Friday Book Chats: Books from my Childhood

No reading impacts you like the reading you do in your childhood. Perhaps it’s because your imagination is so vibrant and alive, or perhaps it’s because your mind isn’t so cluttered with other things. Regardless, many of my childhood games and fantasies were the product of books I read. I wore dresses, aprons, bonnets, and boots until I was twelve thanks to Little House on the Prairie, the American Girl books, and Mandie. This post is dedicated to the books that shaped my childhood and have maybe even shaped who I’ve become.

I learned to read when I was 3 years old. When I was very small, my mom made recordings of herself reading my favorite books. They were my own books-on-tape. I followed along with her voice over and over again until I could recognize every word. By the time I started kindergarten I was reading Little House on the Prairie books on my own.

My dad read books with me until I left for college. In the beginning he would read to me, but by the time I was in middle school and high school we would divide the reading. Many of my favorite childhood books were ones we read together.

It was so hard to narrow down this list, so I decided I would only include books I read pre-high-school.

As always, you can find a list of current Kindle deals at the end of this post.

Picture Books

Max the Bad-Talking Parrot by Patricia Brennan Demuth. I know almost no one who read this book as a child, but I just adored it. Max the parrot lives with his person, Tillie, and always speaks in good-natured rhymes. One day, Max’s rhymes turn rude when he overhears what he thinks is an insult, but an encounter with a burglar turns him sweet again.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. What even is there to say about this book? It’s the most classic bedtime book of all time.

The Giving Tree by Shel Siverstein I always hated the boy in this so much. Poor tree.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Sometimes you just have a bad day and Alexander gets that – gum in your hair? lima beans for dinner? These really are life’s worst tragedies. Besides, when you’re a kid it’s always entertaining to watch other people being unhappy. 😉

The Berenstein Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstein. I think I have read every single one of these except for the new Christian ones that have come out in more recent years. I still remember Mama Bear’s line from the one about telling the truth – “Trust is one thing you can’t put back together once it’s broken.” Wise words, Mama.

Chapter Books

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Really I should just say the whole E.B. White trio – Stuart Little and Trumpet of the Swan are equally fabulous. But Charlotte’s Web is the one that made me a collector of stuffed pigs for a good year or twoOne of the things I most remember about this book was the way it dealt with the death of Charlotte. It was one of the first children’s books I read that addressed death and it really stuck with me.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. My dad has a penguin obsession – well, I don’t think it’s a real obsession, but for as long as I can remember any time there was an animal involved in anything – a card, a game, etc. – he has always chosen a penguin. So reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins together is a strong memory.

The Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard. I cannot in good conscience recommend these to children today since they are full of embarrassing racial stereotypes like Mandie’s Cherokee friend, Uncle Ned, who frequently says things like, “I promise your father, Jim Shaw, that I take care of Papoose when he go to Happy Hunting Ground.” Also, Mandie is quite spoiled and a little bratty (after the first book). Still, I LIVED these books in elementary school. I adored them.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I think this book was my gateway into fantasy. This is probably the best retold fairytale I’ve ever read (a genre I particularly like) and was before its time. I read this book over and over and over again and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Pocahontas: True Princess, and Two Mighty Rivers: Son of Pocahontas by Mari Hanes. This is another pair of books that most people haven’t heard of, but some of my other uber-conservative homeschool family friends have read them. They are more historically accurate fictional stories of Pocahontas and her son, Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe. These books had everything – danger and intrigue and romance and Native Americans. In my mind I made the perfect Pocahontas in my brown fringed shirt and moccasins, never mind my blond braids and blue eyes.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I remember reading these, but I more vividly remember the radio dramatizations we would listen to in the car on road trips. They are so very well done, really bringing the stories to life. The Horse and His Boy is probably my favorite – I don’t think it gets enough love.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I read these books with my dad before the movies came out. I think I spent the whole year I was thirteen in Middle Earth. I was one of those kids that tried learning elvish. This was my first introduction into more adult fantasy and I was utterly captivated. It was shortly after reading these books that I started working on my own fantasy novel, which I still have 50,000 words of somewhere.

The American Girl Books – I’m just going to mention these all together briefly and say that this books really did make me interested in history in a way that influenced a lot of my future reading. I particularly loved Felicity and still have the doll.

