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.
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.
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 two. One 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:
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving ($1.99) A classic.
The Alphabet of Grace, Frederick Beuchner ($1.99)
Still On Sale:
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.
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