Looking for Some Reading Suggestions in Children’s or Young-Adult Literature?

I’ve written many times about my love for children’s and young-adult literature, and my three kidlit reading groups. A source of great happiness for me! Be Gretchen.

For some reason, in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a spike in requests for suggestions about how to start a group or about what books to read.

As for starting a group, you can adapt the suggestions from the starter kit for starting Happiness Project groups. The specific model followed by my three kidlit groups is: we take turns meeting for dinner at each other’s apartments; we meet every six weeks; we read one or two books for discussion; people can attend even if they haven’t read the book; we choose books by group enthusiasm. In one group, we alternate among classic (Peter Pan), modern (A Wrinkle in Time), and contemporary (The Hunger Games). In the other groups, we just pick what we want.

If you want some ideas of books to read, here are some reading suggestions in children’s and young-adult literature for a group or just for yourself. It pains me to list so few! But this is a good start.

Because they’re already so widely known, I’m not going to list some very obvious ones, like the Harry Potter books, the Narnia books, the The Lord of the Rings books, or my beloved Little House books.

The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
The Silver Crown, Robert O’Brien
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Half Magic, Edward Eager
The Second Mrs. Gioconda, E. L. Konigsberg
Black and Blue Magic, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright
Graceling, Kristin Cashore
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, Peter Cameron
Greengage Summer, Rumer Godden

This list represents a big range — some are meant for ten-year-olds, some for seventeen-year-olds. But they are all so good that they can be enjoyed by an adult.

I could go on, and on…

What books would you add to this list? So many books, so little time.

* A thoughtful reader sent me the link to a terrific site, How to Be a Retronaut — “a guide to retronautics, going back in time, time-travel, charting history, and living in the past.” There’s so much great material there; for instance, I loved this post on The evolution of brand logos. An even more wonderful post is about The Grenata Street Army, 1915. A photographer befriended a group of children and took photos of them fighting their army “battles.” It reminds me a lot of what my friend and I did with Four to Llewelyn’s Edge.

Need a good book for August? Please consider The Happiness Project (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.

  • Lucie

    Gretchen, sorry for my ignorance (from reading your suggested list), but would there be any suggestion for children’s books from cultures different from English or American? I love your suggestions, but always find that I prefer a mix of cultures in any list (whether about cuisine, movies, artists, etc.).

    • gretchenrubin

      Hmmm…I don’t have any suggestions. Anyone else?


      • Genevieve



        “50 multicultural books every child should know”:
        http://delightfulchildrensbooks.com/read-around-the-world/  (these are younger, though – preschool through early elementary)

        Also I highly recommend anything by Mitali Perkins, Tanita Davis, Lisa Yee, Lenore Look, and Wendy Shang (recent middle-grade novel The Great Wall of Lucy Wu); for YA, Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier.  

        • Robin

          I loved Born Confused! Readers should be aware that there is some sex in the book. I’d say it’s at the upper age end for YA fiction.

          Also, anything and everything by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is an amazing poet and author and has edited several wonderful poetry anthologies for young adults.

      • bibi

        i would say anything that critics call “bildungsroman” — presuming that 16-year olds qualify as young adults? Herman Hesse, The Sorrows of Young Werther, anything by Francoise Sagan?

        and for younger children: Jules Verne, Zinken Hopp’s “The Magic Chalk”, Pinocchio, Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”, The Diary of Anne Frank.

        any suggestions for south american, african and middle eastern authors?

      • Eeva

        I would add other books by Astrid Lingren, Pippi is not her only witty and strong  girl character! I love her other books even more: 
        – Ronia, the Robber’s daughter
        – Madita
        – The Brother Lionheart
        – Mio’s Kingdom

    • MissPrism

      Tove Jansson’s Moomin books! Finn Family Moomintroll and Comet in Moominland are my favourites but they’re all beautiful – imaginative, characterful and occasionally slightly melancholy.

      • MissPrism

        Another Scandinavian series is Pippi Longstocking, of course. And there’s Heidi by the Swiss Johanna Spyri.

        That’s still not hugely diverse, I know, but perhaps others know more?

        • gretchenrubin

          Great suggestions. Love Pippi. And I just re-read Heidi a few weeks ago.


    • Nancy

      I love the book “Homeless Bird” by Gloria Whelan.

    • Deb

      Paul Berna is a French author of marvellous children’s novels. Most have been translated into English.

  • Great list! Highly recommend anything by Diana Wynne Jones or Hilary McKay, as well as many of Noel Streatfeild’s books.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, yes, yes!


      • Maia

        If you like The Hunger Games, I recommend Divergent (sorry if someone already mentioned it!). 

  • Our company, Gryphon House Books, published two charming books for parents to read, and to have fun creating special memories with their children, a gardening book “The Budding Gardener” and a cooking book “The Budding Chef” both are only $9.95 each.   http://www.gryphonhouse.com

    These are special books and I highly recommend them to my fellow Happiness Project friends!  Pat Conte 

  • I love (and still read) Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. 

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh, me too. Especially “The Dark Is Rising” itself.


    • Bill Day

      I think I always liked the Grey King best, although perhaps that is because it was the first one I read:

      On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
      Must the youngest open the oldest hills
      Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
      There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
      And the silver eyes that see the wind,
      And the light shall have the harp of gold.

  • ilse

    I think I send you this title the moment I was reading your book. Don’t know if you where able to find it: Toby Alone by Timothée de Fombelle.
    I really can recommend it!

  • Amy H.

    I continually re-read (as an adult) the Noel Streatfeild “Shoes” books, the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Lovelace (from Betsy’s high school years and beyond), “Maud Reed’s Tale” by Norah Lofts.  Oh!  Also “Linnets and Valerians” by Elizabeth Goudge, and “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” by Joan Aiken. 

    My sweet spot is clearly British children’s novels set in the past!

    • gretchenrubin

      I loooove Elizabeth Goudge, her adult novels too. Love Streatfield. Love Lovelace. Love Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Adding Maud Reed’s Tale to my list.


      • Amy H.

        Gretchen, have you found the two non-Betsy-focused Lovelace books?  They are two of my favorites:  Carney’s House Party and Emily of Deep Valley.

        • Amy H.

          Sorry — I got the name slightly wrong.  It’s actually “The Maud Reed Tale.”  I will have to try some of Goudge’s adult novels — I’ve never read anything but “Linnets.”

        • gretchenrubin

          Love them!