What were your most-cherished childhood books?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of March 20th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel ($2.99). Get it, get it, get it!!!!!! Read my review here.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving ($1.99) A classic.

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Lauren Winner ($1.99) I did a mini-review here.

The Alphabet of Grace, Frederick Beuchner ($1.99)

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon ($1.99) I mentioned this series in my Books I Love to Hate post, but a lot of people disagree with me.

Still On Sale:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed ($4.40) You can read my review here.

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown ($2.99) I haven’t read this one, but it has rave reviews.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins ($6.49) This is the lowest price I’ve ever seen this new release. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s recommended for fans of Gone Girl

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver ($4.99) One of my favorite writers. Kentucky native Taylor Greer tries to escape her roots but succeeds in collecting a 3-year-old native American girl along the way.

An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor ($3.99)

Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. Just finished this. It’s great.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03) One of my best books of 2014 and one of my favorite spiritual memoirs.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

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31 comments

  1. we all have read this beautiful stories but we forgot the lesson behind that. what u call it as moral of the story these days.
    every story has something to teach us . thanks for writing this 🙂

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  2. I learned to read when I was 3 too!! Books are the best, even to this day. I never read Max the Talking Parrot, but I loved a lot of the others you mentioned. I never knew anyone else who read Ella Enchanted, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone on that one 🙂

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    1. Books are the best. 🙂 When i was a child they were sometimes my very best friends! And Ella Enchanted is especially dear to me. I think I read it at the perfect time in my life (I think I was around 11 or 12) when I still connected with the magic of it, but it was slightly more grown-up than lots of the children’s books I’d been reading. I probably read it six times. I also loved the author’s next book, The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Did you ever read that one?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Books sometimes still are my best friends 🙂 My Kindle died last month, and I was devastated. I’ve had to go back to paper books for now, which are great, but don’t travel so well.
        I didn’t know the author wrote anything else, but I will be on the lookout for The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Thanks for the tip 🙂

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  3. i really enjoyed the mandie books too…but totally forgot about the racial stereotypes. american girl books (i’m a kirsten girl myself), little house books, and mandie books were my favorites too! i also loved harriet the spy.

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    1. I don’t think the racial things were things I noticed as a kid, but I re-read one a few years ago and some of it was just cringe-worthy. Between Uncle Ned and all the black servants who are always saying things like, “Lawsy mercy, Missy!” haha. Harriet the Spy was another great one. i also quite liked Encyclopedia Brown and the Boxcar Children. 🙂

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  4. This is a GREAT list–so many awesome books! My love of reading (and eventual choice to become an English teacher) had a lot to do with my mom reading the Little House on the Prairie books to my sister and me when I was in preschool.

    If I built a similar list, I would add the Nancy Drew books, which I devoured in elementary school, despite the uber-repetitive plots and blatant sexism. Ah, adult retrospect.

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    1. That’s so sweet! I think of fourth grade as the year of Nancy Drew. I read every book I could get my hands on that year. 🙂 I also loved Encyclopedia Brown and the Boxcar Children, though I didn’t mention them in the post. There were so many books that came to mind after I got started that it was hard to narrow it down.

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  5. I still regret to this day that I didn’t choose a Felicity doll. I had Kirsten who I also loved, but a few years later my parents let me get a look-like-you American Girl doll and since they didn’t have one that actually looked like me, I ended up getting one that was basically another Kirsten (without the braids). Felicity would have been way cooler and would have looked much closer to me than the blond one. But I agree, those books shaped my love of history so much that I can’t even imagine the entirety of their impact.

    I also loved Ella Enchanted and then forced my dad to see the movie (which I assumed would be as good as the book- poor innocent child that I was) and was totally disappointed. I ended up trying to explain to my dad throughout the entire move about how it was SUPPOSED to be.

    Of course, Narnia! List would not be complete without it. The Last Battle was my favorite, I think. But I’ve never forgiven Susan. I made a vow as a child to never ever end up like Susan (which, I’m sure, was the point. Well played, Mr. Lewis).

    I can’t wait until I have my author blog going because I had planned on having a section very similar to this one- sort of an extension of my old book blog. It’s just too bad I don’t have it up and running now so we could link up!

