I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Top 100 Children's Novels*

Every writer I’ve ever met is also an avid reader. Our love of reading books is, I think, the driving force behind our desire to write them. I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. My parents thought I was afraid of the dark because I had to “sleep” with the hall light on until I was in high school. (Don't tell them, but in reality, I just needed light by which to read. Sneaky, right?)

I can still remember in the fourth grade when I discovered Nancy Drew. After begging my parents relentlessly for the next in the series, they would drive me to our local bookstore and give me the five dollar bill I needed to make that book my own. As soon as I returned home, I would slide my new book out of the brown wrapping and run my fingers over the book’s bright yellow spine. I was officially in love with books.

Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time alone. The wonderful written adventures of my literary friends Nancy, and Ramona, and Charlotte, and Laura, and Betsy & Tacy, and Harriet (and so many others!) so captured my imagination they ultimately led me to weaving and writing my own adventures. So, when a friend of mine brought this list to my attention, it was almost like a family reunion! There are books from my childhood that I shared with my boys, and newer books my boys shared with me. From the classics to the controversies, this list contains some brilliant writing. 

It’s the writing that made me want to write.

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950)
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelace (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart (2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)
49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson's Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)

Your turn: How many of the books on this list have you read? In your opinion, were any of your favorite books left off this list? If you could pick only one, which one would you choose? 

~Heidi Larson Geis


  1. For the record, I've read 71/100. My favorites are The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, A Wrinkle in Time, and Betsy-Tacy. I think the Boxcar Children should've had at least one of their books on the list. I loved them!

    If I had to choose ONE, without question it would be Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth...it's the kind of brilliance that makes you wish you'd written it!

  2. What a great list! I"ve read about 30 of them or so. As a child, my favorite authors were Beverly Cleary, Carolyn Keene, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Judy Blume.

    As an adult, I'd have to pick the Harry Potter series as my favorites from that list.

    My boys have many of those top 100 books. We have many of their younger books boxed up, but I should go through them to pull out some of these treasures to save for their kids.

  3. Alas, my books aren't on there except for The Secret Garden. The Last of the Mohicans, The Black Stallion were a couple of my favorites but the book that made a lasting impact on me--Exodus by Leon Uris

  4. I've read 21 of them--but the list doesn't count series! (Not that I'm competitive or anything.) Like I've read all the Anne of Green Gable series and all the Little House on the Prairie series (multiple times).
    I'm in a mother/daughter book club with my 10-year-old and will be referring to this list as we make selections for this year. (Christa was the one who kept saying, "Can we do a book club? Please?!)

  5. I love this--so fun and helpful. That's a list I want to print out and keep, share w/ grandkids, maybe students. I haven't checked off ones I've read yet, but will. Thanks, Heidi.

  6. Fun post, Heidi! I've read about twenty of those books, but I'm with Beth, I've read entire series (Little House, Anne of Green Gables, the sequel to Little Women--Little Men, etc). I also loved reading Trixie Belden mysteries as a girl. :)
    If I had to choose one from this list, I would choose The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (and that series!).
    Thanks, Heidi!

  7. I'm right around 20, but in some cases saw movie & am not sure I read book, too, but think I did--you know how that is?

  8. I think I'm at 52, but counting is NOT my specialty. hehe...lots of favorites on the list, though. And, since my high school was working in a children's library, I skimmed through a lot of the other ones on the list which I never actually read. I'm with you, Heidi - The Phantom Tollbooth is a must-read. And the 1960s - or is it 70s? hmm - movie version, while crazy-trippy, rocks! Fun stuff!

  9. Uh, I meant my high school job...no, my high school was not in a children's library! :)

  10. I used to read the Oz books over and over. I loved them as a kid. The Yearling was on of my favorites, and the Black Stallion, Nancy Drew, though it only cost $1 in my day LOL!

  11. So true! Great books make us want to write! Sometimes I read a book that touches me in a certain way and it just makes me want to WRITE!

  12. For many years of homeschooling I shared my books with others. When a box of books we'd read was returned, my children acted like it was Christmas and they were reunited with old friends, which, in a way, they were. I didn't count but I've read a ton of books on the list. I'm excited that my 8th grader is reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and To Kill a Mockingbird this year. I also loved The Rani Adventure series and all the Ralph Moody books. Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series should definitely be on the list.

  13. Great list! I think I remember (and appreciate) more of these from reading them to my kids! Matilda, My Side of the Mountain...the list is endless!

