Return to Oz

Ozma of OzIf I don’t stop quoting Gretchen Rubin every four seconds, she’s going to have to start paying me residuals. But one of the tips from The Happiness Project that really stuck with me was this notion of reading for fun, something I admit I never do much anymore.

Since taking the plunge into the Kindle for iPhone (bless you Kristen for pushing me there), I’ve just finished BossyPants which pretty much makes me want to slice off my arms so I won’t be tempted to try and write again. Trust me, if you’ve ever thought of yourself as a funny writer, Tina Fey will put an end to that delusion in about four seconds.

Now that Thalia’s six, I’ve been looking for a chapter book to read with her. But I keep finding I pick them up and put them down, making me the bad parent who says “we’ll read chapter books together! It will be great!” and gets her all excited, then never follows through.

Shut up Harry Chapin, you with your stupid Cat’s in the Cradle song.

The truth is, I hate most of the ones written today. The writing is average, the jokes are stupid, the stories are forgettable, and I wouldn’t be friends with anyone exhibiting with those traits, let alone spending every night with them. At least boring friends get more interesting when they order Sangria. Books? Not so much.

And yes, I know it’s supposed to be about my girls and what they want to read. I guess I’m just not that benevolent.

That’s when I remembered Gretchen describing how much she loves re-reading children’s literature.

Flash back to the Oz series, only the very best children’s series in the history of all the world. Harry Potter? Please. L Frank Baum created the original magical world in 14 books, complete with talking animals, kind sorceresses, living paper dolls, an evil underworld Nome King, a Great Book of Records that records every event in the world as it happens (et tu, Rowling?), and best of all–a strong female heroine.

This is not the Judy Garland Dorothy with cute braids who breaks into song when she’s happy.

In fact, the slippers are actually silver. And Dorothy is blonde.

(Kansas. Duh.)

As a kid, I devoured the series, and I confessed as much to Nate when we first started dating. As an early Christmas gift (another reason I knew he would be my fella), he bought me three of the series, each reprints from the original with the same early 20th century font, the same gorgeous color illustrations. I couldn’t imagine them any other way.

This week, I knew it was time to pull them out. In fact, I was ridiculously excited doing so. And the only thing keeping Nate from rolling his eyes and making fun of me completely, is the fact that he bought them.

Over the last few nights, Thalia–and Sage to a lesser degree–has eagerly awaited bedtime, so that we can tackle two more chapters of Ozma of Oz. Three if I’m not totally exhausted. I’m seeing in her the same joy that I had as a girl, discovering magic and darkness and threats of bodily peril; and grappling with the brilliant possibility that somehow, an 8 year-old girl from the midwest could find herself adrift in a chicken coop in the ocean during a tremendous storm,  never once worrying that anything bad could come of it.

I have watched as my oldest daughter intently studies the same spectacular rendering of Ozma that is etched into my own memory, asking me to turn back to it every so often, so she can gaze into the eyes of the princess I bet she imagines is her best friend too.

Ozma of Oz illustration

With all due respect to Captain Underpants, I think I’ll take the Oz books right now.

Do you have a favorite childhood book you’d like to read again?


85 thoughts on “Return to Oz”

  1. Little House on the Prairie and the Black Stallion. I was never big on princesses or anything pink. Give me wilderness survival and horses any day.

    And don’t cut off your arms. You write very, very funny indeed.

  2. I started reading Little House on The Prairie with my 7-year-old and it has become my favorite part of the day with her. It was my favorite book series growing up and reading it with her and having her enjoy the story, makes me the happiest mom.

  3. We have read most, if not all of the Roald Dahl books with our kids. They were enthralled! I can’t wait to share the Little House books and the James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small series. I never read the Oz books, have to try them I think.

  4. I read the entirety of the Oz series when I was in college. I have a bit of an obsession for all things Oz. What I love most about them is that the books are written as a result of the children who read them. If you read the letters that children wrote to Frank Baum, you can see he said “you want them to be friends? absolutely!” Its magical and scrumptious. I love the whole thing. Now I want to read them again.

