Recommended Children's Books (for Children and Adults)

(Started: 10/89. Updated: 4/93. Webified and updated: 3 February 1999. Small changes and cleanup: 4 November 2002)

A work-in-progress. Still to be added: info on when I read each book and when I liked it; publication dates; etc. (will have rating as kid/as adult; - for rating means didn't read then.) At this point, it's fairly unlikely that I'll ever actually add such info, alas.

Age ranges: I think most of these books would be appropriate for 8- to 12-year-olds, but I don't really know for sure.

Joan Aiken
The Last Slice of Rainbow (1985)
A Touch of Chill
Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home
Not What You Expected
Arabel's Raven

Didn't read as a kid. Last Slice is a collection of really good (and usually very funny) fairy-tales-with-twists. She has written stories for everyone from very small children (such as the bedtime stories collected in Past Eight O'Clock) to adults (A Touch of Chill is mostly adult horror, though it could be read by kids). Her most famous books, the series that starts with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea, does little for me, though I do like the fact that it's set in an alternate history without ever explicitly commenting on the alternateness. Her stories are quirky, funny, chilling, moving, and occasionally just baffling; I love many of them. They work well out loud, too. "The Third Wish" is one of my favorite stories ever. The link above is to a review I wrote of her short-fiction collections.

Lloyd Alexander
The Prydain series:
  1. The Book of Three
  2. The Black Cauldron
  3. The Book of Llyr
  4. Taran Wanderer
  5. The High King
The Fortune-Tellers

I loved the first couple Prydain books, but lost interest as the series got progressively darker, more philosophical, and less action-oriented. I didn't like the last one much; I think it was another case where I was too young for it when I read it. Haven't read his other series. Fortune-Tellers is set in West Africa, with lovely, lush illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.

Natalie Babbit
Tuck Everlasting

Lovely, rich, somewhat sad story that many kids might find too slow and too ambiguous; I read it as an adult.

Enid Bagnold
National Velvet

I read this because of the film. It's been so long that I don't even remember if I liked it or not, but I think I did.

J. M. Barrie
Peter and Wendy (a.k.a. Peter Pan)

I didn't read this as a kid. A great book, and one that most people haven't read because of the Disney movie (also the play). Well worth reading, though it might be a little dry for kids (a lot of subtle Barrie humor and Victorian social satire), especially kids who've seen the movie and are expecting the same amount of action.

L. Frank Baum
the Oz books:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Dorothy and the Scarecrow in Oz
  3. The Tin Woodman of Oz
  4. The Patchwork Girl of Oz
  5. Tik-tok of Oz
Queen Zixi of Ix [associated]

I read all 14 of the Baum Oz books, but none of the 30 or 40 written later by other authors. I don't remember the names of most of them. I enjoyed them a lot, though they started to blur together by the end. I haven't yet read Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

John Bellairs
The House with a Clock in its Walls
The Wizard, the Witch, and the Ring

House is a great, eerie mystery/supernatural story, though it doesn't stand up well to adult reading. Bellairs wrote lots of others, too, most notably the "adult" The Face in the Frost (which isn't as good as House).

Frank Bonham
The Missing Persons League

And several other kids' science fiction books, but this was the best.

Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn
Magical Melons

About growing up in the mid-1800s (I think). Kind of similar to the Little House on the Prairie series, which I never managed to get through.

Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Little Princess
The Secret Garden (1911)

Again, I don't remember much about these except that I read them after seeing the films and I think I liked them.

Eleanor Cameron
the Mushroom Planet series:
  1. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
  2. Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet
  3. Mr. Bass's Planetoid
  4. A Mystery for Mr. Bass
  5. Time and Mr. Bass

As with some other 5-book kids'-book series, the first book was a little too young for me, and the last a little too grim, but otherwise I greatly enjoyed them. The series is about two boys who discover a tiny green planet orbitting the Earth. Cameron also wrote several other fairly good books, but I don't remember them at all.

"Lewis Carroll" (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Through the Looking Glass (1872)
"The Hunting of the Snark"

The Alice books are two of the best books ever written, imo, for any age group. I don't know how well Snark works for younger children (I encountered it in high school), and I suspect a lot of it would go over their heads, but the basic plot would probably come through. It's a little long for poetry, but I like it a lot.

