you read The Boxcar Children? LOVE.7 years ago

  • Cadi: Anything Roald Dahl, but my favorites as a girl were the Wrinkle in Time Series (especially A Swiftly Tilting Planet), and all things Ramona by Beverly Cleary. I’m actually more than a bit sad that they’re making these in to movies… And Anne of course, the Little House books, and the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe series.

    Love YA books, everyone’s suggestions are wonderful!!7 years ago

  • Hilary: There are lots of great new ones too—I’ve been obsessed with YA fantasy all summer, where the teenage girls are strong, independent, and fall in love without losing themselves. Read The Graceling by Kristin Cashore—so much fun!7 years ago

  • CS: I am slightly teary at seeing so many books mentioned here that were important to me as a child. One of the great delights of parenting has been introducing my kids to the books I loved at their age(s). My FAVORITE books as a pre-teen were by Elizabeth Enright: I can’t help but believe you (and your readers) would love _Gone Away Lake_ , and its sequel, _Return to Gone Away_, as much as I did. Thank you for this entry: what a pleasure to share these books with each other.7 years ago

  • Linda: I’m not sure if I would want to reread them but the Nancy Drew series brought me a lot of happiness. My grandsons have discovered an old English series called The Famous Five and they love them. There is even an old series from BBC based on them. The author, Enid Blyton, wrote many series and over 600 books. I had never heard of her before.7 years ago

  • brookstar: i love anne and re-read all the books time and again. i also love the little house and wrinkle in time books. one book that i’ve returned to over and over again that’s a little bit less well known is daddy long legs by jean webster. have you read that? years ago

  • Gwen: I second the Betsy-Tacy books — I read the early ones (which were the only ones in print then) when I was young, then read the last six while laid up with the flu last fall. They’re wonderful.

    I also cannot recommend highly enough The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye. I’ve read it over and over, and it’s my go-to book whenever things are particularly stressful (I even read some of it on my iPhone the nights before the bar exam). It’s charming and funny and inspiring.7 years ago

  • wendy bussell: Going through the list of comments is great reading alone! to have so many like minded people in one place is awesome.
    Here are my 2 cents…Mary Poppins books. No, they are not like the movie at all! Peter Pan. At the Back of the North Wind. the Wind in the Willows and the Willows in Winter. Calico Captive.Jane Eyre. Anything by Alcott and Austen. The is also the Light Princess, the Little Prince, the Little Lame Prince and the Happy Prince. Now, I do know you asked for books with heroines, but these were read to my 2 girls,19&14, over the years, with much fondness and return readings. If they were to choose modern authors for their age levels Kate DiCamillo would be their favoritest! The tale of Desperaux, the journey of Edward Tulane, the Magician’s Elephant! An excellant choice really. And then there is our family’s collective favorite, The Princess Bride. Another one very much not like the movie. Don’t forget Charlotte’s Web, Cheaper By the Dozen, Bells on Their toes,Alice in Wonderland ….my list is way too long for this blog! Enjoy!7 years ago

  • I LOVED the Boxcar Children! Also, I don’t have any desire to reread them because my memory is that they are very sad, but when I was 10-12 I loved Dicey’s Song and Homecoming. Did anyone read those?

    I’m crazy for all these recommendations!7 years ago

  • Gina @cakeandcordial: So many wonderful books already listed (ANYTHING by LM Montgomery! Island of the Blue Dolphins and Roald Dahl – esp Mathilda! and I’m so happy to see others out there who remember Anastasia Krupnik , mostly when I mention her people look at me funny).

    I am expecting my first child and am so excited to share my love of children’s lit with this little person. This list is full of great inspiration for new favourites! Thank you all.,

    Here are a few I feel are missing from this list that I am passionate about:

    I have 2 of Karen Cushman’s books (Catherine Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice) that are wonderful, but it appears she has a few more girl-centric books too check out too! Yay!

    Sherryl Jordan’s book Winter of Fire is hard to find but if you do READ IT! Her book Wolf Woman is also pretty good. These are a bit more serious but still about brave young women who do awesome things.

    There’s probably more but I feel this comment has gotten pretty long! Cheers!7 years ago

  • Rebecca: I am so glad that I’m not the only one whose comfort reads are children’s books! My go-to is “A little princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, but the Little House books are up there too. My favourite is “The long winter” if solely for when they go to their grandmother’s and make maple syrup.

    Whoever recommended “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore is right on the money – LOVED that book! As well, anyone who likes Anne, “Little Women,” etc., should definitely read “The Penderwicks” by Jeanne Birdsall – it’s a book that feels like it was written a long time ago but was actually published quite recently. It is simply wonderful. “A crooked kind of perfect” by Linda Urban is a lovely quick little read, and Philip Pullman’s series beginning with “The Golden Compass” is completely unputdownable.