    1. Oh God yes. I love all those letters, and I always started each book by reading the forwards. Don’t you just imagine him sitting in a library surrounded by children in little petticoats and telling them stories? Sigh.

  5. All of the above-mentioned, as well as Charlotte’s Web and later on, Anne of Green Gables. The Edward Eager books are very fun and of course, there’s the Chronicles of Narnia — read them in order published, starting with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, not in chronological or you end up starting with one of the less accessible ones.

    Husband does the bedtime reading, religiously, and he has read all the kids all the Oz books. I’d never read them as a kid, so it was fun to discover them as an adult.

    Don’t p00-poo the Harry Potter series either — she’s just not old enough yet to really enjoy them. My youngest has to read the book (or have had it read to him) before seeing the movie (we’re just that mean). However in the second half of the series, things really darken and if it waits until they are post 10 to read them, that’s fine. But then, we don’t do hugely scary movies with youngsters even if others do (again, so mean). The older two grew up with them and love them dearly. Each time a new one came out, the oldest child would reread the entire series to that point, so he’s got a huge store of HP knowledge.

    There are also excellent current books for read alouds (Clementine is fun), books that encourage children to start reading for themselves aren’t the same as a good read aloud — that is, Captain Underpants’ purpose in life is to make a child pick up and read a book on their own. That’s a necessary subset, but your role in those is to have them endlessly quoted aloud to you!

    1. oh Jen, I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter! My kids loved the first movie but I think it will be another couple of years before they can follow the books.
      Thanks for all these great suggestions.

  6. I also recall you loving Nancy Drew and, yes, the Hardy Boys. Especially since Thalia is into mysteries – although I think her definition of a mystery is more like things which aren’t solved like the Bermuda Triangle and the Yeti. But Nancy Drew, simple as it was (and possibly dated, after all, there were no cell phones, computers or TV’s) was always fun and involving. Ditto the Hardy Boys, which, as a guy, I probably read more of.

  7. How did I ever miss this series as a kid? Sounds like something I would have loved! I will certainly have to find it for my daughter when she’s a bit older. Thanks!

  8. We loved reading the Oz series together, too. Just as magical the second time around!

    Other faves: Little House on the Prairie series, The Great Brain series, Narnia series (although I’ll confess that the language was a lot more pedantic than I remembered, which meant my younger kiddo wasn’t so entranced), and everything by Roald Dahl.

    I miss reading with my kids. They’re both avid readers, now, but I miss the nightly cuddle and what-happens-next with them. 🙂

  9. I’m a huge fan of the Little House books and I loved Milly Molly Mandy (Joyce Lankester Brisley) too – oh, and Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven stories and Mr Pinkwhistle.

  10. Well, my childhood was unfortunately marred by such series as Sweet Valley High and The Babysitter’s Club. Which, of course, I completely loved when I was 10. But as an adult I really have no desire to re-read them, there’s not much that’s redeeming about them. Paul, thanks for reminding me that I also had nearly the entire Nancy Drew series as well, and those are certainly worth a re-read. I think I acquired most of them via garage sales back then, so I wonder if that’s still possble these days. Perhaps the used book store for me.

    It’s funny, as much as I loved to read as a kid, I really can’t think of that many books that I would still have much respect for. Mostly just Nancy Drew (and someone else mentioned Charlotte’s Web, also a classic). I think it’s important for kids to just get interested in reading, it doesn’t matter that much if the books have all that much literary merit. At the end of the day, as long as she’s reading, it’s ok if it’s Sweet Valley High.

    1. My daughter loves the Nancy Drew series. For two years she read every ‘Box Car Children’ book she could get her hands on…which was good. I still enjoy the original ‘Box Car Children’ the best, but hey it kept her reading!
      I’m just hoping she never learns about ‘Flowers in the Attic’ UGH!

