Tag Archives: children’s books

Window to the Past- 24 Favorite Childhood Books

As a writer, it’s interesting to trace the inspirations that have come through life. One undeniably big influence are the books that we consume over time.

I hope to do a three part series, one on childhood books, one on young adult, and one on adulthood, but I figured I’d start young and work my way up. As I started I realized how many books I love, and I couldn’t include them all. But here are a few that randomly sprung to mind.

DISCLAIMER: I haven’t read some of these in a long time, so if I get something wrong, I’m sorry, and also if you’re a parent please review the book before reading it to your kid, because I am not responsible if it goes against something you want to instill in your child because you didn’t double check. I’ve included links to Goodreads where you can find summaries, reviews etc.

The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7)   The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: I have to begin with Narnia, because it’s one of my happiest and earliest memories of reading. My parents took turns reading the first book to me when I was probably five or six and they’ve stuck with me ever since. I can’t deny the beauty of these simple and magical stories.

Where the Red Fern GrowsWhere the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawles: One of the books that made me cry a ridiculous amounts. I love my dog stories, to be sure. A great tale of adventure and friendship between a boy and his pets out in the wilderness.

The Little Prince  The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery: I read this in high school, so I can recognize the values even as an adult. However, even if children might not recognize all of the beautiful life lessons, it has value just as a beautiful and fun story.

Oscar And The Lady In PinkOscar et la Dame Rose by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: Again a read in high school for French class, but nonetheless beautiful and inspiring. Not sure I’d recommend it for children even though it’s short. A beautiful tale about cancer, young dreams, conversations with God and so much more.

The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe)The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: A fantastic tale of adventure filled with dwarves, maps, magical mountains, ferocious spiders, and of course the terrifying dragon Smaug! A great read for people of all ages (though I believe this was a read-aloud for me as a child which probably helped!)

Tuck EverlastingTuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: a beautiful and potent story on eternal life and love and youth. The thought of this book brings up some warm reminiscence within me, sort of a sweet and meaningful sadness.

The Witch of Blackbird PondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I hardly remember anything about this book, and yet for some reason I’ve still held onto it as a childhood favorite. I know I greatly admired the main character, that her struggle against the expectations around her always felt meaningful to me for some reason. A book that seems to prize individuality and difference in a world that says they’re not so important. Definitely a story I’d have to pick up again, but I’m still going to recommend it nonetheless.

Harry Potter Boxset (Harry Potter, #1-7)Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: I can hardly deny putting the books on here that inspired me to want to be a writer. An inspiring and magical reading experience that I recommend to all ages (although later books in the series are a bit dark for young kids perhaps). These books offer stories that not only are captivating in plot, but also hold valuable themes about friendship, love, bravery, and the power of doing what’s right. I could go on for a whole post, but that’s for a later day.

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: A strange yet oddly captivating story involving an odd mix of science and fantasy. L’Engle writes so wonderfully, and I remember as a little girl being so inspired by the character of Meg as an old sister and as a young girl coming to a bigger understanding of myself.

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain #1)The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander: For any Lord of the Rings lovers, any kids who like fantasy and legend and adventures I highly recommend these books. They detail the misadventures of Taren, assistant pig keeper, his companions Princess Eilonwy, Gurgy, and Fleudor. And yes, there was a Disney spinoff movie but it’s terrible and the books are fantastic.

Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Another one of those female characters I remember feeling very similar to and loving. Harriet’s adventures are entertaining, heartwarming, and perhaps even a little heartbreaking too. Definitely a good way to learn about the power our words and actions have in the lives of others and how careful we need to be.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH, #1)Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien: A book I remember fascinating me as a young child. I quickly devoured the others in the “series” even though they’re not by the same author. It’s a bit of a quirky story really, but I think that’s part of why I like it so much.

A Little Princess A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: As a little girl I wanted to be just like Sarah. I wanted to have that same level of grace and dignity, kindness and compassion even in the midst of sorrow and hardship. As a young teen I remember feeling motivated to try to reach out to others even while feeling very confused about myself. A lovely and sweet story.

