What's your favorite children's book?

What's your favorite children's book?

This is a companion post to the Nancy Drew column in Tuesday's (Feb. 4) News-Gazette.

As fun as they are, Nancy Drew’s adventures don’t necessarily stack up as great literature.

Other enduring children's books offer more heft, and if you’re looking for advice Champaign’s librarians have put together a list called "110 Books for Every Child."

Their original list of 100 books was developed in 1999 to celebrate the centennial of the children’s department, said children’s librarian Mike Blog PhotoRogalla. It was updated, and expanded by 10, for the 110th anniversary in 2009. The list is geared toward fourth- and fifth-graders.

You can peruse some of the titles in a permanent display near the children’s desk, alongside the section for new books. The list is also available on the library’s website, with a printer-friendly PDF version, and includes a brief description of each book.

“It’s a good place to start,” Rogalla says.

On the list are titles from long ago that remain popular – "Little Women," "Old Yeller," "Treasure Island," "Swiss Family Robinson" -- as well as newer entries like "The Lightning Thief" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

It includes science fiction like "A Wrinkle in Time" and "The Giver." Fun fantasy like "Matilda" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Mystery series like "The Boxcar Children." Animal stories like "Misty of Chincoteague and "The Black Stallion." Social commentary like "Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry."

There's also a poetry section, including “ A Light in the Attic,” by Shel Silverstein.

"We wanted to have a good selection for families, so they could find something that speaks to them," says librarian Kristin Hungerford.

“You’ll be well-read if you read off of this. You’ll be incredibly well-read if you read all of them,” Rogalla says.

What makes a children's book resonate with children for a century or more? We asked the experts at the library for their thoughts -- and their favorites:

Kristin Hungerford:

"Classics stand the test of time because their themes contain essential human truths. Children’s classics must also continue to appeal to adults as well as children. They have powerful themes, but also must be fun to read!"

Among her favorites: "The 'Little House' books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. That was one series my mom was excited about when I found it at school. My grandma brought the series down to our house -- they were the ones she read aloud to all her kids. They're great family books."

"And 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' because of the messages you get, coupled with the candy factory, the creativity of Willie Wonka and how anything was possible in his factory. It really supports kids’ imaginations. An old-fashioned rags-to-riches story."

Mike Rogalla:

"If the book is part of a series, it is the reassurance that the second, third, tenth or hundredth title in the series will deliver the enjoyment experienced when the first story was read. In general, a detailed setting or well-crafted fantasy world, characters with which a child can identify, a plot that drives one forward from chapter to chapter, and skilled writing derived from the author’s hard work in preparing text focused on a child’s interaction with events.

"I have fond memories of one of my elementary school teachers reading my class the Pippi Longstocking books.  I so much wanted the independence found in those stories."

Molly MacRae, former manager of an independent bookstore in Tennessee:

"When I was a kid, I loved E.B. White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Dr. Seuss. . .

"My boys also loved White, Wilder, and Seuss. They also had the joy of discovering Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Brian Jacques and his "Redwall" series. Jacques writes about a pseudo-medieval land populated by good and wicked creatures – mice, moles, otters, badgers, rats, stoats and cats. They are heroic, swashbuckling tales with terrific descriptions of feasts and battles. . .

"One of my favorite memories of selling books, though, is of a little girl coming into the shop, finding "Charlotte’s Web" on the shelf, picking it up and saying with utter reverence 'Oh, this is my favorite book in the world.' I know exactly how she feels. I love seeing books I loved being picked up year after year and treasured."


Do you have fond memories of a favorite book or series that you read as a child? Tell us about it below and you'll be entered in a drawing for a free book!


Julie Wurth blogs about families and kids and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below or contact her at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or twitter.com/jawurth.

Photo: Johnny Depp starred as Willy Wonka in the 2005 Tim Burton film, 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' Photo courtesy Warner Bros.


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rsp wrote on February 05, 2013 at 6:02 am

I was always reading as a kid. I spent a lot of time at the library and checked out stacks of books at a time. I can't even begin to remember what I read. My strategy was to pick a page, read it, and if it was interesting and well written I would check it out. I averaged ten books every two weeks. I was really interested in biographies of Helen Keller. I had read all of those by the time I was 12. Pippi Longstocking was a lot of fun. 

Julie Wurth wrote on February 05, 2013 at 9:02 am
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Wow, that's a pretty good clip! I'm thinking you probably made a serious dent in the library's '110' list. I'm sorry to say I never read Pippi Longstocking.