  11. I love posts about children’s books. It’s great to get new suggestions and reminders of books I’d forgotten about (The Great Brain! One of my favorites that I had completely forgotten, and now I have an 8-yr-old son who would eat it up!).

    My 6-yr-old daughter has been slow to warm up to chapter books (and I haven’t pushed them, since I have 3 different reading levels going on, which makes bedtime reading AT LEAST an hour as I move from room to the room), but lately, along with Junie B. Jones, she has really taken to the Paddington books. I know half of it (with its old-fashioned British English) goes right over her head, but fuzzy bear doing funny things? She loves it.

  12. We’ve been doing a book club with my daughter starting in second grade and it’s been so much fun! It’s hard to find a time when all the busy moms and kids can meet, but it’s worth the effort, and we’ve been making our way through some wonderful classic kids books, including Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, and Little House on the Prairie. Some newer things are amazing, too, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. For our next meeting my daughter chose The Phantom Tollbooth (one of my all time favorites). I love not just the reading time together, but seeing my kids get excited about sharing books with other people.

    While digging through the bookshelf the other day I came across other books I remember loving, such as The Secret Garden, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. The Ramona books are wonderful, and we just started reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing which is cracking my girls up at bedtime.

  13. I love the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. My grandparents had two of the series, so whenever we’d visit I would eventually disappear and could be found an hour later curled up re-reading their books.

    1. A favorite! I remember reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Farm through my first Mets game. The joke in our family for ages after that was:
      “How long is a baseball game, Liz?”
      “About 9 chapters.”

  14. My Dad read to me and my sisters every night…a few of our favorites
    The Hobbit
    From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    The Westing Game
    Wolves of Willoughby Chase (and following books)
    The Chronicles of Narnia

  15. I loved the Enid Blyton books, all of them, especially the Enchanted Forest series. When it was my nephews turn to read them we were horrified to find they had been “sanitised” for the modern child. Fortunately my mother had kept all my old copies so they now sit on my son’s bookcase eagerly awaiting the day when I can introduce a whole new world to him.

  16. I completely forgot in my earlier comment, James and the Giant Peach! Loved that book as a kid and I think it would be equally good to read as an adult, if not better, reading along with a child.

  17. I’m a huge fan of Diana Wynne Jones. Some of her books are more young adult books but some are for children. All of them are still enjoyable as an adult. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one I remember enjoying as a bedtime chapter book. And Magic for Marigold (by LM Montgomery and I love it more than the Anne books).

  18. Oh, I love talking books. I super-love talking books for girls. In no particular order:

    Little Women — Alcott
    A Little Princess — Burnett
    The Secret Garden — Burnett (for these two, if you can find Tasha Tudor illustrated versions consider it a bonus)
    Betsy-Tacy — Lovelace (the whole series, but the last couple of books are a bit more lovey-dovey)
    The Golden Name Day/The Little Silver House/The Crystal Tree — Lindquist
    A Morgan for Melinda — Doris Gates
    Charlotte’s Web — EB White

    And then there are the series books:

    Everything Beverly Cleary ever wrote (if she wrote on a napkin, I’ll read it to my kids)
    The Black Stallion books
    Ellen Emerson White’s The President’s Daughter series (when they’re older, not really books for the little guys, but one of the best series EVER for girls)
    Madeleine L’Engle (need I say more)
    Carolyn Haywood books (any and all)
    All of Roald Dahl’s books (though Ben’s still to young right now)
    Little House books (ditto the above)

    Some day in the far distant future, I’ll get to read Harry Potter with them, but not now. Sigh. Oh, and Narnia and Lord of the Rings.

    I think that’s it. 🙂

  19. Kate DiCamillo is an author with a variety of books. My daughter LOVES her ‘older’ books (The Tiger Rising, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane), and loves the messages behind the stories. The early chapter books are a lot of fun for kids to read. I enjoyed listening to my daughter read the ‘Mercy Watson’ books to me as she howled with laughter. We are currently reading ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madelene L’Engle. That was one of my all time favorite series and it’s helping my daughter look forward to bedtime (YEA!).