      • Carolyn

        So glad to find out someone besides me is still reading Elizabeth Goudge.  Her adult book The Scent of Water is one of my all-time favorites.  As for the children’s/YA lit, I found myself nodding agreement many times and bookmarking this page for future reading ideas. What joy!  Thanks so much for this post – great idea!  Makes me a wee bit envious of children’s librarians – that should be a happy job.

  • Amy H.

    Two more American authors/settings:  “The Westing Game” (Ellen Raskin) and “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” (Elizabeth George Speare).  Both won the Newbery Medal.

    • gretchenrubin

      Love them!


      • Patrick

        I am teaching The Westing Game for the first time this upcoming school year and can’t wait!

    • Jill s

      The Westing Game is still one of my favorites! 

    • CTH

      ‘The Westing Game’ is excellent!

  • Julie Riley

    I am 42. When I was 8, I was visiting my grandparents and pulled “Half Magic” off the bookshelf of my father’s childhood bedroom. I was completely enthralled. I had forgotten about it until I saw your recommendation on a previous post. I ordered the 50th anniversary edition from Amazon and was thrilled when it came…it looked exactly as I remembered! Thanks for resurrecting a pleasant childhood memory for me, Gretchen.

    • gretchenrubin

      Read all the Edward Eager books! they are all so delightful.


      • Julie Riley

        I will check them out. Thanks!

  • Jenlucee

    For even younger children I would add Dr. Suess’ The Places You’ll Go (not the in utero one)

  • A personal favorite of both mine and my mother’s is “Walk Two Moons” by Sharon Creech. It’s an incredible coming of age story that deals with motherhood, loss, and love told through the eyes of a young girl on a cross-country road trip with her grandparents. Every time I re-read it (which is 20+ times) I learn something new. If you haven’t read this one Gretchen, you must.

    • gretchenrubin

      Love it! one of my kidlit groups read this a few months ago.


    • CTH

      ‘Walk Two Moons’ is one of my all-time favorite books. It makes me laugh and cry every time I read it!

  • Bonniejo514

    Just a warning, Graceling does have en explicit scene. It’s not very graphic, but it’s there. 

  • Joe

    City of Ember. (The sequels are ok, but less good.)

    My teen daughter likes John Green, and I liked the one I read (An Abundance of Katherines, which she says is his best).

    Ender’s Game.

  • SarahR

    Last night I just finished reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I loved it! It made me feel warm and cosy and happy.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific book.


    • Tricialapointe

      I did this one on audiobook and the narration was wonderful! The story has a timeless feel to it which reminded me of when I read The Giver by Lois Lowry in middle school. I think this story can last through time 😉

  • Brokeyourthrone

    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cat Valente.  I think the title says it all.

    • gretchenrubin

      THAT is a great title. Adding it to my list.


  • The Giver
    The Westing Game
    Sarah, Plain and Tall
    The Witch of Blackbird Pond
    The Wizard of Oz
    Ginger Pye
    Dandelion Cottage

    So many good ones….

    • gretchenrubin

      Love all these except Dandelion Cottage, which I haven’t read yet — my list is growing longer. Which makes me very HAPPY.


      • Dandelion Cottage was on my mother’s bookshelf and I would always borrow and read it when we visited my Nana (30 some years ago). It was one of my favorite books as a child. I read it many times, have given it to my neice, and look forward to reading it with my daughter.

        You can order it here http://marquettehistory.org/books.html or find it online somewhere free as it was written in 1904!

        I am making a list too! 🙂

  • Kevin Wehner

    47 by Walter Mosley is one of my favorites!

  • Lynn

    Terry Pratchett has written some amazing young adult books. I love the series about Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegles: 
    The Wee Free Men
    A Hat Full of Sky
    I Shall Wear Midnight

  • Sara Loud

    I would add The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

  • Sara Loud

    I would add The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

    • This book is truly one of the most profound, moving books I have ever read.  I was truly bowled over by it.  One to DEFINITELY try! 🙂

  • Marie

    I just visited a museum on the Chesapeake Bay recently, which reminded me of the book Jacob Have I Loved.  It’s about a girl, one half of a set of twins, who grows up on an isolated island in the Bay. 

    I ordered it from the library and it arrived with a big “GRADE 8” sticker on it.  🙂

  • Christine

    Just found your website! How wonderful!!

    I recently finished The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert. Seven books (I think?) LOVED them!! The final book is coming out in September. Little light mysteries interwoven with historical bits of the life of Beatrix Potter. I love that at the end of each book she lists historical notes of what was really going on with Beatrix’s life during the timing of the book and also lists a number of recipes like Peas Porridge or Teacle Pudding.

    Also, a classic that I don’t think I saw listed yet: The Wind in the Willows!!

  • Nick Bocchino

    I don’t know if it’s been mentioned yet, but Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is an amazing sci-fi book that can be read by anyone of any age. I read it in 7th grade, then again in high school, then again in college, then again just last year. It’s the only book I’ve been able to read multiple times.

    One of the major themes of the novel is a young child’s ability to cope while being put in an extremely extraordinary situation. Think Hunger Games, but in space haha.

  • Genevieve

    A Brief History of Montmaray, and The FitzOsbornes in Exile, by Michelle Cooper.  Castles, intelligent and determined teenage girls, complicated 1930s politics, and a tiny imaginary kingdom plunked down on an island in the Bay of Biscay.

    Books that mix Regency era and magic:  Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis; Marissa Doyle’s Bewitching Season and Betraying Season; the Sorcery and Cecelia books, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.
    Pure fun:  Lisa Yee’s trilogy (that all takes place at the same time, from three different perspectives):  Millicent Min, Girl Genius; Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time; So Totally Emily Ebers.

  • sharon

    Just finished “Chasing Redbird” to  my 10 year old.  It was on my 12-year-old’s summer reading list but he wasn’t interested when I brought it home from the library. 

    Last summer, the older one and I read “A Single Shard.”  He was fascinated by it and we both learned a lot.

    The older one really enjoyed “The Thief Lord” by Cornelia Funke.  He also just re-read the “Airborn” books by Kenneth Oppel.

    The younger one is into dragons – any and all books about dragons.  We both enjoyed “The Dragons of Ordinary Farm” and are waiting for next one which I believe was promised!

    • Genevieve

      Dragon books:

      Dealing With Dragons (and others in a series) by Patricia Wrede

      The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon (the dragon is in the first book too), by Kate Coombs

      • sharon

        Thanks for dragon book suggestions!  He did read the Patricia Wrede series – but has not read Kate Coombs.  I’ll check it out.

