Favorite Five: Children’s Books

Wendy Lawton

Blogger:  Wendy Lawton

Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office

Last time I blogged I promised you, dear readers, that for just this once I would refrain from blogging about gruesome realities like Career Killers, Kisses of Death, QueryFails or Worst Case Scenarios. I asked for your suggestions of happy things I could blog about. I considered puppies and babies but I finally settled on one of our favorite things: books.

I love books. Had I lived in Victorian times I’d have been considered a bluestocking for my devotion to books. Happily, we can now indulge in books without society’s censure.

So for this week, we’re going to attempt the near-impossible task of coming up with our Favorite Fives in five different categories. I had to make one ground rule for me– it can’t be a book by one of my clients or one of my friends. So today let’s share our favorite five children’s books. This includes picture books, middle grade and young adult– both current and classic. Yep. Only five.

This may be the most difficult category of all for me because though I don’t represent children’s books, I’m a dedicated fan. I’ve long collected antiquarian illustrated picture books. I love the work of Henriette Willebeek LeMair, Jessie Willcox Smith, Ethel Franklin Betts, Mabel Lucie Atwell, Johnny Gruelle,  and many others. And I’m a fan of many of the contemporary illustrator/ authors like Patricia Polacco, Tasha Tudor, Michael Hague, Susan Jeffers, Trina Scart Hyman, Jan Brett, my own client Andy McGuire and too many others to list.

I’m a fan of middle grade, too, especially the classics.  I have shelves of series books— the twins book (like Dutch Twins, African Twins, etc.), the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables, Betsy-Tacy, Honey Bunch, The Bobbsey Twins, The Chronicles of Narnia and Nancy Drew. I love contemporary middle grades as well, like everything by Madeleine L’Engle. A few years back I made it a point to read all the past Newbery winners and honors. So many treasures. . .

All this to say, how does one pick a favorite five?

This could change in the next hour, but for right now here’s what I’d pick and why:

  • Picture Book: All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Mike Wimmer. The most beautiful picture book ever. I experience deep sehnsucht every time I read this.
  • Classic YA: Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott— need I explain why? This classic has it all— unforgettable characters, a company of strong women loving each other and growing together. It’s a story that still makes me laugh and cry.
  • Classic Middle Grade: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My very first gothic mystery. I can still recite parts of this book: “Please, sir, may I have a bit of earth?”
  • Adventure: Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis— Reep-i-cheep is one of the most memorable heroes of all literature
  • Middle Grade: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. A story of love and loss– powerful.

Okay, those are my five. Now it’s your turn. Tell us your favorite five children’s books.

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24 Comments

  • Nicole says:

    The Black Stallion books. Any of them. All of them.

    Black Beauty

    Commanche of the Seventh (but I cried my eyes out with this one)

    Simply because I loved horses from before I could talk, I’m sure. No wonder I ended up in horse racing . . .

  • What a fun topic! This is a toughie since I have a toddler at home and love all his books. My favorites probably are Bunny Fun by Sarah Weeks, My Truck Is Stuck by Kevin Lewis, and Time for Bed by Mem Fox.

    My favorite books growing up were any of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I loved living vicariously through Ramona since I was never brave enough to try her stunts on my own. I also loved the Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn. I still love to pull those books out and read them once in a while. :-)

  • Lynn Dean says:

    Just five? Wonderful exercise…

    These are the five books that most cultivated my love for reading:

    1) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    2) Farmer Boy
    3) Little Women
    4) A Wrinkle in Time
    5) Hetty: Her First Hundred Years

  • Michelle Ule Michelle Ule says:

    Picture: The all time best gift for a two- year old (all four if my children had their own copy) “Go Dog, Go! (Eastman)

    Chapter: Little Town on the Prairie.
    (Wilder)

    YA:
    A Ring of Endless Light (L’Engle)

  • Ooo, fun! I’ve been telling my son (who is going into 2nd grade) about some of my favorite books when I was his age. So here they are:

    1)Mr. Popper’s Penguins (about a man and his family who have a bunch of penguins living with them)

    2)All the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books (an eccentric old woman all the parents go to for advice on how to teach their kids to be better… great books!)