  20. Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – Harriet is such literate, non-“girly” adventurer. I actually attempted to keep a moment-by-moment journal like she did for a period of time when I was a kid. Also loved the Wrinkle In Time Series by Ursula Leguin.

  21. I love the Harry Potter series.

    A Secret Garden and Charlotte’s Web were fun.

    I love Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I can’t wait till my kids are a little older and I can re-live these classics with them. Yes, I’m putting Harry Potter into the classics category.

  22. We just finished the Little House Series, and Girl loved them. They really sparked an interest in reading with her that I think is really exciting. She’s also read A Wrinkle In Time, Where the Red Fern Grows, and next up is The Westing Game. I’ve also just picked her up a new book called ‘Fever’ that looks really good.

    Something else that has really sparked her desire to read is the Kindle app on our iPad. She really digs in and reads with that app. I think the technology aspect appeals to her, and so she picks it up to read more often.

    The Oz series was recently available for download on one of the Ereader retailers for very cheap. I think it may have been B&N.

  23. Oz books! Yes! Did I read them and love them? Do I have a character named Zom Falbu (anagram of L. F. Baum Oz) in my own stories? Yes and yes. I’m also a fan of little Ruth Plumly Thompson, who continued the Oz books after Baum’s death. A ‘how times have changed’ moment for me – In the forward to her book, ‘The Gnome King of Oz’, Ruth urges children to write letters to her and blithely lists her home address: 254 S. Farragut Terrace, West Philadelphia, Penna. May, 1927.

  24. My 19 month old keeps insisting I read her a vintage copy of Little Women before bed that sits on top of her book shelf. Every night I read about four hardship and war filled sentences before she starts screaming for “That’s Not My Dinosaur” or “How Big”. Is it bad that I think— THANK GOD.

    I loved “Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle as a kid.

  25. I’m not going to look at comments right now (although I will come back later and look for new ideas) so forgive me if these are repeats. Anything Ronald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle or Beverly Clearly. Um Bunnicula, Narnia, Secret Garden, The Little Princess, Charlotte’s Web. Mine have loved the Percy Jackson series and of course Harry Potter. Bailey (7) loves the Boxcar children series. My oldest is staring to read books like The Giver and Number the Stars.

    I tend to find that my girls like the older books better. They both hated the Junie B. Jones series. Refused to read some of the others as well. So? I went with classics and now I have two huge readers.

  26. I have re-read some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder collection with my own 6-year-old. I have to say, though, that it was MUCH different through the eyes of a parent. There’s a lot of adults hitting children, a lot of outright racism and a lot of parental decisions that I second-guess now that I have my own kids. It’s good to have the discussion and open my daughter’s eyes to new worlds, but sometimes it’s highly uncomfortable.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out! I also loved the Little House books as a kid, and devoured them all, but when I sat down to read them to my own kids, I found myself uncomfortable with the ‘father always knows best’ messages throughout. I think the kids will need to be a bit older before we pick them up again, and aware that this is a slice of history, not the way things should be…

  27. My daughter and I were just talking about THE BORROWERS! She’s 16 and still remembers, and actually, we were thinking about re-reading it together. 🙂

  28. My boys and I love the Beverly Cleary ‘Ramona’ books, the Mouse and the Motorcycle series, EB White’s books – Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little (both kind of weird though…) and of course Charlotte’s Web; Babe (book waaaay better than movie) is a favorite… as a kid, I loved the Little House books but haven’t re-read them since childhood. Where the Red Fern Grows, but that might have to wait another year or so… and again, in a couple years we’ll read the Narnia series (which my husband loved as a kid more than I did, but we’ll see).

    Thanks for the Oz series recommendation. I hadn’t read them.

    Also have had Peter Pan and the original Winnie the Pooh classics recommended to me.

