Portrait of the Artist as a Young Reader

One reason I love children’s/YA lit is because those are books that stay in your heart forever. Even if you read a book that strikes you as an adult, it’s a very different feeling than falling in love with a book as a child. I remember feeling as if I truly owned books when I was young. I assumed that any book I read was new because I had only just stumbled across it. (To my surprise, A Wrinkle in Time didn’t get published in 1995.)

Of course I loved The Story Siren’s list of Top Ten Childhood Faves. I don’t have ten and my choices aren’t necessarily the best of children’s literature, but they’re books I devoured. In no particular order:

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
Two cousins, an evil governess, a boy who lives in the woods, and wolves stalking in the snow? Sign me up. I don’t remember why I picked this out of the library–I didn’t know anything about it beforehand–but I must have checked it out a dozen times after. Sometimes when I’m on a train in winter, I still think of Sylvia going to live with her cousin.

The Farthest-Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks
Banks is probably better known for The Indian in the Cupboard, but I fell in love with the classic fairy tale style. Dakin has three goals: to travel to the Farthest Away Mountain, to meet a gargoyle, and to marry a prince. Her solid determination struck me and I happily journeyed with her.

Witch’s Sister by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Technically, I was obsessed with the whole series, but I figured I’d just list the first book. Naylor has written dozens of amazing books, but the creepiness of the witch series got me. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to reading actual horror novels. Protagonist Lynn is convinced that her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Tuggle, is a witch. And Mrs. Tuggle keeps getting closer to members of Lynn’s family, usually to terrifying results.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
When I found out they were making a movie version, I was incensed. How could they make a movie without consulting me first? The movie was great, too, but I was so protective of the book. Obviously a classic, and I did dramatic reenactments in my room of Sara Crewe’s trials.

The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau by Jacques Cousteau
Technically, I don’t remember reading these (my first memories of them are from when I was about 3), but I loved looking at all the pictures. Porpoises, octopi, sea urchins: how is the ocean so cool? We had four or five of the twenty-one volumes, and I can’t even remember which ones exactly, but I remember opening all of them and sitting in the middle of the collection and enjoying all the ocean wonder. Even though I love fiction, I think it’s great to give kids nonfiction titles as well. They’re so naturally curious about the world, and books are a fantastic way to explore.

What are some of your childhood favorites?

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