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede– A very odd little thing to throw on here, but I think part of it comes down to my women’s studies class and thinking on what makes me who I am. I loved fractured fairy tales, and this one does fracture a few fairy tales. Essentially the princess runs off to go take care of the dragon herself, only to make a friend and find a happier life there than her boring one in the castle. I appreciated even at that age the princess not needing saving, and the fact that the dragon at one point wanted to be a King even as a woman (because a Queen is a completely different role). Fun and quirky and magical.

The Thief Lord  The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke: Going to Venice last year made me recall this book in a nostalgic way. I think it’s one of those books that made me want to travel, if only to see the magic of the places Funke described so beautifully. A magical story full of adventure, mischief, enchantment, and history.

The Two Princesses of BamarreThe Two Princesses Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine: Ella Enchanted falls a close second, but this was my favorite book by Levine. I related so much to the principle character in never feeling brave enough. Again, I enjoyed the atypical princess story, the inspiration it gave me as a young woman. I would have included Ella on here as well, but I figured this part could serve to glorify the both. A great author with many fantastic books.

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1)A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: Quirky and odd with a failure of a finale (see Snicket…see what I did?) these books were pretty entertaining to me as a child, even if they disappointed me at the end (guess it shows they had me hooked). I loved the vocabulary and random facts I learned reading these. They never failed to make me scratch my head and ponder a little bit what madness had affected the author.

The Complete Charlie Bone SeriesMidnight for Charlie Bone (Children of the Red King) by Jenny Nimmo:  I think part of the reason I loved this story so much was that it had a slight hint of similarity to Harry Potter. I liked the imagination and creativity behind the works, and I adored all of the characters.

The Forgotten DoorThe Forgotten Door by Alexander Key: Alexander Key is an obscure author I fell in love with (though I think it might have been as a teen rather than a child). A fascinating thought on the possibility of utopia, with a unique boy from an alien world coming to earth. It definitely gave me a lot to ponder at the time.

Catherine, Called BirdyCatherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman: I thought I should include at least one “historical” book since I loved these as well. The famous women in history diaries were one, but I liked this one for being more fictionalized, not about anyone real but wondering what it might have been like to be a woman back in the days of arranged marriages. I adored Catherine’s wit and cleverness, her clear dislike for the traditions of her day and longing for more.  A very fun story with a great heroine.

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, #1)Among the Hidden (Shadow Children Series) by Margaret Peterson Haddix: Haddix is a master storyteller. I love lots of her works, but these ones were particularly suspenseful and interesting. Great dystopian fiction. I remember it brought a lot of pondering for me about population laws and government control and other important things like that.

The Castle in the Attic (The Castle in the Attic, #1) Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop: Again, my love of fantasy playing out. A fun and interesting adventure that followed in a series of books. I think one of my favorite things about this one was that my brother and I both enjoyed it, and I like remembering books that were shared in interest by both of us, because those are doubly special.

Half Magic (Tales of Magic, #1)Half Magic (Tales of Magic Series) by Edward Eager: More oddballs. I guess I was just a weird kid, what can I say. I loved the concept of this book taking little traditional storytelling elements (like making wishes) and playing with them. Summing it up, four kids find a magical item that gives them the ability to make wishes, but only in halves. Misadventures ensue. I have a childhood fondness for all of these books for some odd reason.

The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes, Volume 1The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes by Anne Mazer: One of the earliest books I remember making me want to be a writer. Really a very simple series with several books, but I still know as a little girl I had a diary I filled out with green pen (I think Abby’s is purple) and I would put little quotes on it and I would try to motivate myself to do great things. Cute memories attached in spite of the lesser nature of this one.

Getting to the end of this I begin to realize how many wonderful books I’ve left off. I mean how could I forget about the wonderful Spiderwick Chronicles? Or the funny Bruce Coville alien series? Or the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? Honestly, there are too many books I loved as a girl to list here. Oh well, this is just a sparse selection, some of the first that come to mind.

