Are you looking for reading recommendations for children’s literature?

On the last day of every month (except when I forget), I post a list of happiness-themed recommended reading.

After my recent post about my once-furtive, now-proud love for children’s literature, several people wrote to ask me for a list of books I’d recommend. Zoikes, that’s an assignment that makes me happy – the only problem is keeping the list from getting too long.

I’ve read each of these books at least three times, most of them, many more.

The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
The Silver Crown, Robert O’Brien
Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Half Magic, Edward Eager
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
The Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
The Second Mrs. Giaconda, E. L. Konigsberg
Black and Blue Magic, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
The Narnia Books, C. S. Lewis
The Rings tetralogy, J.R.R. Tolkien
Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls

Okay, I must stop here.

And Harry Potter, of course.

Just looking at these titles makes me happy.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Sonia

    Love your list and am very happy to see so many of my favorites on it! I like Little Women but there are a couple of lesser-known Louisa May Alcott books I love even more: An Old-Fashioned Girl (Polly is my favorite Alcott character); Eight Cousins; and Rose in Bloom (a continuation of Eight Cousins). I also adore most books by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables). The Anne books are so much fun but my heart really belongs to Jane of Lantern Hill and The Blue Castle – not nearly as well known, but lovable and so comforting. P.S. Still working on Harry Potter 7 – had no idea it would take me THIS LONG to read it with a toddler in the house!

  • Skip the Harry Potter and Read Susan Cooper’s much better (and far shorter!) Dark is Rising series, recently re-released as a boxed-set.

  • mel

    I’ll check out the Dark is Rising, but I’d never skip Harry Potter! I would add the rest of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet to the list and Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series. (If you were asking for contributions, that is…) And, of course, the subversive Roald Dahl. Oh, how I love kid lit!

  • Laura .

    I love all those! I might just pick different Konigsburg and Snyder titles… let’s see, probably From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler… and The Velvet Room, respectively. (Though choosing is tough.) I’m so glad you mentioned The Silver Crown — a wonderful, mysterious book that seems to be little known. Have you read Pamela Dean’s Secret Country trilogy? Oh, and Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbitt)? And The Animal Family (Randall Jarrell)?

  • Judith

    I also loved “The secret garden”!
    I could also recommend all books from Astrid Lindgren and Michael Ende.
    Favorites from Lindgren: “Ronia” and “The Brothers Lionheart”
    Another favorit: “Krabat”, I think in English it’s “The Satanic Mill” from Othfried Preussler

  • Oh, yes, I love so many of the books mentioned here. How can we choose among the Konigsberg and Snyder treasure troves! And I love everything by Alcott, too…now I’m off to check out The Secret Country and Blue Castle…
    I love Susan Cooper, but didn’t mention it because it’s getting so much buzz now that the movie is coming out. I do think that’s by far the best book in that set, so think they chose wisely by picking it. I wonder if plans are afoot to do the other ones, as well. Yes, Dahl! of course…and Animal Family is such an odd, sweet book….keep the suggestions coming. I’m thrilled to have some new books to add to my shelves.

  • Thanks for the list!
    My oldest is reading Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), though he found James and the Giant Peach “too scary”.

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell is wonderful and one of my favorites.

  • Gretchen,
    Thanks for the book list… my daughter will be very happy I read it. As for the list, thanks for including CS Lewis’ Narnia – an absolute classic!

  • Laura C.

    I seem to be having a Happiness Project day… Gretchen, today No Impact Man talks about the hedonic treadmill:
    http://noimpactman.typepad.com/blog/

  • I never really enjoyed The Secret Garden, but I absolutely love A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    Perhaps a book that highlights that happiness is all the sweeter if you have had to work hard before getting it.

  • A.M.

    No Diana Wynne Jones? She has much the same loveable fantasy appeal as many listed. Maybe try Howl’s Moving Castle. I promise you it bears little relation to the movie.

  • If you have kids into science fiction or want to get them into sci-fi and have already exhausted L’Engle, try William Sleator. Of the ones I’ve read, _The Boy Who Reversed Himself_ does a great job of explaining multiple dimensions and both _Singularity_ and _Green Futures of Tycho_ are great stories about time travel.