    Happy reading. 🙂

  29. As Thalia and Sage get older, I think you’ll enjoy another chapter of this “raising readers” – when they start exchanging books with friends and talking about them. And you get to listen as a casual bystander if you’re lucky 🙂

    My teen took it upon herself to “teach all things Hogwarts” to a friend, who had never enjoyed Harry Potter in the past, as prep for the 2 of them going to the midnight premiere. (Too long of a story to explain how that all happened, but it ended up with 2 teens still watching the HP Deathly Hallows 1 on blu-ray as late as 9 minutes before leaving to go to the premiere – funny 🙂

    Now, the two teen readers are voraciously reading the other girl’s interest – my daughter’s quickly reaching the end of the Hunger Games series, while her friend is borrowing book after book of the Potter series. It makes me smile and curious to see what their next obsession might be.

  30. My son is nowhere near chapter book age, but that doesn’t matter to me–I reread a lot of my favorite classics even without him. Especially in times of stress, they’re great to unwind with. Some of my favorites: Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Secret Garden, The Tales of Magic series by Edgar Eager (Half Magic, Magic by the Lake, etc.), and of course Mrs. Piggle Wiggle & pretty much all Roald Dahl. To name a few.

    God I love books.

  31. Another vote for “From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” I mean, come on…kids running away to go live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art? It doesn’t get any better! I was also a huge fan of The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew growing up. We’re expecting our first child in February and I cannot wait until they’re old enough to start reading chapter books to them!

  32. I loved the Little House on the Prairie series, and A Wrinkle in Time. My mom had a huge collection of Nancy Drew books from the 50s, and I cried bitterly when my grandfather gave them away (even though I’d read them all at least twice).

    Of the newer children’s books, I’ve found the Junie B. Jones series to be the most readable for adults–those are the ones *I* ask to read the kids at bedtime, because they’re hilarious!

  33. I haven’t time to read the comments, so forgive any duplication, but I love talking kids’ books!

    When I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my incessantly-noisy 6yo son and looked over to see his eyes wide and mouth agape, I knew we were onto something. (Not big fans of the second one, though.)

    We’ve also loved Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, The Boxcar Children, the Magic Tree House series, Winnie the Pooh and a newer series about a girl called Daisy Dawson.

    As a little girl I LOVED the Little House books, the Ramona series, Trixie Belden (a little old for your girls, yet, I think), Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (oh, how I loved these books!) and The All-of-a-Kind Family.

    Can’t wait to come back later and read everyone’s faves!

  34. I learned to read from my mom reading me the Oz books. She has the entire series (Thompson, etc, after Baum)–and some of them are first or second edition. I can’t wait until my baby is old enough for me to read them to her. I’ve re-read them on and off my entire life. Just reading your post makes me happy to think about them!

  35. A new book that has become one of my favorite books ever is Once Upon A Marigold, by Jean Ferris. It is funny and caring and very creative.

  36. My 7 year old received the complete set of Dahl books for her birthday six months ago and it was maybe the best present she’s ever gotten. Looking forward to starting Little House series next.

  37. This may be a little dense for Thalia now, but I read Hitty Her First Hundred Years to my oldest a couple of years ago and we both loved it. Funny, smart, loveable and clever.

    John read some of The Chronicles of Narnia to her too—though I have yet to read that (I know!)

    We did loads and loads of audio books too—really good for when you’re too tired to read out loud. Trumpet of the Swan read by EB White is amazing.

  38. So many of the books above I devoured as a kid, and nearly as many my six-year old daughter also loves. We have been reading chapter books once a day for about two years now (used to be morning with breakfast, but now that we have a baby, that’s impossible, so now we read at night with Daddy), and it’s the best part of the day. While I love picture books and particularly love well-illustrated books, I can only read “The Runaway Dinner” so many times before I want to claw my eyes out.