What are your childhood favorites? Why do you love these so much? What books made you want to be a writer or inspired you to some future goal?


Filed under Reading

I’m No Dickinson

I used to think I could get used to being alone. Like many writers who have come before me I’m an introvert, a shy introvert at that. I thrive on alone time, on being able to have some solitude to think and dream. I regain my energy, bundle it all up to ready myself for my next social interaction. I used to dream of going and living in a little house in the country by myself, or building a little cabin in some abandoned woods. There was something so beautiful in that, but I have since grown out of such ideas.

When I was younger there was a lot of hope for me in the fact that other writers often had been shy or introverted like me. One of my earliest introductions to a writer from the past was a children’s book called Emily, given to me thanks to my name. The book detailed the story of a little girl discovering her neighbor who hid upstairs where no one could see her. Complete with beautiful illustrations the book was of course the tale of Emily Dickinson, the brilliant poet who spent much of her time locked away in her house and was only discovered and published (at least to a great extent) postmortem.

As a young girl I often struggled to make friends and to feel like I fit in. I often spent lunches in elementary school reading a book rather than playing on the playground, and in junior high I spent most breaks alone in classrooms or the library scribbling away at a new story idea. There were parts of me that liked having that alone time, but other parts of me that hated it. There is a big difference between isolated loneliness and solitary loneliness. One involves being alone in a place with no people around, the other involves being alone in a crowd. As a young person I always thought I preferred isolated and despised solitary. I have since found that I don’t really like either…not as much as I think I’d like.

College was a challenge for me. My normal high school routine had involved going home and tucking myself away in my bedroom to do homework before eating dinner, watching some television and going to bed. I spent a large part of my time alone, rarely choosing to see friends outside of school. But in college I was forced to be with people all the time, never able to truly find a place to be alone. It was troubling for me and I spent a good deal of time just shut up in my room to try to compensate for the sudden overwhelming feeling of never being quite alone. My roommate was more social than me and she often mentioned people not knowing who I was in spite of living in the same dorm. I can still distinctly remember sitting in the lobby one rare day and talking with a young man who was surprised to find out who my roommate was. I put on a wry smile and said, “yep, I’m the reclusive roommate. Nice to meet you.”

31 Unmistakable Signs That You're An Introvert

Two more years of college had me adjusting a bit more. After sharing two rooms and a bathroom with four people and then moving to a six person apartment, I found myself acclimating more to the idea of being around people on a day to day basis, never quite having a feeling of being alone as I used to. I still played up my introvertedness, still made sure people knew that I had a 90% preference for it and needed to get alone sometimes. But I had changed since high school and had become more aware that while I liked gaining energy, never having anyone to use it with was awful.

Unfortunately, my study abroad starts later than most American school sessions, so I have yet to get back to school and have instead had a six week period of sitting at my parents home waiting to get back to school. While certainly nice in some respects, this period has taught me how much I could never be Emily Dickinson, no matter how much I used to feel I related to her as a child.

I sit alone at home, and though I find time to write, read, waste time on facebook, there is a part of me that pines for human interaction. It is so bizarre for me to not be able to come out of my room and find people there, so strange to not at least have a library or cafeteria where I could go find friends to eat meals with. I miss interaction, I miss having people to pour my ever growing wasted energy into.

So, while I shall forever be an introvert, I can never be a complete recluse or hermit or any of the things I used to dream of as a child. I love people too much. I love life and conversation. I cannot share it merely with dead authors and empty lifeless pages. For while we try our best as authors to create characters that seem almost real, we can never truly give the joy of friendship, the amazing gift of love, the delight of having another human beside you who understands.

I shall never be Dickinson, and while part of me is saddened to no longer have this childhood idea, part of me is joyful in knowing that I shall never lock myself away.

Less than two weeks of loneliness left. I only hope I shall survive.

Since so few answer my questions I’ll just leave this post open ended. Please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts.


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