I love reading. Ever since I was a child, when you couldn’t find it, it was probably because I was hiding somewhere with a good book. My best friend’s mom likes to tell the story of when we were kids, she would have to drag her daughter to the library for summer reading, and I’d be coming out of the library with a stack of books taller than my head, happy as can be. In high school, I snagged a very coveted job (ok…I was probably the only one coveting it, to be honest) at the local library. I was a page, and I shelved books and movies. Boring for most, but I loved it! Later, during law school, I stuck around for another year to finish a Master’s in Library Science, which would allow me to be a librarian at a law library (if I decide to go that route, eventually). As you can see, books and reading are a HUGE part of my life.
Which is why, I’m now going to share with you all my top five favorite children’s books of all time. Hopefully, if you haven’t already read them, it’ll inspire you to pick up a book and maybe you’ll like it just as much as I do!
1. Harry Potter. All of them.
I know, it’s clichéd, the Harry Potter craze, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be sucked in. I managed to resist all the way until the 4th book came out, in 2003. At the time, I was an orientation leader at Indiana University, and all my leader buddies were reading the books, and I wanted to know what the hype was about. I picked up the first book and was completely captivated! The books were magical and quick reads, and I found myself waiting excitedly for the next book to come out. I started watching the movies shortly after. I won’t lie, a part of me felt like family members had passed once the books reached their conclusion, because I had become so close to the characters. The series is a fabulous one, and J even purchased for me the British version, in hardback, so that we can one day read them to our children.
2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.
C.S. Lewis has a gift for storytelling, to be sure. I’ve read several of his books, including all in The Chronicles of Narnia series, and I haven’t really found a book that I didn’t enjoy and learn something from. I picked The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe because that book was a favorite from childhood that I still enjoy reading, several years later. Much like the Harry Potter series, there’s something so magical about the world of Narnia that Lewis has created, and it’s something that both children and adults can appreciate. I also have more recently been able to appreciate the spiritual aspect of the series, and of Lewis’ writing in general, which has opened up a new area of exploration for me.
3. The Secret Garden.
I remember reading The Secret Garden several times when I was a younger girl, and loving everything about it. Then, last year, I had a desire to pick it back up again to see if it was as good as I remembered it to be. It was still amazing (though by far a much quicker read), and I realized that this is one of those books that are truly timeless. We can all remember a point in time where we found something that was ours, and ours alone, and it was the sweetest secret of all. We’ve all dealt with feelings of anger and ostracism, and the desire to find that place in the world where we feel like we belong. This book really drove that home for me, and made me realize that, though it’s a children’s book, the inherent desire to feel safe and secure in our own special spot in the world is universal.
4. A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle was one of my favorite authors growing up. The first book of hers that I read was A Wrinkle in Time, which I quickly followed up with the next three books in the series. Every now and then, I still pick up this series and re-read it from the beginning, and I always find myself seeing different aspects in the books that I didn’t pick up on the last time I read it. I only have paperback versions of these books, but I’d love to find hardback versions to keep for our children. Plus…I just really love the books! The protagonist is one that I identified with so well as a young girl; social misfit that doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, emotionally immature at times, and intelligent with high expectations placed on her from others (though, I didn’t feel overly intelligent as a child, so that one doesn’t quite fit). She has tight bonds with her baby brother and willingly enters into a dangerous adventure to save him. It was pretty much everything that I wanted to be as a young girl; the type of person that, even though she is scared, she pushes through and does what needs to be done in order to protect her loved ones. It’s one of those books that really has it all: science fantasy genre, an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, a burgeoning romance, family love, and adventure.
5. Bridge to Terabithia.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the movie version of this one. The book was my absolute favorite book during my 4th grade year (I remember the year well because this was the year we had a student teacher that I adored, and when she left I was heartbroken). Bridge to Terabithia was the first book (that I can remember) that moved me to tears. Up until that point, most books I had read were fluffy and light, fully of happiness and adventure. This book was so powerful and heart wrenching, that I remember crying my eyes out for hours after finishing it. It was a story a lot of kids could relate to; two children, trying to escape troubles at home, band together to create a magical place in the woods for their adventures. They grow closer as friends, and (if given time) would probably grow into something more later in life, when tragedy strikes. Even now, thinking about this book makes my heart hurt for the characters, as losing a beloved friend is a feeling I’d never want to experience in life. I do think it’s important for children to read various genres of books to experience many types of writing, and I’m really glad that I read this book at the age I did, even though it was a tough subject to read. When we have children, I hope to pass my copy on to my child and have them read it as well.
So, those are my 5 favorites for children’s books! I encourage you all to pick up a copy and give them a read, and hopefully you enjoy them as much as I did as a child, and as much as I still do now!