    Some modern series that we have really enjoyed (oh, and I DESPISE Junie B. Jones – such a smart ass, and not in a cute or clever way) are: Judy Moody – loads of vocabulary; Ivy and Bean – perfect for readers just coming to chapter books and the first books my daughter wanted to read on her own when her own reading skills got good enough – the girls are quick and have great adventures; and the best – the Penderwick series. The Penderwick girls are smart, talented, love each other…they are such refreshing books. We are nearly finished with book three (three more chapters!), and my husband, myself and my daughter are all loving it. We want more and more Penderwick stories!

  39. Before it became a movie (that I didn’t see) I read Mr Popper’s Penguins to the family I was a nanny for. We all loved it so much.

  40. Anything by Rondald Dahl!!! The Witches… The BFG… All of them… Even if I didn’t have children to read them to in a few years, I’d read them again and again

  41. I have a talented reader for a 6 yr old, and we have been reading chapter books for a year. I suspect we’ll get to the older books soon, but for now we are actually enjoying some of the newer books. We are currently reading, in order, the Magic Tree House books. I love that of the boy/girl siblings, Annie is the more brave and courageous of the two.

    We’ve also enjoyed shorter Nancy Drew books called Nancy Drew Notebooks. They are shorter and not so scary…the girls just always have a mystery to solve…like who is driving their favorite ice cream shop out of business and why. I’d also give high marks the Boxcar Children as well…and to Judy Moody (skip Junie B for the poor grammar and snarky attitude). I wasn’t so fond of the Judy movie this summer, but I have enjoyed the books as much as my daughter. We love that she splashes in puddles, loves slimy toads and has a bandaid collection.

    I hated reading as a child, so I’m just happy that reading makes her happy. I can’t wait to read Harry Potter too…but I will probably go next to Beverly Cleary and Little House books. Have fun reading Oz!

  42. I enjoyed 7 years of mother-daughter book club with my now 14 year-old … now that she’s too cool for something so dorky I miss it (and my one-year doesn’t read yet!) There are three titles that my mother loved, I loved and my daughter loved: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace and Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.

    Just a heads up The Chronicles of Narnia are a thinly veiled Christian allegory. I never realized as a child, but as an non-christian adult I struggled with how to approach those books with my daughter.

  43. I loved reading through these comments because I loved alot of the same books as a child and had completely forgotten about them. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. The Little Prince. Roald Dahl everything. The Oz books. Laura Ingalls Wilder everything. Black Beauty. The Borrowers series. The old Nancy Drew books. (Not those crappy new ones.) The hundred dresses. Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. The Incredible Journey. The Secret Garden. Stuart Little. The Boxcar Children. Treasure Island. Phantom Tollbooth. Pippi Longstocking. Trumpet of the Swan. Cricket in Times Square. Peter Pan. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Edward Eager. The Indian in the Cupboard series. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Beverly Cleary everything. Harriet the Spy. The Black Stallion. Last of the Mohicans. Mary Poppins. Misty of Chincoteague. I’d forgotten about alot of them. It’s been ages since I’ve even set eyes on many of them.

    There is one, though, that I never forgot about. Charlotte’s Web. My daughter’s namesake.

  44. I am another lawyer named Gretchen, so I follow Gretchen Rubin’s suggestions with avid interest 🙂 And like Gretchen Rubin, I too read for pleasure, a lot, and the books that consistently give me the most pleasure are usually children’s literature.

    I echo many of these suggestions, especially the Betsy Tacy series, which is absolutely wonderful and which I have reread many, many times, both as a child and an adult. The first book in the series is about two little girls — Betsy and Tacy — who meet when they are five and become fast friends.

    One I didn’t see recommended is Elizabeth Enright. Her four books about the Melendy children are just lovely and fun, and the first (The Saturdays) is set in New York City in 1941. It’s a treat.

    And another author I loved as a child is Katherine Paterson. Her books range in their complexity and may be too much for your girls right now, but they are beautifully written and very moving.