  • Haven’t seen these listed yet, so …

    The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken
    The Whispering Mountain – Joan Aiken
    The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
    My Friend Flicka (+ sequels) – Mary O’Hara
    The Black Stallion ( + sequels) – Walter Farley
    Big Red (+ others) – Jim Kjelgaard
    The Abandoned – Paul Gallico
    Thomasina – Paul Gallico
    King of the Wind (+ others) – Marguerite Henry
    The Trumpet of the Swan (+ others) – E.B. White
    The Grand Escape – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    The Rescuers (+ sequels) – Margery Sharp
    The Velvet Room – Zilpha Keatley Snyder
    Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
    My Side of the Mountain – Jean Craighead George
    Bambi – Felix Salten
    Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
    The Mouse and the Motorcycle – Beverly Cleary
    Nancy Drew of course!!!

  • oh jeez, how could I forget:

    The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton
    Fox Running – R.R. Knudson

    and 100s more …

  • MissPrism

    Not strictly a kid’s book, but one that gives me the same feeling of… I don’t know, escape? – is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

  • Deb

    My favourites (apart from those mentioned , such as the Narnian Chronicles, Edward Eager’s novels, and those by Diana Wynne Jones) are:

    The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes

    Simple Spigott by Mary Francis Shura

    And of course the Famous Five books (for George, one of my most favourite characters ever).

    • Kate

      LOVE Estes and “The Witch Family” in particular!

    • Karen

      As a child I enjoyed many books by Eleanor Estes including The Moffats, Ginger Pye and Pinky Pye. Several years ago I read The Moffats aloud to my daughter.  She especially liked The Witch Family, which I did know about when I was growing up.

  • Julie Diblasi

    Oh my, I love children/young adult books. Elizabeth Enright, Edward Eager are some of my favorites, along with Carolyn Haywood-very young children. Two books that I loved as a child and still enjoy… The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink and Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom.

    • mairsydoats

      I thought I was the only person in the world who loved The Secret Language!  

      • No, no, you weren’t the only person, I loved it too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ronda

      Those are two favorites that I remember, too!  Also the Velvet Room!

  • S.pase

    the Roald Dahl books – Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach… all of them!! (he also wrote great short stories for grownups)

    • Aah, Roald Dahl – definitely!

  • Add this one to your reading list: Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, by Beth Barany.

  • I have been reading aloud with my daughters The Shadows: Books of Elsewhere Vol 1 and this summer’s new arrival Spellbound: Book of Elsewhere Vol 2 written by Jacqueline West. Mysterious and funny! We love it!

  • Filicophyta

    Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. It’s the third of a trilogy, but it’s the one I came across first and i loved it. It absolutely knocked me over. 

    School Library Journal says grade 7-12 but I think they would appreciate it more at the upper end of that. 

  • Julie

     I recommend The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall.  Three have been published so far.  They are a delight. 

  • I have to tell you about this because it makes me happy. When my 3 kids were little I took them on a Laura Ingalls trip. We visited De Smet, South Dakota where, the last 3 books of the Laura series took place, as well as Walnut Grove and Plum Creek.

    Two weeks ago my oldest daughter, age 22, drove to De Smet to see the annual Laura Ingalls pageant. She drug along one of her friends who had never read the books. NEVER underestimate the power of reading your favorite beloved childhood books to your kids!

    • Jen

      We took that trip two years ago with our kids. It was such a wonderful and totally memorable experience. I love the idea of my daughter possibly going again when she is older!

  • Bill Day

    As a child, I loved Burnett’s “A Little Princess” a million times more than “The Secret Garden.”  I second the fans of Susan Cooper, and I also liked Lloyd Alexander as a boy.  And, of course, for the slightly older child, there is always Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island!)  For adults, I still recommend your Kennedy book.  Even though it is apparently out of print, I thought it was one of your best, although I haven’t yet read Power Money Fame Sex.

    • Agreed – I loved A Little Princess, that would also have been my addition to this list. I might even have to go and order it again now!

    • Martha

      I also love “A Little Princess”.  I’ve re-read it so many times!

  • Jenny

    I have only skimmed the comments, so I don’t know if they have been included, but I would like to recommend the Australian author Melina Marchetta. “Looking for Alibrandi” has been made into a movie; my personal favourite (shared with ny daughter) is “Saving Francesca”.

  • Banjodown

    The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by. Brian Selznick.
    I would suggest taking advantage of Amazon’s “Search Inside This Book” feature. There are hundreds of illustrations in this book and they’re worth a sneak peek! Also, the story is enjoyable for adults along with young adults (I can testify to that!).

    • Robin

      The Invention of Hugo Cabret is wonderful!! Just re-read it. The author has a new book coming out this month. I cannot wait!

  • Sally

    My all-time favourite book is ‘Winter of Fire’ by Sherryl Jordan, it’s about an adolescent girl rising above her circumstances and set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world where the sun is covered by clouds and it is always cold.
     Also, I don’t think the Obernewtyn Chronicles have been mentioned yet. 

    Anne of Green Gables and all the sequals

    Possum Magic by Mem Fox (picture book)

    Where the Forest Meets the Sea – Jeanie Baker (picture book)

  • I loved Graceling. It was so different, but really fun. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is a great book too. And there’s a whole slew of fun new dystopian books out there thanks to the popularity of The Hunger Games. And I also agree with a few fellow readers that The Book Thief is also an excellent choice.

  • Movetosimple2012

    Would have to suggest “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver.  My fourteen year old daughter who doesn’t read much and isn’t interested in vampires or love stories really enjoyed this book. It covers the topics of peer pressure and bullying  in an engaging way that teens can relate to.

  • ALibera

    Just reading the titles of all of these makes me extremely happy.  As I was reading The Penderwicks series  (which in many ways is an homage to all the books we grew up reading), I was thinking that it would be great fun to simply go through and read (or re-read) all of the wonderful books that are mentioned.  

    I think that Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series should be required reading for young girls.Also, a couple of additions:Mrs Piggle- Wiggle and her sequelsSwallows and AmazonsNorma Johnston’s Keeping Days seriesPhillip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart trilogy
    The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
    The Diamond in the Window (also the title of a terrific kid lit blog – http://www.thediamondinthewindow.com and a great place to get more recommendations).

    • Amy H.

      I love the Keeping Days series!  I still re-read all of those as an adult, too.

  • taylorjane

    If you haven’t read “Sorcery and Cecilia – The Enchanted Chocolate Pot” but Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevemer, stop what you are doing and go find it. It’s the first of a brilliant trilogy.

    Also the ‘Enola Holmes’ series by by Nancy Springer is well worth a read. 