John Christopher
The Tripods trilogy:
  1. The White Mountains
  2. The Pool of Fire
  3. The City of Gold and Lead

Straightforward kids' sf, not bad. I didn't enjoy most of the rest of his, including the Prince in Waiting trilogy and Wild Jack.

"Carlo Collodi" (Carlo Lorenzini)

Actually, I think I did read this, long ago. It's yet another book that's been almost completely superseded by the Disney movie. From the little I've re-read recently, it's worth reading.

Susan Cooper
The Dark is Rising series:
  1. Over Sea, Under Stone
  2. The Dark is Rising
  3. Greenwitch
  4. The Grey King (1976?)
  5. Silver on the Tree

These are among my favorite children's books. The first is a little young, and isn't necessary for the others; in fact, I didn't finish it until many years after I read the others. And as with some other series, the ending gets pretty dark.

Scott Corbett
Trick books:

A boy helps out a witch on her evening constitutional; she gives him a magic chemistry set, which leads him into (and gets him out of) all sorts of trouble. One of the limericks from The Limerick Trick still runs through my head now and then, all these years later.

Robert Cormier
I am the cheese (1977)
The Chocolate War

I am the cheese is a very disturbing, but very good, adventure story which plays some strange games with identity and reality; I read it in high school and found it chilling. The Chocolate War is also good, though in an entirely different way, and is much more widely known.

Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach

Dahl's stories are often darkly humorous, and the repetition from story to story can get old after a while. But these two are great, as is some of his adult fiction. Danny, the Champion of the World keeps being recommended to me, but I haven't yet read it.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Little Prince (1943)

What can I say? Brilliant. A classic.

Peter Dickinson
Emma Tupper's Diary
the Changes trilogy:
  1. Heartsease
  2. The Devil's Children
  3. The Weathermonger

Diary is about a girl who goes to stay with relatives in Scotland, who are trying to set up a hoax about a sea monster (like the Loch Ness monster). The trilogy is good, interesting children's sf, about England after the Changes, when everyone starts to hate machinery of all kinds. Dickinson is best known as a mystery writer for adults (Hindsight is excellent), and also wrote The Blue Hawk for children, which I'm told is good but I've never read.

Mary Mapes Dodge
Hans Brinker, or, the Silver Skates (1873?)

This was one of my favorite books for a while when I was about five, but that may only have been because I liked its title. I guess my parents must have read it to me. On re-reading as an adult, I found the book kind of odd; a lot of it is dedicated to teaching American kids about "the traditions of that plucky land [Holland, and] its quaint customs" (to quote the jacket copy from the 1945 edition).

Tonke Dragt
The Towers of February

This book disappeared from my local library soon after I returned it. I've been looking for it ever since. It was really good -- about a boy who wakes up with no memory in a very strange place. He slowly discovers who and what he is. Dragt is Dutch, and popular in the Netherlands, but I don't know much more about her than that.

Edward Eager
Half Magic
Knight's Castle
The Time Garden (1956?)
The Well-Wishers

Fun, if a little repetitive, kids' fantasy. Lots of wordplay and literary references keep them interesting. Most of the books are loosely connected to each other. All of Eager's characters love the works of "E. Nesbit," but I always enjoyed his books more than hers.

Eleanor Estes
The Moffats

Not one of my favorites, but not bad. Normal kids-growing-up stories, mostly pretty funny. I think there were other books in the series, but I don't think I read them.

Walter Farley
the Black Stallion series:
  1. The Black Stallion
  2. The Black Stallion Returns
    The Black Stallion [fill in the blank]

Great books for kids who are gaga about horses. Also in that category are Misty of Chincoteague (which I read in college and didn't enjoy much) and Black Beauty. There are twenty or thirty of the Black Stallion books; I got bored and gave up after ten or so. Incidentally, though I really liked the first couple of books, I hated the movie.

Nicholas Fisk

Trillions is about tiny crystals that fall from the sky. Grinny is about a scary old woman who comes to stay with a family, claiming to be a relative. Both are good but not superb.

Anne Frank
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)

Eleanor Roosevelt said it better than I could: ". . . it is one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read." Also available is Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex, selections from her fiction; it's not nearly as good.

James B. Garfield
Follow My Leader

A story about a kid who's accidentally blinded, and the guide dog he gets (named Leader). Another favorite-story-for-a-year -- I spent weeks after reading it walking around with my eyes closed trying to f ind out how it would feel to be blind.