  • I’ve read (and loved) many on that list – and I can see some I need to go check out.
    But you’re missing my all-time favorite: Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White. (And amazingly enough, the recent movie was a darn good adaptation.)
    Others in my Top 10 list include:
    – The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    – Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
    And a couple picture books:
    – The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch
    – The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Pinkwater
    I’ve also very much enjoyed:
    – The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
    – The Secrets of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson
    – Manic Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
    – Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede
    – So You Want to be a Wizard, by Diane Duane
    – My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett
    – Donorboy, by Brendan Halpin

  • Cat

    A great source for suggestions on children’s literature is “Book Crush” by Nancy Pearl.

  • I also recommend the sequel: Return to Gone-Away.

  • I loved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs._Piggle-Wiggle

  • pinkpillsanity

    I’m glad to see The Golden Compass at the top of the list. Most influential book of my childhood.
    I’d also highly recommend The Giver, which was the second most influential book of my childhood.

  • So many great suggestions. I like re-reading my favorite books from childhood when I am under the weather – the literary equivalent of chicken noodle soup.
    Some of my favorites that haven’t come up yet:
    The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White – a mute trumpeter swan learns to play the trumpet.
    The Treasure Seekers or The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit – or really anything by this author.
    The Princess and the Goblins by George McDonald – a wonderful fairy tale.
    Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott – gotta love a story that starts with a serious sledding accident.
    Mistress Masham’s Repose by Terence Hanbury White – an orphan girl finds out what happened to the tiny people of Lilliput after Gulliver wrote about his travels.
    An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Goden – an updated (post WWII London) version of The Secret Garden.
    Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken – two orphans in Victorian England survive by working in the sewers and in a carpet factory.
    I have descriptions of reading some old and new books to my kids on my blog http://www.stlmom.blogspot.com

  • I’ve always been fond of The Wind in the Willows, to throw in my own entry to everybody else’s lists.

  • There’s a Golden Compass movie coming out at the end of the year. I used to work for the visual effects house doing the work, and I have to say… the visuals are awesome! 😀
    http://www.goldencompassmovie.com/
    http://rhythm.com/film/

  • I would hardly call LOTR a children’s book…
    I won’t add my own list of alternates – except I would like to ask if you’ve read Peter Pan In Scarlett and, if so, what did you think? I could see what she was trying to do, and I appreciated the effort, but it somehow didn’t seem quite right.
    Carol

  • Great list! I would only add Alice In Wonderland!

  • Laura C.

    E. Nesbit’s Enchanted Castle, absolutely! And Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce). My favorite Diana Wynne Jones is Fire and Hemlock — a tour de force. The recently reissued Jenny and the Cat Club books by Esther Averill are also wonderful, and great to read with kids. I’m now getting out my list to add books from some of the other commenters… fun!

  • Great list. I’d agree that The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is a very nice book- especially when read aloud.

  • Yes, yes, yes, yes!! I’ve already ordered many of these suggestions, and am going to get more — and many of them are already favorites. Ah, the perennial debate about whether LOTR is part of children’s literature or adult literature — or for that matter, what is the difference between children’s lit and adult lit?
    I’m thrilled to see that so many people share my passion. The crazy thing is that for years, I thought I was the only grown-up sneaking off to re-read Spiderweb for Two. Hah!

  • Betsbillabong

    Lots of my favorites mentioned above, but not Pippi Longstocking! Also by Astrid Lindgren.
    What’s LOTR? I seem to be missing something…

  • Mari

    I know this post is a bit late, but one of my personal favorites is The Diamond in the Window, by Jane Langton. I read it when I was 10 (the year it was originally published!) and when I re-read it 35 years later, I was amazed at how it had affected my entire life.

  • “Harriet the Spy,” Louise Fitzhugh — my favorite book as a little kid
    “The Once and Future King” T.H. White — my favorite book in h.s.
    And how I wept over “Where the Red Fern Grows”!

  • And don’t forget Bette Greene’s “Summer of My German Soldier”

  • Amy

    Love these suggestions, and don’t forget the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Clearly! I am not embarrassed to say that I re-read all of them as an adult 🙂