    3)The Teddy Bear Tree (a child plants the eye from her teddy bear and up springs a tree that teddy bears grow from)

    4)Anything illustrated by Steven Kellogg

    5)Anything by Richard Scary (think that’s spelled with one “r”…)

    Good books… Good times :)

  • Wow. This is so hard, and like you, mine could change in the next few minutes, but here’s the list.

    The Courage of Sarah Noble
    The Witch of Blackbird Pond
    Madeleine Takes Command
    Anne of Green Gables (Series)
    Chronicles of Narnia (Series)

  • little jo says:

    My top 5 are:
    1. The Velveteen Rabbit (PB)
    2. The Secret Garden
    3. Anne of Green Gables
    4. Big Plans (PB)the only contemporary book on my list – it has such great energy.
    5. Alice in Wonderland

    But wow – that was hard to make into a top 5.

  • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

    What great books you are suggesting. A huge yes! to The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Loved it. In fact I’d need to read it again. Another more recent Newbery Honor I will never forget is Catherine Called Birdy. And, in my years of doing dolls I licensed Anne of Green Gables for three different dolls. Love that Anne-girl.

    And I feel a close kinship to Hitty and her First Hundred Years as well. Back before Hitty (the real doll featured in the books) was placed in archival care, I made a trip to Stockbridge Library and went downstairs to visit the case housing Hitty and her things. The librarian, knowing me from my dolls, took Hitty out of the case and placed her in my hands. It would never happen now but I treasure that up-close-and-personal visit with the little wooden doll.

    As I read each of these titles you’re mentioning I think, yes, yes, yes. (that’s why five is so impossible.)

  • Oh, Wendy, would you believe…I’ve been reading The Secret Garden all weekend. One of my all-time favorites, and I’ve needed some comfort food for the mind lately, so this is it! Fun post :)

  • Weird as it sounds, I remember very few books I read before junior high. So my list is slim, but here are my favorites.

    Picture Book–The Big Red Barn (It’s really a board book, but I love it.)

    Chapter Books–The Little House Books. The Long Winter is my favorite.

  • Trisha says:

    I’m a faithful reader of this blog, but this is my first post. Having young nieces and nephews and loving border collies, I’ve fallen in love with author and illustrator Kim Lewis. Five of my favorites, all in one volume are:
    1. Floss
    2. Friends
    3. Emma’s Lamb
    3. The Sheperd Boy
    4. One Summer Day

  • Stephanie Landsem says:

    I never tired of reading Margaret Wise Brown – as a child myself and also to my children. Goodnight moon and The Big Red Barn (of course) but even more so: The Little Fur Family and The Friendly Book with lovely illustrations by Garth Williams. I can – and do – still recite large chunks from memory, to the great embarrassment of my teenagers! As for number five – I’ll go with Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

  • A Little Princess
    Peter Pan
    Island of the Blue Dolphins
    Anne of Green Gables (series)
    Nancy Drew (series)

  • Melissa H says:

    Hmm, the ones that pop immediately to mind….Picture book: Harold and the Purple Crayon. One of the few books I can read over and over to my daughter. Oh, and Shel Silverstein poems–any of the books.

    For older kids….I think I like best what I read most recently so Hunger Games Trilogy for YA along with Enders Game.

    As a kid I vividly remember Where the Red Fern Grows and Black Stallion. Oh, and Narnia.

    That was more than five but thanks for the prompt ;)

  • PB= The Musical Life of Gustav Mole, by Kathryn Meyrick. Just love the humor and the rhythm.

    MG= The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken. This is one childhood favorite that I’ve loved as an adult, too. I think I’ve read it a dozen times at least.

    MG= Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. There can’t be a better character than the Anne girl.