Jean Craighead George
Summer of the Falcon (1962?)
Who Really Killed Cock Robin?
Julie of the Wolves (1972)

Nearly all of her books are interesting, and have a lot of good things to say about nature and naturalism. She's probably most famous for My Side of the Mountain, which I don't think I ever read. Cock Robin is an environmental murder mystery. I loved Falcon as a kid, but I was a bit disturbed by some of the implicit (and explicit) attitudes toward girls and women it displays when I re-read it in college. I didn't like Julie as much, but it is definitely well-written.

Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows (1908)

Another classic eclipsed by the Disney movie (which I've assiduously avoided). I don't think the book was ever among my real favorites, but I've always been fond of it.

Elizabeth Janet Gray
Adam of the Road

Great depiction of life in medieval England from a kid's point of view.

Esther Hautzig
The Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile

The fictionalized autobiographical story of a young girl in Poland at the beginning of World War II who's shipped off to the Russian steppes with her family.

Robert A. Heinlein
Time for the Stars
The Star Beast

Time was my all-time favorite book for a year or so. I enjoyed the few others of his juveniles that I read, but I missed most of the famous ones (such as Starman Jones, Tunnel in the Sky, Space Cadet, The Rolling Stones, and so on).

Clifford B. Hicks
the Alvin Fernald books:

Code was another one of those favorite-books-for-a-year. The others were fun but got repetitive after a while.

Russell Hoban
How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportmen
A Near Thing for Captain Najork

Wonderful, hilarious picture books, almost impossible to find.

H. M. Hoover
The Rains of Eridan (1977)
The Children of Morrow

Eridan is an sf murder mystery for kids, set on another planet, with very good female characters. There are two books about Morrow, but I forget the title of the other one. Both were good, if not especially original. Hoover has written at least two other books that I never read.

Deborah and James Howe

I've only read the first of these (in high school), but there's a whole series. I think the first one works pretty well on its own. It certainly has an entertaining premise: a vampire rabbit who drains the juice out of vegetables...

Sesyle Joslin
The Night They Stole the Alphabet
The Spy Lady and the Muffin Man
Last Summer's Smugglers

Fantastic, wonderful, little-known kids' books. My mother introduced me to these. Alphabet doesn't stand up real well to later reading, though it does have a lot of neat things in it. Muffin Man was very confusing at first, but I loved it every time I read it. I didn't discover Smugglers until adulthood; it's very entertaining nonetheless.

Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth (1961)

Another of the best books ever written, for any age group. I've read it about twelve times, and understood more of it every time.

Alexander Key
The Forgotten Door(1965)
Flight to the Lonesome Place (1971)

Nearly all of Key's books were really good, fascinating sf. The only ones I don't recommend are Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain, because he took the entire concept and much of the specific plots from one of my favorite authors, Zenna Henderson. For a much better treatment of the same ideas (though not oriented toward children), look at Henderson's Pilgrimage: The Book of the People (Avon Books, 1961.)

Andrew Lang
The [color] Fairy Books:

I only read a couple of these as a kid, but I enjoyed what little I read. They're fairly standard fairy tales, from many different cultures, but are often more explicit and less sweetness-and-light than the usual for-little-kids versions.

Jane Langton
The Diamond in the Window trilogy:
  1. The Diamond in the Window (1962)
  2. The Swing in the Summerhouse
  3. The Astonishing Stereoscope

Can be read as reasonably straightforward (but really good) children's fantasy, but have a lot of more adult references to things like Transcendentalism and New England history. Apparently, Langton is well-known as an adult author.

Ursula K. LeGuin
Very Far Away from Anywhere Else

One of the best books there is about being a teenager and trying to be a human being too. I didn't encounter it 'til college, alas. I cry every time I read it.

Madeleine L'Engle
the Wrinkle in Time trilogy:
  1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  2. A Wind in the Door (1973)
  3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978)
Meet the Austins
A Ring of Endless Light

The trilogy is great. Almost everybody's heard of at least the first one. Many Waters is a more recent (1987, I think?) addition, and imo nowhere near as good as the others. It takes place between the second and third of the trilogy. Austins was really good, which surprised me a lot because when I read it I wasn't interested in anything but sf and fantasy, and I only read it because it was by L'Engle. Most of the later books about the Austins, and the books which combine the characters from the two sets of stories, weren't as interesting to me as a kid, but Ring is lovely for older people, a nice exploration of loss and growing up (it's aimed at teenagers). Many Waters contains a very helpful pair of timelines connecting the characters from the two sets of books.