    Has anyone else read Dahl’s “Danny, the champion of the world?” It is my absolute favourite Dahl (Matilda is #2) but it seems somewhat obscure. Regardless, it’s fantastic. 🙂7 years ago

  • MrsB: oh sarah!

    When we read a book as a child it becomes part of our identity, in a way no other reading does in our lives….Kathleen Kelly (you’ve got mail!)

    so so so true! In dark hours of scrapes and conundrums I still fancy myself to be Anne….still searching for kindred spirits and soaring up on wings of poetical fancy…almost pays for the thud!

    Though I do worry about my propensity to turn into Rachel Lynd as I get older!!

    Have you ever read the Emily books also by LM Montgomery…just a beautiful. Perfect for being a little older and fancying your self to be terribly wise….

    I am going to dig out mine out too!!

    x7 years ago

  • Christine S.: L.M. Montgomery, I think I mentioned before, went from my hands to my 16 yr. old’s this summer…Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series was being voraciously devoured by one of said 16 yr. old daughter’s friends who heads to college this week…you have hit the nail on the head of most of my childhood loves – actually, well-into-adulthood loves (Children’s Lit was my favorite college class:)…

    Betsy, Tacy, and Tib, though, are aching to be pulled off the shelf, have the dust blown off of them, and draw me into their worlds again:)

    Side note: when I was a little girl, I had the luxury for a few short years to actually have some land to “roam” on…played/dreamt that I was Laura, Anne, whichever female lovely that was endearing to me at the time. What a magical time of life:)7 years ago

  • DesigningDiva: I am just starting to reread my old Nancy Drew books – what nostalgic fun! I also love I Capture the Castle – a lovely story made even better since I love all things British.
    The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler also was one of my favorites – it appealed to my sense of adventure.
    Any one ever read The Silver Nutmeg or Beyond the Paw-Paw Trees? They are now out-of-print, but were very imaginative books. Another all-time favorite about a little hedgehog was Miss Jaster’s Garden – what an adorable story about accepting yourself and kindness. I highly recommend it! Beautiful illustrations, too.7 years ago

  • Hannah: I am so glad you posted this about children’s literature! I have long been an avid lover of kid’s books and even considered specializing in children’s literature for grad school. I wrote a kind of similar post in my blog a few weeks ago…though that post was mainly about Harry Potter.

    As far as my favorite books go, I am so excited for you to read the Little House books. I’ve been really worried that the kids who are 7 or 8 right now don’t care about the prairie and the frontier and how fascinating it was because I that it was amazing at that age. Another of my favorites…Harriet the Spy. The copy I have is totally disheveled because it was my mom’s first, and both of us loved it very thoroughly.7 years ago

  • Melanie: My favorite were the little house books- my mom read them to my sister and I every night before bed. Great post!7 years ago

  • Jackie: I love this post and the delightful comments!
    I’m surprised no one mentioned Pippi Longstocking — those stories entertained me endlessly. I was also obsessed with Ramona Quimby, so much so that my mom tried to forbid me to read them because she was convinced it was the reason I was such a troublemaker! 🙂7 years ago

  • Rachel: I am so excited to see how many people share my love of young adult literature! I definitely still enjoy re-reading these books (and exploring new ones!) — they’re often so much more imaginative than adult books, I think, and they definitely help me escape to faraway lands.

    They also make me feel more connected to my mom. She and I both loved Anne of Green Gables and the Little House books, and I distinctly remember reading them together with her. I also remember watching the Anne of Green Gables movies and loving them. They’re now on my netflix!7 years ago

  • Michelle: I liked this post. Similarly, a cuple of months ago I felt the need to forego much of the literature I usually read and to give myself a break. I read Little House in the Big Woods, and loved it. I think it is one I would enjoy reading every year!7 years ago

  • lcgrant03: Great post! Heartwarming to see there are so many out there that had similar childhoods. Where books were constant companions. Every time I open one of my favorite YA books (many mentioned), I am instantly feel the excitement of being young with no real worries. Thanks for the reminder of the simple times and that good books can still do that now.7 years ago

  • Maureen: Oh, I love this discussion of favorite childhood books! So many of the ones listed are books I’ve loved and read over and over. Island of the Blue Dolphins and the Little House books especially, one of my great disappointments is that my 16 yr old daughter has never read them. She is a great reader, but not interested. I know, I can’t believe it either! Every couple of years I pull out my set of the Little House books, and read them all again.

    Sarah Plain and Tall is such a beautiful book, I would read it aloud to my daughter at bedtime. There were times I was so choked up with the beauty of the words, I could barely finish the sentence.

    I just read two YA novels this week that I very much enjoyed-Vintage Veronica by Erica S Perl, and The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S Alexander. Both have very engaging characters, and the latter book has a rooster named Charles Dickens. Who can resist that?