Meg Dickinson wrote on February 05, 2013 at 11:02 am
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My dad read to my sister and me every night when we were little, including the whole Little House series, and lots of others. I remember realizing even then that he enjoyed Pippi Longstocking as much as we did.

Julie Wurth wrote on February 05, 2013 at 12:02 pm
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I am reading "Little House" to my daughter now. I hope she loves it like I did - not much action yet. :)

kspowell@gmail.com wrote on February 05, 2013 at 8:02 am

It's very difficult to pin down my favorites, but these come to mind first: Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; anything by Beverly Cleary; and anything by Roald Dahl, but especially his autobiography, Boy.  I have fond memories of shopping for books at Pages for All Ages when it was at the Old Farm Shops.  Ah, the smell of new books!  I miss Pages.

Julie Wurth wrote on February 05, 2013 at 9:02 am
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I miss Pages, too! Thanks for the comment.

Christine des Garennes wrote on February 05, 2013 at 10:02 am

Island of the Blue Dolphins was a favorite of mine growing up. Just re-read it last summer and still love that tale of the girl left behind on the Pacific island after her tribe leaves.

Julie Wurth wrote on February 05, 2013 at 12:02 pm
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I read that recently when it was assigned in my son's class - good story about a girl's resourcefulness. I'm pretty sure I would not have survived.

rsp wrote on February 06, 2013 at 5:02 am

It finally came to me, nobody mentioned the Bobbsey Twins. I think they were the first serialized books I read. They were about 10 cents each at a garage sale. So that would be about 45 years ago...I may still have them somewhere.  

Jodi Heckel wrote on February 06, 2013 at 9:02 am
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Does anyone remember the Trixie Belden mystery series? That's another one I loved when I was a kid.

urbana1234 wrote on February 06, 2013 at 9:02 am

I grew up in the UK and liked the Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Lots of adventure and the group had a dog called Timmy, it was adapted into a TV series as well.

Julie Wurth wrote on February 06, 2013 at 11:02 am
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I'm not familiar with that series - wonder if it's still available? Thanks for the comment!


urbana1234 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 10:02 am

There were 21 books in the series. I was sure I saw it at Champaign Library, think I will request a purchase. :) The television series is quite good as well, really takes you away. It can be purchased online but will only work if your DVD player can play Region 2 DVDs (European).

jffdougan wrote on February 06, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I read voraciously (still do), but the favorite from being a kid is probably still the Phantom Tollbooth, if only because I love the way you get more out of it as you get older. Scads of mystery series were close behind - neither Encyclopedia Brown nor The Three Investigators has been mentioned yet. By the time I was in middle school, I was reading a lot of things that are generally shelved in the grown-up sections of bookstores, so not much after that qualifies.

Julie Wurth wrote on February 06, 2013 at 2:02 pm
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I loved the Phantom Tollbooth - I think I'll get it for my daughter (so I can re-read it). Thanks!

rsp wrote on February 06, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Printed the list, next I'm going to see which ones have study guides. I may even write book reports. Those were fun in fifth grade in Mrs. Ziff's class. I may be taking notes on Winnie the Pooh on the bus. <smh>

Sandy wrote on February 07, 2013 at 1:02 am

My all-time favorites were Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, but I've read (and enjoyed) an amazing number of books in my life.  Other favorites include My Side of the Mountain and Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Little Women. I loved Nancy Drew (the blue cloth edition, please; no updates for me),  The Bobbsey Twins (its charm is its period detail, so no updates here either), and The Borrowers.  Jean Little's books Mine for Keeps and Spring Begins in March are still favorites, and Christy and Mrs. Mike were the first romance novels I ever read (and loved). My mother introduced me to poetry through an anthology (still sold on Amazon as The Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry), and my kids can now recite the Tale of Custard the Dragon along with me.  I didn't care for stories with talking animals and dislike most fantasy even now, but I happily read everything else. I still do.

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 07, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I started with the obvious - the Golden Books. My favorite was "The Tawny, Scrawny Lion," which I love til this day. I also loved "The Pokey Little Puppy." I read adult books early on (like from age 8 or so), but as a preteen I did LOVE "Hatchet."

bluegrass wrote on February 07, 2013 at 3:02 pm

The Pokey Little Puppy was my favorite Golden Book, I'll admit it.  

Where the Wild Things Are, Ferdinand, My Brother Sam is Dead, Where the Red Fern Grows, Sounder, White Fang

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes, and the Brothers Grimm stories.  Later, it was Horatio Alger books.