    Finally, Madeleine L’Engle wrote many wonderful children’s books, including, of course, A Wrinkle in Time. But she also wrote terrific family stories, especially Meet the Austins and its successors. Meet the Austins would, I think, be suitable for girls your age. (My daughter is only 16 months, though, so what do I know?)

  45. I have had the whole series downloaded on my nook for a while and this post inspired me to start reading it last night. So far I’m hooked! Thanks for the reading inspiration.

  46. Oh. My. God….YES! I’m a huge re-reader of my favorite children’s fiction. Not only because I enjoy it myself or because I read it to my own kids…but because I’m a reading teacher by profession. I’m a crack dealer…only with books. “Harriet the Spy”, “Ramona the Pest”, “Charlotte’s Web”. I even love books that were published WAY before my time like the Homer Price series by McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings). “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”. Loved the Little House books so much that we gave our son the middle name of Wilder.

    As for Tina Fey? Yes…I completely understand. That woman could make a trip to get the mail sound hysterical. I could only do that if it happened at Wal-Mart and while there I discovered someone eating a ham sandwich. Otherwise? I’m out of luck.

    (Former public blogger who had to go anonymous so that I wouldn’t get fired.)

  47. One of the great unexpected pleasures of parenting has been discovering wonderful children’s books. I started reading chapter books so early I don’t remember many picture books — I never read Goodnight Moon! Can you believe it? — It’s been a joy to read these books to my children. In fact I’ll still read picture books to my 9-year-old!

    I also sometimes steal my 9yo’s chapter books. They read *great* books in school.

  48. I’m just reading this for the suggestions. My parents didn’t read to me, I just read my own stuff and somehow it seems I skipped from really little kid stuff straight over to Stephen King. At least I don’t remember anything in between except maybe The Secret of Nimh.

  49. Yesterday your daughters, especially the “to a lesser degree” one, retold the story almost line by line. An early childhood specialist would be kvelling if she knew. What a minute. She did! Congratulations for playing it forward.

  50. Just picked up an old copy of My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George at the library. I remember LOVING this book. And of course LOVED Beverly Cleary and Mrs.Piggle Wiggles – I had forgotten about her!

  51. My girls (8 and 4) and I are really enjoying the Little House books right now. We’ve tried a couple times before-seems like the timing’s just right this summer. I remember loving them. The words and stories are so simple; I think they do such a nice job of painting such beautiful pictures. Enjoy oz 🙂

  52. I love this post and all the wonderful suggestions!

    I’m currently addicted to Harry Potter after picking up book 1 “to see if it was age appropriate” for my six year old. It isn’t of course, and now I’m hooked!

    I just read Charlotte’s Web to the boys, and I cried like the little girl I was when I first read the ending. Great books are forever!

  53. I LOVE this discussion! I don’t have anything new to add (Road Dahl, Peter Pan, Boxcar Children – so innocent but my son is enthralled by them and I think girls would like them too, Mouse & the Motorcycle, Mr. Popper’s Penguins), but will definitely write down the suggestions of your wonderful discussants. I never read Wizard of Oz but we listened to a radio play of the book on a road trip. I was intrigued by the ways in which the original was different from the movie, which my kids haven’t seen yet. So, now I definitely want to read it.

  54. I am late to this party but since I didn’t see them in anyone else’s comments yet, I have to add the “shoe books,” by Noel Streatfield. My favorites are “Ballet Shoes” and “Dancing Shoes.” If you’ve seen “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan’s character mentions these books when she overhears a customer in the Fox Books store looking for them. They are set in pre-WWII Britain, and I absolutely loved them as a little girl. Still re-read them every few years even now. (To co-sign other recommendations, other favorites on my shelf include: Anne of GG, Little House, and Secret Garden/A Little Princess.)