    Newer MG (but fantasy–not contemporary)= The Bark of the Bog Owl, by Jonathan Rogers. This one has one of my favorite characters of all time–Dobro Turtlebane.

    oh, only one more. This is too hard. I didn’t get to mention Harry Potter, or Jules Verne, or… but, no, I won’t cheat…so my last pick goes to another newer fantasy:

    YA= Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale. I am floored that she could keep me riveted when for half the book there was just a cast of three characters, one you never see, and two who are stuck in a dark tower and never get out to go anywhere or have any adventures.

  • oopsie. Sorry about not closing the link on The Bark of the Bog Owl.

  • Marti Pieper says:

    Putting in my five cents’ worth as a late but kindred entry. And of course five doesn’t begin to cover it.

    1. Anne of Green Gables
    2. A Wrinkle in Time
    3. The Secret Garden
    4a. Little Men and 4b. Charlotte’s Web
    5. The Golden Name Day (from a series by Jennie Lindquist)

  • 1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond
    2. Calico Captive
    3. Blue Willow
    4. The Secret Garden
    5. The Door in the Wall (which I read with my son as assigned reading when he was in 8th grade)
    6. Go Dog, Go Seriously, what is it about that book!

  • For me: Brave Companion
    1.Black Beauty,
    2.Peddler of Colored Threads,
    But currently reading to Grandkids:
    3.Child’s Garden Of Verses,
    4.Dinotopia-(illustrations)
    5.Up In Smoke (my wife,Susan Kallander,wrote that one)

  • Lynn Dean says:

    Wendy, I had no idea Hitty was a real doll and forgot, for today, your history in doll making. Thanks for the fascinating tidbit!

    Thinking of how children’s literature can connect with our adult trades: I design custom homes, and I can’t tell you how many families have requested a “Narnia room” or play space hidden behind an unassuming door. :)

  • I’m getting in late but I sooo enjoyed everyone’s lists and have to agree with everyone! LOL. This is my favorite category. I have so many favorites, and I read them to my classes when I taught, as well as some to my four boys growing up. (And Debbie, Go Dog, Go is my oldest son’s fav! He’s now 25.) I had such a hard time with this. I adore Andy McGuire books, and also your books, Wendy.

    1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
    2. Matilda by Roald Dahl
    3. Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
    4. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    5. SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL
    by Louis Sachar

    I also loved Heidi, Little Women, Five Little Peppers, Little House books, any Steven Kellogg book, Incredible Journey, any dog book….

  • Arggggh, Catherine Called Birdy! Wait! I change that into my top five, but I don’t know what to boot. Let’s see, Shel Silverstein since his book is poetry based on songs he wrote. Ok, I can be comfortable with that.

  • Jenny Rose says:

    My husband would say that I am beyond a lover of books–I am obsessed. I grew up rarely having to go to the library because my parents (more obsessed with books than I) collected them–our living room looked more like a library.

    1)Monster at the end of this book (Grover/Sesame Street)
    2)Clifford
    3)Eric Carle
    4)Anne of Green Gables
    5)Wrinkle in Time

    If I could go on there would also be Hardy Boys, Bobsey Twins and Island of Blue Dolphins.

    As for my kids
    1)Eric Carle
    2)Angelina Ballerina
    3)Pony Pals
    4)Veggie Tales
    5)American Girl

    I will have to review Black Stallion and Black Beauty for my older daughter who is in her horse phase.

  • Nick Harrison says:

    I can’t really think of five favorites, but the best I can do is:

    1. The Wilder books (Sally, I’m nearing the end of “The Long Winter” now.

    2. “The Boxcar Children”

    3. Hardy Boys

    4. YA books I used to love were by M.E. Kerr, Barbara Wersba, John Donovan (and others).

    5. I’m drawing a blank for number five. I’ve just finished reading the second of Beverly Cleary’s memoirs and enjoyed them very much. I may now try her children’s books, since I never read them growing up.

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