  • Among Others – Jo Walton
    Read this book for the first time when I was 25.  I adore it.

  • This is a great list Gretchen and  thank you so much for the share…

  • I am currently reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher which is amazing!

  • Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (and the four sequels). My favorite series of all time, including Harry Potter — and it doesn’t even involve magic.

  • Niki Lowry

    Enid Blyton has amazing books… and lots of series!

  • M. Lynx Qualey

    The beautiful and charming فاتن by Fatima Sharafeddine. (Arabic.) For non-Arabic readers, Mohieddine Ellabbad’s “The Illustrator’s Notebook,” trans. Sarah Quinn.

  • Loved the list. I would also recommend Malorie Blackman, David Almond and Julia Donaldson. Thx for sharing.


  • Delia Lloyd

    Thanks Gretch. Was just about to go on FB to ask for more suggestions for Isaac who has finished Dance For Dragons (!!!) and needs some more material to keep him interested. Last night someone suggested Ursula Le Gwyn’s Sea and ? series as well as To Kill A Mockingbird.

    • mairsydoats

      Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy is wonderful!

      • Cynergy_3

        That would definitely be my recommendation for this list

  • Jennifer

    Favorites include:
    The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi
    Walk Two Moons, Creech
    Number the Stars, Lowry
    City of Ember, DuPrau
    Esperanza Rising, Ryan

  • I highly recommend “Zel” by Donna Jo Napoli. It’s a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale and it’s beautiful!

  • The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
    Anything by Diana Wynne Jones

  • Ariel 1914

    The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  I read it as a read aloud to my Grade 5 classes and they have loved it.  I enjoyed it as an adult too.

  • Ella

    Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Silverwing series by Kenneth Oppel, and regrettably out of print but much loved by my son and I The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.  I managed to find copies in second hand book stores.  I also have always loved The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery but don’t think it is a children’s book oh and Shel Silverstein poetry always made my students and my son and I laugh our heads off and sometimes cry!

  • anita

    I love “Pollyanna”  by Eleanor Porter.  You can read it for free online.

  • Karlapr

    Haven’t had a chance to read through others’ suggestions, but want to add my strong recommendation of anything by Jerry Spinelli — especially “Maniac McGee” — beautiful, amazing book!  It was recommended to me by my then-nine year old (advanced reader), and I loved it.  So cool when your kids make book recommendations that you really like.  Kate DiCamillo books are wonderful, too!  (sorry if this might be redundant)

  • Karlapr

    My daughter and I are in a mother-daughter book group.  It’s been really fun, and led to reading a lot of great children’s books. 

  • Delighted to see Half Magic on the list (one of my favorites as a child) as well as True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle recommended by another thoughtful reader.

    My addition would be Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards.

    • CTH

      ‘The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle’ is one of my all-time favorite books! It’s a great one.

  • Michele

    My daughter and I have tremendously enjoyed. . . 
    The Last of The Really Great Whangdoodles
    The Penderwicks series (3 books)
    City of Ember series (4 books)

  • bev smith

    Erm this is soooooo hard –
    The Book Thief,
    The Hobbit,
    The name of the Book is Secret – Pseudonymous Bosch
    The Wizrd of Oz
    Charlotte’s Web
    The Butterfly Lion

  • annabarlowe

    Wow, somebody else has read The Silver Crown?  I love that one too!  And Half Magic.  Also pretty much anything by John Bellairs, although the House With A Clock in its Walls trilogy was the best.  I could go on and on, but basically any kind of children’s gothic horror does it for me.  Fortunately there’s a lot of it out there!

  • Kira Farley

    I was extremely happy to see your mention of The Golden Compass in your book and now again on your list. The trilogy is an amazing, mind blowing series. I was also thrilled to see the Hunger Games on here. Again, that trilogy blew my brain open. For young adults, I LOVED the series by Libba Bray that started with A great and Terrible Beauty. It seems to me, that any books that can introduce the difficult topic of death to younger readers (such as my 9 year old) is incredible. Partially why I loved Harry Potter so much(or was thankful for it:)

  • P.G.

    Many great books listed here. I agree with everyone who mentioned Lloyd Alexander’s books. Aside from the books already listed, here are some other good ones:

    Redwall series by Brian Jacques
    Midnight Magic by Avi
    Holes by Louis Sachar
    Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfeld
    Island of the Aunts by Ebba Ibbotson (actually, anything by her)
    A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (LOVED these books as a child)
    Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
    Say Cheese, Medusa! By Kate McMullan
    Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
    Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
    Firebringer by David Clement Davies
    Sabriel by Garth Nix

  • Mary Anne

    Not sure if this has been mentioned, my personal favorite:
    “Mistress Masham’s Repose” by T.H.White
    Hard to find in bookstores, but can find online.
    The illustrations are wonderful too.

  • Neal Shusterman, “Unwind.”  Chilling.  http://www.amazon.com/Unwind-Neal-Shusterman/dp/1416912045

  • mairsydoats

    In addition to allll the amazingly wonderful suggestions already listed:

    The Changeling and The Headless Cupid, both by Zilpha Keatley Snyder – The Changeling is hard to find in print but is SOOO worth the search.  Of course in addition to the others listed (LOVE Black and Blue Magic) – oh, and The Egypt Game, too.

    And all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books.  I love A Wrinkle in Time, but my favorite is A Ring of Endless Light, and love that all of her books across all genres (young kids, older kids, sci fi, romance, adult fiction) are interwoven stories from the same world.  Seeing one character pop up peripherally in another story absolutely thrills me.

    • Kate

      I think it’s a clue to how much I love Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s books that I named my cat Zilpha.  Life is funny.  Reading this post just now is so strange, because earlier today I JUST got up the courage to tell Ms. Snyder that on Facebook!  And I got a reply.  I was thrilled.

      • mairsydoats

        omg, she’s on FB?  Must.  Send.  Friend.  Request.  Now.

        Actually, I already knew that she is super-nice and accessible.  A hundred years and several careers ago, my Master Teacher had ZKS over for dinner for me to meet her ’cause I was such a big fan.  In this instance, geography is majorly on my side.

        I now realize that it was my elementary school librarian who was getting Ms. Snyder’s books in the INSTANT they were available – and who sent The Headless Cupid home with me to read when I was sick.  I’ll betcha she never knew the profound effect she had on my life.

        • Kate

          Yes, go “like” her now.  Doesn’t look like she posts much but it was thrilling. I’m so jealous you got to meet her in elementary school.  Although had I the opportunity I would have been too tongue-tied to talk, no doubt! 