C. S. Lewis
the Narnia books:
  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of The Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. A Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magician's Nephew
  7. The Last Battle

I didn't notice the Christian allegory here until after the second time I'd read the whole series, when I saw the animated movie of the first book. I immediately decided the whole series was awful. It took me until high school to realize that I don't mind allegory if it's this exciting and well-written. There are many debates about the correct order of the books; the above is the traditional ordering, but recent editions put them in internal chronological order, with The Magician's Nephew first. I think I've read that that's the ordering Lewis wanted; all I can say is that if I'd tried to read them in that order, I'd have given up partway through Nephew, which imo is the dryest of the set.

George MacDonald
The Princess and the Goblin (1872)
The Princess and Curdie
The Golden Key
The Light Princess
At the Back of the North Wind (1871)

MacDonald is interesting, though of course old-fashioned. The only one of his I read as a kid was The Golden Key, which I liked even though I didn't understand it. Which is still true, actually. I've read twice now that at least parts of At the Back of the North Wind should be read aloud, but I didn't find it particularly compelling in that regard.

Robert McCloskey
Homer Price (1943?)

A boy, a donut machine on the rampage, and a skunk. Among other things. I don't think I read the sequels, More Homer Price and Centerburg Tales. Also the author of Make Way for Ducklings and Bluberries for Sal, as well as the Henry Reed books.

Patricia McKillip
Stepping from the Shadows (1982)
Moon-Flash (1984)
The Moon and the Face (1985)
Fool's Run (1987)
The Throme of the Erril of Sherril (1987)
The Changeling Sea (1988)

McKillip is best-known for the Riddle-Master of Hed series, which didn't work for me when I finally read it in college, and for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, which is lovely but slow. Stepping from the Shadows, which nobody's ever heard of (I've only ever seen three copies of it) is a superb coming-of-age story, probably best for high-school students. The other books listed above are fun and good reads; not among my very favorite books, but good stuff. I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't read anything she's written since about '91; I need to rectify that.

Jean Merrill
The Pushcart War (1964)

This was a lot of fun when I was a kid. It's about a war between the pushcarts and the trucks in New York City. Doesn't stand up well to modern adult reading, though.

A. A. Milne
Winnie the Pooh
The House at Pooh Corner
When We Were Very Young (1924)
Now We Are Six (1927)

Well, obviously. Who didn't like the Pooh books? I don't think I ever saw the movie, which was just as well.

Andre Norton
Forerunner Foray
Dragon Magic

Norton has 40 or 50 juveniles out, and is still writing. I only read ten or fifteen (as a kid), but enjoyed most of those. I found much of her science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) too slow-paced to get through, though. Never read the Witch World series.

Mary Norton
The Magic Bed-Knob (1943)
Bonfires and Broomsticks (1957)

Two short books, combined in one volume as Bedknob and Broomstick. The basis for the Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Really fun magic adventures, with sort of low-key British humor that many modern American kids may not quite get, but with enough action to cover for that.

Robert C. O'Brien
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1971)

I probably read this three or four times. Much better than the movie loosely based on it. Good sf for kids.

Hiawyn Oram (ill. Tony Ross)
Reckless Ruby

A delightful picture book about a 6-year-old girl who doesn't want to grow up to marry a prince; proto-feminist without being preachy.

Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia

Dark and disturbing story of kids playing in a make-believe world.

William Pène du Bois
The Twenty-One Balloons (1947)
Peter Graves (1950)
The Great Alligator Case
The Three Policemen

Pène du Bois wrote lots of little-kids' books, and several juveniles. He illustrated most of his own books (and some other peoples' as well). His books are usually very funny and adventurous. Most people have read Balloons, but very few that I've met even know about the others. Alligator Case and Policemen are really for younger kids than most of the stuff on this list, but I like them so much I couldn't resist putting them on here. I didn't particularly like Porko von Popbutton, The Amazing Bandicoot, The Giant, or Squirrel Hotel, but nearly everything else I've read of his, even the picture books, was great. Much of it also stands up well under repeated later reading.

Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Lizard Music
The Snark-Out Boys and the Baconburg Horror

Pinkwater's books are hilarious, bizarre, and occasionally kind of scary. Lizard Music and Fat Men from Space were the only two I read as a kid, but I re-encountered him in college and have been a fan ever since. He's written something like fifty books, mostly picture books like Blue Moose (I think he often does his own illustration) but several for older kids. Borgel and Baconburg Horror are brilliantly funny, especially when read aloud. The prequel to the latter (The Snark-Out Boys and the Avocado of Death) isn't as good, sadly, but Baconburg Horror works just as well without reading the first one first. Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars is a popular book of his, but I didn't think much of it when I read it during college. Young Adults isn't bad, but is far from his best. Pinkwater also wrote the comic strip Norb.

Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game
The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues
The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel)
Figgs and Phantoms (1974)

Raskin is a wonderful author. Westing is an extremely good, very complex mystery. The others are sort of mysteries, but sort of surreal and sort of fantasies. Very hard to classify, but very good and usually very funny. Figgs was a little too old for me when I first read it, and I didn't like it as much as the others, though now I like it a lot. She does some of her own illustrations, and is known as an illustrator of others' books.

Carey Rockwell
The Tom Corbett, Space Cadet books:
  1. Stand by for Mars! (1952)
  2. The Space Pioneers (1953)

This series was apparently based on a radio and TV series that aired in the 1950s. It's very outdated, and very boys'-adventures-in-space oriented, but I enjoyed the two that I read.

Carl Sandburg
Rootabaga Stories

Inspired nonsense tales for kids. Two volumes. Delightful. Work well out loud if the audience is in a silly or childlike frame of mind. Didn't read as kid.

Ruth Sawyer
Roller Skates (1936)

A wonderful book about a ten-year-old girl (one of the best characters I've come across in fiction) in New York City in the mid-1890s. Again, I don't know if modern kids would like it, but I liked nearly everything about it when I read it in college.

Dr. Seuss
The Lorax
The Cat in the Hat
Fox in Socks

Okay, so this is for younger kids than most of the rest of this list. But hey, if adults can still enjoy 'em, why not list 'em?

William Sleator
House of Stairs

Interesting and dark story about using operant conditioning on kids.

Louis Slobodkin
The Space-ship Under the Apple Tree

I think this series was for slightly younger kids. Kind of silly science fiction. I remember it as being really funny.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder
the Green-Sky trilogy
  1. Below the Root
  2. And All Between
  3. Until the Celebration
The Egypt Game
Black and Blue Magic (1966)

Egypt Game was another one of those temporary favorite books. I enjoyed all of these a lot, except the end of the trilogy, which didn't turn out at all the way I wanted / expected it to. She wrote several other books that I never read.

Donald J. Sobol
the Encyclopedia Brown books:

Very short mystery stories, lots of them, in which the little boy with a mind like an encyclopedia figures out who must have done it because they made a slight verbal slip of some kind. Sort of mind candy, but I read all of them.

Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

About a girl who moves to the Connecticut colony and befriends an old woman whom everyone thinks is a witch. Think I liked it as a kid, but have little memory of it now.

Johanna Spyri

Another classic that I remember enjoying but not much else about.

William Stafford
The Animal That Drank Up Sound

A lovely picture-book, a story about winter and spring.

Frank Stockton
The Griffin and the Minor Canon
Old Pipes and the Dryad
The Bee-Man of Orn

The first two were once available in (I think) Maurice Sendak-illustrated editions, but I've since found a text-only version of Old Pipes, which is still a really nice story. These two work well as children's stories. Bee-Man is an odd but interesting fairy tale that I encountered during college, also available in a Sendak-illustrated edition. Stockton is best-known as the author of "The Lady or the Tiger?"

Mary Stolz
A Dog on Barkham Street (1960)
The Bully of Barkham Street

A wonderful idea: write a book about a kid who's pestered by a bully. Then write another book, covering approximately the same events, from the point of view of the bully. I really liked these, though it may have been more for the surprise of the viewpoint shift than anything else.

Kay Thompson

Picture book: a delightfully silly little girl living in the Plaza Hotel in New York.

J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings trilogy:
  1. The Fellowship of the Ring
  2. The Two Towers
  3. The Return of the King

My parents read me these when I was in second or third grade. I loved them, and they've probably strongly influenced both my writing and my reading ever since. Tolkien is incredibly good at writing the sounds of language, and in fact these books grew out of a family of languages that he invented (which eventually became various kinds of Elvish). I'm sure these will always be among my favorite books. I should add, though, that many people can't stand them, or consider them heavily over-hyped.