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    1. Haha. What were you thinking? Felicity was the clear choice for you! 😉 And yes, it’s amazing how much I STILL remember about American history from reading those books. For all the money that company makes and all the materialistic aspects you could complain about, I genuinely think they instilled a love of history and of stories in a way that few other books/series have been able to accomplish.

      I loved Ella Enchanted so much and I was kind of horrified by the movie. It was fun as it’s own thing, but it was NOT Ella Enchanted. Though the prince was adorable.

      I do think not being like Susan is the point. 🙂 I just remember the first time I read it feeling horribly tricked when I learned they’d all actually died. I suppose the idea is that it should ease any worries about death since they end up at the beginning of a great and glorious story, but i always just felt sad.

      I will look forward to you getting your author blog up so I can peruse your literary musings. 🙂

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  6. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t fall in love with reading until later in life- 6th grade or so. I remember reading some before then, but not much. Reading wasn’t a huge emphasis in my household. We weren’t read to (that I remember), but I do remember being punished from reading in middle school and high school since my grades suffered due to my addiction to books.

    The first book I read that impacted me the way Charlotte’s Web (which I haven’t read) impacted you was Where The Red Fern Grows. I got attached to the two pups and was crushed at the end.

    I remember liking Junie B Jones books when I was like 7 years old because my friend liked them and she had to read before bedtime, even when her friends slept over. So I got into Junie B Jones a little bit.

    The Left Behind series for kids scarred me and scared the life out of me. I couldn’t sleep for at least 2 years after reading that series.

    Did you ever read the Watson’s Go to Birmingham? I read that for school and then fell in love with it and read all the sequels too!

    In 6th grade, the book that started and sparked my love for reading was The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I grew to really love reading during that time because my 6th grade teacher would sit in a chair and we would sit on the floor and she’d read to us at the end of every day. It was the best time ever. I LOVED it. The Hiding Place really changed my view on several things and taught me a lot…

    🙂 I love Friday Book Chats. They’re my favorite!

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    1. Hahaha. When I was little my mom used to punish me by sending me to my room and saying I couldn’t look at any books. What a nightmare. I also read Where the Red Fern Grows in like 4th grade and I remember crying.

      Those Left Behind books were so awful, but also so scary that you had to keep reading them.

      I don’t think I ever read the Watson’s Go to Birmingham, though I can picture the cover. I didn’ read Junie B. Jones as a kid, but I did discover them when I was babysitting in high school and thought they were hysterically funny. They are definitely some of my favorite kids’ books, even though they weren’t books I read during my own childhood.

      I do remember reading The Hiding Place in 6th grade bad being very impacted by it as well. It’s an amazing story. I’m so glad you love the bookchats!

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  7. I am thinking of doing something similar on my blog one day….rereading my childhood faves through adult eyes. I have so many – I share some of yours but some that were really special to me were The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh (all of the A. A. Milne Pooh series), “Five Children and It” (by E. Nesbit, probably my first introduction to fantasy), Black Beauty, Little Women/Men, Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys, Alice in Wonderland…oh dear I could go on and on….

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    1. I know! After I started thinking of books it was hard to reign it in. I eventually had to just cut myself off because there were dozens and dozens of books that came to mind. It was a fun exercise though. Sometimes when I’ve reread childhood favorites I’ve been surprised by all the things I didn’t pick up on as a child. It can be an eye-opening experience reminding you the way that children think and the things that are important to them. 🙂

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  8. The Horse and His Boy was my favorite Narnia book as well! My family had audiobooks (read by actors with delightful British accents), and we listened to them on car trips and before falling asleep for years. Thanks for bringing back the sweet memories 🙂

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    1. That might have been the same audio books we listened to! 🙂 I think the Horse and His Boy doesn’t get as much love cause it doesn’t have to traditional characters in it and it’s a little disconnected from the other stories, but I’ve always loved it. 🙂

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  9. Shel Silverstien is probably my favorite childhood writer – tied with Dr. Seuss. Where the Sidewalk Ends is still my favorite poetry book, and I’m not even embarrassed about the fact that this post has got me all nostalgic, so I’m going to go home and read some Shel poetry. Add a little silliness to my day!

    Thanks so much for a fun post to read!

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