          My very favorites were “Season of Ponies” and “The Changeling,” but my oldest sister was an “Egypt Game” girl.  In fact, when I named my cat after adopting her last summer, almost everyone went “What?  is that a name? how do you spell it?” etc.  Except my sister said “Oh!  Like Zilpha Keatley Snyder who wrote ‘The Egypt Game’!!”

          Alas, my cat hasn’t shown much urge for a writing career.  She did, however, once eat a large post-it so there’s hope yet.

        • Kate

          Just realized you weren’t IN school when you met her.  Still envious!

  • Lpirozzi3221

    The Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan along with some of his other young adult books. Think Potter but more action. After the first book I stopped comparing to Potter and got sucked right in

    • Jill

      Love the Lightning Thief Series and I’m not too much of a young adult lit reader on my own free time (was an Eng teacher).  Ten-year-old daughter loves them–great fun with Greek Mythology for sure–LOL at times even. 

  • Kate

    “The Witch’s Sister” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  It has two sequels (“Witch Water” and “The Witch Herself”) that are good, absolutely riveting and creepy, and the three books feel like a complete story arc. 

    The author revisited this series years later and wrote at least three more sequels, which personally, I’m not as big a fan of.  But I highly recommend the original trilogy.  

  • Tom Owens

    Excellent suggestions, Gretchen! I have no additional titles, just one great resource to find other enthusiastic readers:


    I blog for CLN, the “What’s Right With Children’s Literature” column. Profiling Gretchen and her optimism was a delight. Thanks, G.R.

  • Mrs. Pigglewiggle!

  • Jessica

    I like the “Tales of the Otori” Saga by Lian Hearn because of its setting in a fictional, feudal Japan.
    And I’d also like to recommend “A faraway island” by Annika Thor, a Swedish author who had written this four volume serie about the life of two sisters during the second world war.

  • Rebecca

    Christopher Paul Curtiss – The Watson’s Go to Birmingham 1963 and Bud, Not Buddy   

  • Gabe

    Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones. One of my favs!

  • With the release of the movie I am reminded of one of my favorite childhood books, MR POPPER’S PENGUINS! by Richard and Florence Atwater.

    • Tcdbjd

      My daughters read Mr. Popper’s Penguins in 2nd grade and it started a life long love affair with penguins. I haven’t seen the movie but the book was wonderful, actually published in 1938.

      • Same thing happened to me – read the book again and again 20 years ago and still LOVE penguins today!! Although I no longer ask if we can keep any in the basth tub or basement….

        • gretchenrubin

          So funny–I just finished reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins to my daughter LAST NIGHT.


  • Evelyn

    Anne of Green Gables Series – L.M. Montgomery
    The Little House on the Prairie Series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
    The Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
    Little Women – L.M. Alcott

  • Sofie Kelly

    For younger kids the Max and Ruby series by Rosemary Wells is wonderful. My daughter is a teenager and she still quotes lines from the books. 

    For young adult, I suggest Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

  • Olpersona

    A Wrinkle in Time

  • Holly Butterfield

    The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper is one of my favorites – have you read those?

  • Allanesnavely

    Is Watership Down in the “obvious” pile?  It’s that combination of a kid’s book and epic spiritual (in the non-religious sense) Odyssey involving rabbits that can entertain a 7 year old and still make a grown man cry.  In other words its about the human condition 🙂 

    • Allanesnavely

      Another way to try to succinctly describe Watership Down – “a story about cute rabbits that a father made up to entertain his little girls and being loosely based around his experiences in the hopeless WW II battle for the bridge at Arnhem also known as ‘The Bridge Too Far’ ” 🙂 
      It definitely has something for everybody. 

  • jlg

    story of a girl by sara zarrfever 1793 by laurie halse anderson
    i’ll ask you three times, are you ok? by naomi shihab nye
    the dreamer by pam munoz ryan
    one crazy summer by rita williams-garcia

    The above is the list of YA books I have read this year. I have not been disappointed. LOVED all of them.

  • Caryn

    A couple of years ago, I got to be the substitute librarian in a high school library for 3 months. My most favorite books that I read during that tenure were The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot.  They were  humorous and right on target for young adults. Loved, loved, loved them.

  • Thanks for the suggestions!  I haven’t really read books meant for kids in a while and it might be interesting to do that again.  I don’t really like reading big print but maybe there will be some small print kids books out there. 

  • AJ Jr.

    Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden is a coming of age novel about a young lesbian that I didn’t find until I was already a grown up, but still fell in love with. 

    Also, The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt was my favorite in the 6th grade.  It’s about a little boy who’s taken out of his abusive home and placed in an orphanage.  It still breaks my heart every time.

    • Tcdbjd

      The Lottery Rose was an amazing book, my children read it in junior high and the teacher did a summer book club that the parents could attend. She brought out so many of the other meanings, amazing and heart breaking.

  • Martha

    I absolutely love “The Little Princess” by Burnett.  I still have my childhood copy that I re-read.  And I could also add Booth Tarkington’s “Seventeen”.  It’s wonderful.

    I really enjoyed reading all the suggestions.  My plan for today was to go to the library, and now I have several thoughts about some old friends to bring home!

  • Christina

    I always loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. And I’m definitely going to try some of these out to get me out of my Harry Potter funk. Perfect timing!

  • Mary

    Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George are two of my favorites.

  • Noah

    It’s funny; I’m a high school student and most of the time I try to read more “mature” stuff like philosophy. But every once in a while, I get an urge to read little kid’s books again. Recently my mom and I went to the library together and read a bunch of my old favorite picture books.  I especially love “The Giving Tree”; I don’t think I’ll ever be too old for that one. The days are long but the years are short. 

  • Philip Pullman is amazing. And not just the trilogy that started with The Golden Compass. His range and variety is pretty rare.

    Lois Lowry’s The Giver is an incredible book, I would definitely add it to your (fabulous) list above.

  • Moser321

    I loved From the Mixed Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler!  Also the Peter and the Starcatcher series!

    • Tcdbjd

      I read the Mixed up Files in the 3rd grade then read it to my children, awesome adventure in New York City especially for someone growing up in rural Texas!

  • Lisa

    Crispin by Avi

    The Whipping Boy

    Fun read aloud story:  Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear (but you have to do the voices of all the characters!)