Johnny Valentine
The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans (1991)

Great set of pro-gay, feminist fairy tales, all set in the same fictional region and with overlapping characters. A little younger-oriented than the rest of this list, but I couldn't resist listing it. Published by Alyson Wonderland: "Books about kids with lesbian and gay parents." Didn't read as kid.

Chris Van Allsburg
[Various titles]

A bunch of interesting, well-drawn, sometimes spooky picture books.

Cynthia Voigt
Dicey's Song

A set of about eight books about the Tillerman family and their friends. Dicey's Song is superb (and yet another case where reading the second book before reading the first works well); the others are merely good.

David Wiesner
June 29, 1999

Picture books. Fun ones. Read 'em.

E. B. White
Stuart Little
The Trumpet of the Swan
Charlotte's Web

I think Stuart Little was my favorite (about a tiny boy who looks a lot like a mouse). I can't think of the names of any others at the moment.

Jay Williams
The Hero from Otherwhere

Yet another temporary favorite. This book, unlike some of the other fantasy I've mentioned, was satisfying; the good guys win, and even learn something in the end. I also liked the fact that poetry is magic in the world the boys go to.

Jay Williams and Raymond Abrashkin
the Danny Dunn books:

Another series which eventually started to get monotonous. In every book, Professor Bullfinch told headstrong Danny and his friends Joe and Irene to think before they acted, and in every book Danny got them into trouble with his impulsive actions. But, like many such series, they were fun while they lasted.

"Victor Appleton II"
The Tom Swift, Jr. books:

Another series. I read the only two I ever found, out of thirty or forty in the series. This, like the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, was written by lots of writers and published under one house name. They were re-writes of the old Tom Swift, Sr., books, and had a little of the extreme right-wing propaganda taken out but not much. Still, good clean fun conservative adventures for pre-adolescent males, if you like that sort of thing.

various authors
The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series:

There must be fifty or sixty of these by now. I somehow never got into the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, but these were my equivalent. Definitely mind candy -- every time, the Three Investigators would find something that looked like supernatural activity, and every time it would turn out to be someone faking. A lot like Scooby Doo in that regard, but not usually intended to be funny. This series explicitly had several authors, so I had to look around the children's section of the local library a lot to find them. All these books have blended together in my mind over the years.

Children's classics that I either haven't read or wasn't thrilled with:

Louisa May Alcott
Little Women

I never read the rest of her books, including Little Men and Jo's Boys. I read Little Women because it was praised in The Diamond in the Window. Worth reading, but not one of my favorites.

Enid Blyton
several books

I can't think of any titles offhand, but she wrote a bunch of kids' adventure books, including over 20 about "The Five," four siblings and their dog. I only read one of them, which didn't impress me. But they were generally well-regarded when they were written.

Charles Kingsley
The Water Babies

I never read it, but certainly a classic.

Hugh Lofting
Dr. Dolittle

I only read excerpts from this until college, when I read the whole thing. I didn't think it was great, but I know a lot of kids like it.

E. Nesbit
Five Children and It (1902)
The Amulet

All the children in the Edward Eager books love E. Nesbit, so (since I liked those books) I thought I'd give her a try. The one or two that I read I didn't enjoy much, partly because the 19th-century British atmosphere made a lot of it hard to understand. The only other title I remember offhand is The Phoenix and the Carpet. The blurb for the edition of Five Children and It that I own says: "Between [the ages of] nine and twelve is a good first time for it, but plenty of children read (and have read) it at eight, and aged people in their sixties still re-read it . . ."

Felix Salten
Bambi (1923) (originally Bambi: Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde)

Talk about classic. I never saw the movie. The book wasn't that impressive, but I liked having read the books of some of the famous Disney films.

Anna Sewell
Black Beauty

I don't remember this very well. I think I read it because it was a classic.

"Mark Twain" (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1875)
Huckleberry Finn (1884)

The usual. I don't think I was overly impressed by these, but they weren't bad, and they're certainly classics.

Recommendations from friends and others:

Carol Kendall
The Gammage Cup

Fairly good kids' fantasy, though I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to from the reviews I'd seen.

Jed Hartman <>