    Oh, I almost forgot the Outsiders by SE Hinton. Even though the main character wasn’t female, I loved it. I reread it not too long ago, and I am happy to say it holds up wonderfully.7 years ago

  • Ellen: So happy to see you mention ‘A Wrinkle in Time” , as that story and the other 3 that go along with it are some of my favorites! Also “Promises in the Attic” and “Focus the Bright Land”. “Time Windows” is a good story with a young girl who is brave enough to solve the mystery. Out of the ‘Little House’ stories, “Farmer Boy” was my favorite. A really descriptive story that, even though I read it more than 30 years ago, still remember today.7 years ago

  • Heather: Just stumbled onto your blog and I love this post! I have read all of LM Montgomery’s books, if you like Anne you would also like the Emily series (although I also did the ugly cry in Rilla of Ingleside). Also, please if you haven’t read Secret Garden yet you must do so, as well as The Little Princess. I agree with Little Women, a must read. And Charlottes Web is always great.

    This has made me order books tonight!7 years ago

  • Lesley: I loved “From the Mixed Up Files” and all the Little House books. Trixie Belden was also a huge fave of mine. She was independent and free-spirited and smart. And she was nice to her mom and brothers. Anyone else read Trixie?7 years ago

  • NTE: Delightful post and comments – so many books, so many memories. Little Women is my go-to, but I’ve loved Anne and Laura (and Ma and Pa) so much that they felt like my own family.

    I was a Ramona girl too, and can highly recommend the Clementine books for a newer series that captures the joys (and not joys) of being a young girl.

    I used to use the excuse that I was a teacher, or that my niece and nephews needed me to keep current on kid lit, but now I’m an unabashed fan…. Good books are good books, no matter who they were written for originally. And there is just something about the heroines (and heroes) that we spent our childhood with that attaches them to our souls.7 years ago

  • Trar: I can’t believe no one has mentioned the Oz books! The first dozen or so are my favorite. Dorothy and Ozma are the most interesting pair of best friends.

    Cable tv is ruining us all–the Little House on the Prairie prequel was on all day last week, which led me on an epic google-fu quest through those books, Anne ofs and then onto Christy. Christy was a fantastic YA book about a young teacher in the backwards Smoky Mountains. Then wikipedia blew my mind by adding that it is considered a most influential childhood novel by most present day evangelicals. Which is weird, because Christy ends up marrying an agnostic doctor. I wonder how children’s lit impacts us in other ways?7 years ago

  • Sarah F: I adored the Anne books, and whenever I re-read them, they are just as good as they were the first time. I still laugh out loud and giggle and cry. They are fantastic.

    When I was growing up I loved Laura books (I checked them out so much my parents bought me my own set) and I had all the Ramona Quimby books. I still enjoy them.

    But crazily enough, the heroine who impacted me the most was Elizabeth Bennet (and I didn’t meet her until I got into college) and I still read the book as much as possible.7 years ago

  • Jess B from NH: I can’t believe I stumbled across this post right after my weekend of burying myself in some of my best-loved YA books! I know some people look at me askance due to my sizable collection of dog-eared paperbacks I’ve been reading since I was young… and so many of my favorites are mentioned here. I need to reread Mixed-Up Files, Anastasia, Little Men and Jo’s Boys and get around to reading past the first three books in the Anne series!

    A few to add: If you love Madeleine L’Engle, I’d highly, highly recommend A Ring of Endless Light; if you love Narnia, the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander (which I devoured again Saturday and Sunday); Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson; and The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs.

    Thank you for reminding me of all the varied chicken soups for my soul. 😀7 years ago

  • Katy: I was so excited to see this post; thank you! Being in the midst of writing my dissertation, I find that my need for pleasure reading can come only from young adult or children’s books; I need their charm and whimsical sense of reality. Some of my favorites:

    1) Anne of the Island
    2) Rilla of Ingleside
    3) Harriet the Spy
    4) Emily of New Moon
    5) the Fearless series (esp. books 1-12)
    6) Julie of the Wolves
    7) The Little House books
    8) Harry Potter
    9) The Chronicles of Narnia
    10) my most recent acquisition, When You Reach Me7 years ago

  • Ginger: I know I’m way late to this party, but I figure if I’m here, looking for great suggestions I’ve missed, maybe others are too.

    I’ve read over these listed, and a few crucials are missing (at least from my childhood). If you liked the Chronicles of Narnia and a Wrinkle in Time, C. S. Lewis also wrote a Space Trilogy that starts with “Out of the Silent Planet.” Also, Madeline L’Engle wrote the Austin Family series that is completely charming. I want to be part of their family. Start with “Meet the Austins.”

    A few stand-alone books I loved were “The Egypt Game” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, “The Callender Papers” by Cynthia Voigt, “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt, “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, and “The Cricket in Times Square” (which I actually believe had Chester Cricket starring in subsequent books).7 years ago

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