  • bev smith

    I recently read The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. Her and her father made a promise when she was 9 that he would read to her for at least 10 minutes a nights consecutively for 100 nights. It lasted until she was 18. I’ve now started my own reading streak, a year of reading children’s books. I’ve asked my niece Nerees to join in. As a family we have suffered a lot of losses and heartache over the last 2 years and when you are only 10 it hits you even harder because it’s very difficult to understand. Her behaviour had become irratic and by reading every night i’m hoping it will give her some focus. The biggest problem being i don’t live where she does not even that close and so her mum is doing it with her. Her year began on the 3rd august her birthday and the first book The Name of the Book is Secret by Pseudonym Bosh. As for me i’ve been reading Charlotte’s Web E B White.

  • Riley Harrison

    There are so many good YA (young adult) books that adults would enjoy. As an example, anything written by Albert Marrin is top notch non-fiction and many adults would say “where have you been all my life”.

  • Heather Sherrard

    Just a few that I love and reread on a regular basis:
    Bloomability by Sharon Creech
    Fifteen by Beverly Cleary (the absolute favorite book of both my mom and me)
    Anything written by John Green (someone else suggested An Abundance of Katherines, which is my favorite too… But Paper Towns offers a lot more to consider, I think– I desperately hope to be able to teach this in my high school English class at some point)
    Anything by Shannon Hale… I discovered her books recently and was blown away by The Goose Girl and sequels. Book of a Thousand Days was also wonderful. She writes retellings of fairy tales.

  • Kate

    L.M. Boston, “The Children of Green Knowe” and its sequels.   

  • Karin

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Michelle Magorian yet! She’s such an amazing writer – Goodnight Mr. Tom and Back Home would definitely be at the top of my YA reading list!

  • guest

    I just purchased a book called “The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet” by Reif Larsen.  I’m only halfway through it and I have started reading slower and less pages each night because I don’t want it to end. The illustrations are delightful too.

  • bev smith

    My daughter Bethany who is 18 recommends these -The Wind Singer – William Nicholson
    Journey to the Sea – Eva Ibbotson
    The Seer and the Sword – Victoria Hanley
    The Two Princesses of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine

  • For kids books, “The Tiger Rising” by Kate DiCamillo was pretty great, although kind of sad.

  • julia

    Gretchen, thank you for posting this.
    Everyone else, thank you adding to it.

    When I got into high school and had to start reading more grown-up books, I more or less stopped enjoying books.  Then Harry Potter came out and I loved them.  A few months ago I remembered how much I loved to read when I was 10-14, so I started reading books more targeted to this age group. I love reading again.  This list will get some use by me.

    Thanks again!

  • Susan

    Inkheart, Inkspell and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke.  My favorite series!

    • Regina

      My fifth grade students were so enthralled with Inkheart that they created an original play based on it. The engaging story really lit up their imaginations. We loved it!

  • SH

    13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. For Teens/Adults. Life Changing. My husband read it, too. 

  • Svanalstine

    The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo is one of my favorites. It’s a magical story. I read it every year to my students and every year I enjoy it just as much as the first time I read it. The kids love it too! 

    • jackie

      Anything by Kate Dicamillo is awesome … Love her!!

  • Hi Gretchen,

    it would be quite the task to read through all the amazing comments from your readers, so at the peril of repeating some of their suggestions, I have some books that are close to my heart and had a significant impact on my youth:

    Narnia series by C. S. Lewis
    Everything by Astrid Lindgren (Brothers Lionheart, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, Mio my Mio, Pippi Longstockings, etc.)
    Everything by Michael Ende (not sure how good the translations into English are) (Momo, Jim Button, Neverending Story, The Night of Wishes)
    Everything by Enid Blyton (The Famous Five, etc.)



    • Thevail6

      Momo is my favorite book- so powerful and beautiful; plus really fun.
      Also Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.  Great twist and cool characters.  Can’t believe no one has made it a movie.  My kids volunteer to clean the house so I would keep reading it.  

  • I would recommend “13 Reasons Why” for teens. It is a story that teaches how our actions affect others, through a very unique storyline. 

  • Grace

    Has anyone mentioned “The Borrowers” series by Mary Norton? My gosh, just typing that gave me shivers of delight at the memory of how fascinated I was as a child at the thought of little people living in the baseboards! Time for a re-read. Unfortunately – as so often seems to be the case with movies based on beloved books – the movie disappointed me. Thanks for this post and all the reader comments – I have a lot of reading to do!

  • Kathy McQuown

    I love Philippa Pearce’s “Tom’s Midnight Garden” and also a newer YA mystery, “The Killer’s Cousin” by Nancy Werlin.  “The Dark Satanic Mill” by Otto Preussler is a German book in English translation that kept my 10 year old son reading straight through…I loved it, too. A number of children’s book writes have written fascinating autobiographies, including Jerry Spinelli, Beverly Cleary, Jean Little, Jerry Spinelli, and Sid Fleischman.  Besides revealing how these writers became who they are, they are great resources for classroom teachers seeking interesting non-fiction to analyse.

    • Verbena

      Dear Kathy
      I completely agree with you about ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’, one of my all time favourite reads. A truly wonderful evocation of growing up, love and loss which is very powerful in its quiet and understated way.

      Incidentally, Ive often wondered if this book influenced Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ which follows these themes on an adult level.

      Thank you for reminding me of this…

  • Spencerhotel

    I have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, several times over the years and find it to be better and richer with each read– A timeless piece that has true longevity.

    The Spencer Hotel

  • June W.

    I have a whole list.

    The “Clarice Bean” books (“Don’t Look Now” especially) are delicious. They are written for kids about 8, but I read them over and over because the narrator’s voice really makes me laugh.  Same for “Junie B. Jones” (the series)

    For Young Adult, I recently read a great new book called, “Of All The Stupid Things” by Alexandra Diaz.  It’s a book written in turns by 4 characters whose lives are intertwined, and each of them is coming into their own, and dealing with their normal teenage issues. The thing I love about it is that each character’s voice … written in the first person… totally pulls you in, and the drama is done just right… not overpowering but totally engrossing.

    Another good one is My Most Excellent Year, by Steve Klugar, which is done ALL in documents (instant messages and letters). 🙂

  • Snightingale1

    I have to say my all time favorite is James and the Giant Peach.  Friendship shown in this book is a good reminder that we are all different, yet all the same.

  • Segerfan65

    Lost on a Mountain in Maine, by Donn Fendler. True story about a 12 year old that gets separated from his group on a hiking trip. He survives in the wild and lived to tell about it. Excellent book for all ages!