  14. Lisa~ I have a lot of my books boxed up as well. I plan to go through them and make sure I keep these classics for my grandchildren!

  15. Pat~ I think the reason "your" books aren't on this list may be because they are for a little older readers. I should have probably explained that this list was specifically for "middle grade" readers, or chapter books for readers under the age of 13. Bird specifically excluded "young adult" books. Sorry I was more specific. I love Last of the Mohicans and Black Beauty, but I don't think I'm familiar with Exodus...I will have to check it out!

  16. Beth~

    I felt the EXACT same way about books in a series. I've read all 56 of the original Nancy Drew books, as well as everything by L'Engle, Lewis, Cleary, etc. I think it is awesome that you are doing a book club with your daughter! What a fantastic idea...you should blog about it sometime! I think more moms should do something like that. And I'm SO glad I've given you somewhere to go for suggestions! =)

  17. Since we're doing "For the Record", I didn't read any of these as a child. I was so busy with adventure, I did not read unless I had to. Crazy... I know... But I was raised in a family of non-readers. Who knew I could go anywhere in the world by picking up a book?! Some things never change. Glad this one did!
    Great post Heidi

  18. Dee~ I printed it as well! The friend I mentioned is a children's pastor and since she wants to know what kids are reading, she is collecting all 100 of these books, and hopes to have them all read within six months. We are going to have coffee next weekend to chat about the titles she's read so far. I am excited for her!

  19. Jeanne~

    I LOVE Trixie!! I Initially included her name in that list of my literary friends, but then I wasn't sure anyone would know her so I changed it to Harriet. I don't know about you, but I wanted to have "violet" eyes just like Diana!! Also, Trixie's books were the first time I had heard of a "governess." Ah, the memories!!

  20. P.S. Dee~ I actually have a super strict rule that we have to read books before we see the movies. (With the single exception that I let the boys see the LOTR trilogy but they will be reading them as part of our curriculum this school year.) I just feel like it's important to witness the author's vision for their story before Hollywood's. =)

  21. Melissa~

    Oh, I was about to be SUPER jealous about your high school!! I grew up in a small town in southeast Washington and in high school (and the summer after my freshman year of college) I worked at the same bookstore where I purchased my first Nancy Drew book. It was like working in Heaven! (Actually I think the owner figured if I was going to spend so much time in her store, she'd put me to work!)

    I remember that you and I share a love for the tollbooth. Isn't it just the cleverest book ever? Such great life lessons, such sneaky math/language lessons! I believe it should be required reading!! Do you have a favorite part?

  22. Renelle~

    Great titles! The Yearling had me bawling my eyes out!! Oh, and your $1 ND books are probably worth a LOT more than my $5 version now!!

  23. Faye~

    I have SO been there. Usually those are the books I wish I'd written. Another book on this list that makes me feel that way is Lemony Snicket's The Bad Beginning (as well as the rest of the series.) So clever and fun, but like a lot of books, not for everyone. My oldest son understood the humor, and that the books were COMPLETELY fictional (including the author!) Meanwhile, my youngest son didn't "get" them and felt SO bad for the kids (their parents die at the very beginning of the 1st book) that he couldn't bring himself to finish reading it.

  24. Roxanne~

    I am loving The Hunger Games trilogy!! Like I posted to Pat, there was an age restriction on the poll that I shoul've shared, and I know the HG books are considered YA. I think there is a YA list, as well as a top 100 books for preschoolers (like The Hungry Caterpillar & Good Night Moon) so maybe those will be my September/October blogs!!

    It's SO good to know that even kids in big families considered books to be friends! I think I'm relieved to find out it's not a psychotic response to the isolation of being an only child, lol!! =)

  25. Jennie~

    The list IS endless!! Especially when you factor all the books in a series, or the entire catalog of books by amazing/prolific authors like Beverly Cleary or Roald Dahl. This list makes me want to go curl up and read my 50 or so favorites...and even though I still own a lot of these, I'm so glad my friend is planning to purchase them all!!

    This list has reminded me of the magic of fiction and the imagination in the readers of this age! It kind of makes me want to write books for them!!

  26. Reebs!!!

    I can't believe you haven't read any of these!! Okay, well maybe I can. It makes sense if you were as outdoorsy and crazy-adventurous as you are now, you didn't NEED a book to "take you away." I was not athletic, I didn't have a lot of friends (or siblings), and I spent a lot of time doing schoolwork. So curling up under a blanket, opening a book, and being transported into a completely different world was SO attractive to me.

    You know, it's never too late to enjoy some of the adventures on this list...