    I can’t wait to read these with my now-2.5 yr old daughter and 9-month old son. I also wonder if either of them will go through what my mom called my “death phase” like I did when I got a little older. I LOVED everything by Lurlene McDaniel, and any other book where someone died. For some reason I just really enjoyed having a good cry. I’m glad it didn’t freak my mom out too much and I hope to be similarly tolerant of my own kids!

  55. The childhood book for me which holds the strongest memory, is The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews-Edwards. My mother bought it for me when I was stuck in the hospital in the isolation ward for two weeks when I was only 11 years old. It was a magical story, and it captivated me.
    “It was a crisp, sunny, October afternoon and Benjamin, Thomas and Melinda Potter were visiting the Bramblewood Zoo …”

  56. I love this! My mom always used to read me her favorites. The one I remember the most were anything by Rudyard Kipling, The Boxcar Children, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. These books were always more special to me because they were my mom’s favorites.

    When I was younger, I was obsessed with Agatha Christie books! I loved seeing if I could predict the end. Another all-time favorite was The Giver.

  57. The Babysitters Club. No, it wasn’t particularly well written but I loved them and babysitting made me filthy rich (for a 12 year old anyways).

    I also really liked Jacob Two-Two And The Hooded Fang.

    Also, I’ve been Harry Potter obsessed since I was 12. The books, the movies, everything. I just saw the final movie last Friday, it was the first showing in my hometown. Even though I was getting married the next day. Yep, I have my priorities straight.

    1. I feel ridiculously old thinking that a reader here could have been twelve when Harry Potter came out.

  58. ead the comments and am trying not to repeat, so: The Wayside School books, or Holes, by Louis Sacher, The Lost Years of Merlin series by T.A. Barron, the Doctor Doolittle series by Hugh Lofting. The View From Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. So great.

    Funny note: my aunt gave me a set of four books when I turned 8, Black Beauty, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and Little Women. It turns out, Little Women was the only one that was abridged, and I was twenty-two before I found out about Beth. It was TRAUMATIC. I moped for days.

    1. *Read.

      Ooof. Can’t be bothered to proof my own comment, apparently. Too much juvenile-literature excitement!

  59. OMG! Thanks! I’ve been looking for something to start with my 5 and 1/2 year old. We were doing Chronicles of Narnia, but the third one got a little complicated so we stopped halfway through. And I simply. can’t. read. anymore. magic. treehouse. (gouges out eyes with sticks.)

  60. You’ve gotten so many fabulous suggestions, but I just had to add one more — The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. I remember having this read to me (maybe 8yrs old?) and LOVING it.
    Enjoy your story time!

  61. Yes!! I can’t wait to read the Oz books to my daughter just like my mom read them to me, and I think her mom read to her. I made my daughter a onesie when she was brand new with that very picture of Ozma on it. Love. (My daughter is lucky I didn’t name her Jinjur)

  62. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was a wonderful read! My son loved hearing the Harry Potter books, especially when his dad would read the dialog with an English accent. He also loved The Hobbit, and The Wind in the Willows. Reading a chapter at bedtime took the dread out of bedtime, and helped ease the fear of the dark for all of my kids.

    1. Thanks Susan! L’Engle is definitely ripe for rediscovery now that so many of you have jarred my memories of it.

  63. I loved the Oz books. Why they hadn’t burbled to the surface as read alouds, I don’t know. Thanks for the reminder.

    The Secret Garden was a good read aloud.

    1. I’m also surprised how few people seem to know them. When I think of my childhood, I think of the Baum series.

  64. Ok so I realize that this is an older post but I recently discovered your blog and started going through the archieves. Anyway, I had to comment because my husband comes from a small town in Western, New York called Chittenango. It is the birthplace of L. Frank Baum and people there tend to be bat shit crazy obsessed with that fact. There is a store in town called “all things oz”, they have a yellow brick road etc. Each summer his Cousin runs a weekend called “ozstravaganza” which ( though it pains me to admit) is really cute for kids. There is a parade etc. Just wanted to let you know in case you ever wanted to check it out. LOVE your blog by the way!

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