  • Tricialapointe

    I still haven’t started that kidlit group yet Gretchen but it’s on my to do list. In the mean time I thought I’d mention a Madison, WI local author I came across at our public library-Kashmira Sheth. Keeping Corner is a really great story that deals with the hardship of arranged marriage, the process of being a widow as a young girl, and the surprise that lifts this girl out of the shadows. I’ve read all but 1 of her books now and I plan to finish her latest soon. Right now I’ve got to finish Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool-we’ll see how it turns out 😉

  • JMH

    The Green Knowe series by Lucy M. Boston. 

    The books about the Melendy family by Elizabeth Enright.  “The Saturdays” and “The Four-Story Mistake.”

    I recently reread “Miss Minerva and William Green Hill,” on-line.  Ancient, but still laugh-out-loud funny.

    For babies and toddlers, I highly recommend the Max books by Rosemary Wells, as well as “Benjamin and Tulip.”

  • Elaine

    I taught second grade tor years (now retired) some of their favorites was anything by Bill Peet, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky and The Country Bunny (and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward.  Elaine

  • Martinp

    I love the James Howe books for adolescents….The Misfits, Totally Joe, and a new one just out about Addie.  (Sorry, the name escapes me since I just lent it out, but “Addie” is in the title.)  They’re extremely poignant and cleverly written.

  • Niesgirl

    The Tiger’s Curse series and the Fablehaven series are my 12 year old’s FAVES and mine, too.

  • L Mason

    Elizabeth Berg is my favorite young person’s author with wonderful books on life and challenges and happiness and tragedies! Try We are All Welcome Here (a child raised by her single mother who is a quadriplegic polio victim), Once Upon a Time, There was You; Home Safe; Talk Before Sleep; Range of Motion; Dream When You’re Feeling Blue; The Art of Mending….and many more!

  • Susan

    I agree about the Borrowers series – all wonderful.  For a slightly older reader and in the same vein is the Mennyms series by Sylvia Waugh.  The ultimate stories of what it means to be different! There are 5 books in the series just like the Borrowers.

  • sab

    Two books worth mentioning again…
    Redwall –  by Brian Jacques, a swashbuckling series
    Watership Down – by Richard Adams, a deep, powerful book

  • Pamela

    I haven’t really had time to read all the suggestions, but here’s one I’d suggest. It’s Canadian: “Anne of Green Gables.” Such a wonderful story. This summer I got to visit the author’s birthplace and town she grew up in: Cavendish, Prince Edward Island (in Canada’s Maritimes on the east coast). It brought the book to life as the author (Lucy Maud Montgomery) used places and people she knew as places and characters in her stories. There are actually 8 in the series, as well as 3 movies on DVD. Several years ago, there was a TV series called “Road to Avonlea” which was loosely based on the books, though Anne was not in the show. Several others from the novel were. If you like kidlet, you’ll love Anne of Green Gables. Kind of the Canadian “Little House on the Prairie.”

  • Pamela

    I’ve just read online (Chapters) that the best new YA fiction book is coming out on Sept. 13th–“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. Sounds awesome!!

  • Holly

    Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer

  • Stratcat2k

    my mom was an avid reader, and she had a winning strategy to get my brother and i to read; it was a 2 step plan. First, she would set aside a time for herself every day to sit down and read, and she would let us SEE her reading while we played; this would, of course, pique our interest as to what she was doing that she enjoyed so much, and would make us want to learn to do it as well. the second part was that she would let us read WHATEVER we wanted, even if it was junk (and we read A LOT of junk), her reasoning being that sooner or later we would get tired of junk, and start looking for more sophisticated fare, which in fact is what happened. another thing that my mom did was, even if we were strapped for money and we could barely even go to the supermarket, there was always money for books, even if only from second-hand stores. i will be forever grateful to my mom for being so wise and opening up so many worlds to discover in such a gentle, loving way. she passed away a little over 10 years ago, but she still with me in my heart, and, among the many other things she taught me, i will pass along her love of reading to my kids the same way she did with me (my 3 year old son has a distinct penchant for superhero comics, just like his old man did). in any case, here are few of the books that i loved as a kid, whether junk or not junk and for younger and older readers, in no particular order. some are not really literature for kids, but they work well (like some of the more laid back sci-fi stuff) in that capacity:

    The Black Cauldron (and the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain)
    The Mouse on the Motorcycle
    The first couple of the Bunnicula Books
    The Dragonlance Chronicles, Heroes and Tales
    The Caves of Steel
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
    The Time Machine (HG Wells)
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    The first few of Piers Anthony Xanth Books (Spell for Chameleon, Castle Roogna, Centaur Isle, Crewel Lye, A Golem in the Gears)
    Robinson Crusoe
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (for older teens only, i was kind of a strange teenager…)
    The Choose Your Own Adventure Books (the epitome of junk!)

    and on and on and on…

  • Felix

    I’m a 3rd Grade Teacher and my kids love the Hank The Cow Dog Series!!!  So so funny!  Maybe a great read aloud rather then bookdiscussion.

  • Linda Brown

    Gretchen, I love this ! Thank you for your lovely projects for Happiness:)

  • ginicho

    For Toddlers –
    Happy! by Nancy
    L. Carlson
    I Like Me!  by Nancy L. Carlson


  • Kmh4riley

    Here is an interesting way I found to read children’s lit. I decided I was tired of picture books.  I just couldn’t bear to read Cat in the Hat one more time. So my kids are old enough (4 & 6) to appreciate a longer arch in a story and I picked up Charlotte’s Web and started reading.  The kids loved to hear the story night after night and I was getting to read and share the stories of my youth.  My mother who is the manager of a kid’s section in a book store suggested reading the classics and things they might not choose for themselves later such as Harry Potter.  Leave something for them to discover later was her philosophy.  So far we have read Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Little House on the Prairie, Mary Poppins, Tale of Despereaux and we are now on Peter Pan.  I find I am happier reading to them and they are more interested in what I am reading.

  • Susan

    The True Meaning of Smekday.

  • Kjohnsson56

    I’d like to add for contemporary anything by Wendy Mass or Gordon Korman – Every Soul a Star (5th-8th)/The Things a Brother Knows (8th-HS). Any of Michael Morpugo’s as well – War Horse, Private Peaceful.  Korman can be screamingly funny as well as  ‘deep.’ Good subject.  Thank you. KJ

  • ka. germany

    This is truly amazing philosophical, unsettling book. Very well written and asking, no less, what is worth something? What is the meaning of life? Is there meaning?

  • Nurit

    Hi Gretchen, I’ve always loved the Anne Shirley books by Lucy M Montgomery (“Anne of Green Gables” is the first one). Two other favorites of mine are The Neverending Story (Michael Ande) and The Princess Bride (William Golding). Thanks for spreading the happiness! Nurit

  • mslinch

    Here are a few for you:

    I Capture the Castle, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, Dragonriders of Pern Series, Hill House, James and the Giant Peach, Island of the Blue Dolphins, White Fang

  • Suzanne

    I would like to add Michael Morpurgo to the list. He is a Brittish humanitarian who writes about animals, war and grief mostly in the same book. My favourite is Running Wild but really all of his books are page turners.

  • Allisonroelen

    Some great books come from Bill Bennet – namely “The Book of Virtues…A Treasury of Great Moral Stories”…this is a great reference for the ages – something that parents and children can always come back to – key moral virtues are presented through literature, poetry, mythology – and as Mr. Bennet states in his introduction: ” Moral education the training of the heart and mind toward the good – involves many things.  Aristotle wrote that good habits formed at youth make all the difference…it has been said that there is nothing more influential, more determinant, in a child’s life than the moral power of quiet example.  For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously.  Along with precept, habit and example, there is also the need for moral literacy.  The purpose of this book is to show parents, teachers, students, and children what the virtues look like, what they are in practice, how to recognize them, and how they work.”

  • Barbara Hassing

    Louise Erdrich (Love Medicine et al.) has a  Native American series sort of parallel to Wilder’s “Little House” books. The first is “The Birchbark House”, then “The Game of Silence” and “The Porcupine Year”. Available at http://birchbarkbooks.com/

  • Reynoldskd

    I feel compelled to add what is probably one of the most incredible of all American friendship and integrity books, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.  Most adults would benefit from revisiting Charlotte and Wilbur. 

  • Avid children’s lit reader

    Found many of my old favorites in these comments, such as the Prydain Chronicles.  I am somewhat surprised no one has mentioned the delightful Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud: ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’, ‘The Golem’s Eye’, and ‘Ptolemy’s Gate.’  Everyone in my family enjoyed this series, although it took me awhile to come around.  I wasn’t such a fan early on in the reading, but I persevered and it paid off.  The audiobook version read by Simon Jones is also PURE JOY!  It took Simon Jones to make me realize the Bartimaeus character always has a twinkle in his eye, and a basically good nature. After that, I couldn’t get enough of either the books or the CDs.  By the way, I don’t understand all the fuss about the Golden Compass series.  I tried so hard  to like them, but found them completely wooden and boring.  I even went to see the stage version in London.  Also a TOTAL bore.  We walked out during intermission and went to see the marvelous “History Boys” in another part of the building instead.  Can someone please explain the appeal of these books?

  • editrice

    The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. My then-9 year old daughter and I listened to it on CD while driving to Washington DC to visit the Smithsonian museums and it was absolutely perfect. I think it was a Newberry winner or finalist.

  • mj

    Hello, anything by Lois Lowry, perspective cannot but help give way to happiness.

  • Jill

    Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease(?)

  • Mona E. Pohen

    85 more books at
    (yes, 3 o’s!)

  • Jamie

    I recently stumbled across a fun read – The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai – it’s quick and enjoyable, more so for its references to children’s books than its plot, but worth the time.

  • Xena

    The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.  EXCEPTIONAL books–a series of five.  5th one (The High King) is a Newberyy Award winner and the 2nd one (The Black Cauldron) is a Newberry honor book. 

  • Aon182

    Lyra’s Oxford by Phillip Pullman,
    Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Colon McKenna ( set in famine time Ireland) ,
    Mildred D. Taylor – Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry (and rest of series)
    Helen Forrester Two Pence to Cross the Mersey

  • Loopyloupes

    I think this has grown into a marvelous list.

    I haven’t spotted the following amongst the comments and would definately add them to the many books that have already been listed  (apologies if I’ve duplicated them unwittingly):
    Skallagrigg by William Horwood
    101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith
    What Katie did by Susan Coolidge (and subsequent books)
    The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
    The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson

    I would also recommend The Belgariad series by David Eddings as this series started my brother on his love of reading.

  • Jennifer

     I wanted to let you know about a new book that my 11 year old son checked out from the library last week – Wonder by RJ Palacio.  He couldn’t put it down and then asked me to read it as well.  I couldn’t put it down, either.  Great read.  My husband is reading it now.  I tucked him into bed last night and he asked me “Can we talk about Wonder some more some time?”.  Would definitely suggest reading it, if you haven’t already.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ve heard great things from several people, so it’s on my list.

  • Linda Sherwood

    I have always loved the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace and the Beany Malone books by Lenora Weber

  • Jennifer Robertson

    Have you read “Prep”? – great adoloscent book.

  • Laura Ann

    I just finished the Bartemaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Great series, made me laugh out loud many times.

  • Martin Haworth

    OK, I know it’s not a kids book, but for ‘feelgood’, ‘A Town Like Alice’ is my ‘chicken-soup’ book…

  • Sherilyn

    Reading The Giver now and blown away!

  • Nela

    I was wondering if you ever read any of the books from the British Bagthorpe Saga? I’m pretty sure you’d love them.

  • Angela Chieves

    Aesop Fables, Hans Christian Andersen , and Beatrix Potter, the classics

  • Jackie Rearick

    I also loved Graceling and The Secret Garden. Can’t wait to check out some of these other titles! Thanks for sharing…

  • Donna

    My personal favorite children’s story is My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I found an old copy of this book in my Grandmother’s basement when I was a child and I read and re-read it several times. I read it to my own children and they loved it as well. I purchase reprints of the book for gifts to new parents or young children year after year. To this day, whenever I run across my old, dilapidated copy, I carefully turn the pages and read it again. I credit Elmer Elevator for instilling in me a sense of adventure and resourcefulness to find a way to get through any situation with a sense of humor and whatever supplies I might happen to have on hand.

  • Kim Moon

    Gretchen, you must read the Betsy-Tacy books if you haven’t already! They are a wonderful series written in the 1940s by Maud Hart Lovelace that take place in the early 1900s and is about a girls’ friendship spanning the age of five through their weddings. I read these books as a child and then found an entire world of adult women who also read and were affected by these books. We are a listserv of over 100 that started in 1995 and is still going strong!

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh I love those books.

  • Tania Farghali

    Hello everyone:) this is a longshot but maybe you can help. My dad read me a really cool story in the early 90s and I can’t for the life of me remember the title or author. It was about a boy who somehow became stranded somewhere and found a building that had a half -finished or broken mosaic that he repaired. He also befriended a dolphin and named her Minerva. Can anyone help me out with the title and author of this story? Thank you for any help you can give:)