Skip to Content

Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Essential Reading: Children’s Books

There are books that are so near and dear to our hearts growing up that we sometimes can’t fathom it when others haven’t ever experienced them. I’ve noticed this a lot with John, who was never a big reader. But I was completely gobsmacked when my good friend Natalie, who I would consider a big reader, had never read some books that I considered staples in childhood.

In order to help broaden her reading horizons a little bit on what she may have been missing out on, I’ve made a list of 10 books that I would consider essentials for … well … everyone to read. All of these books are aimed at older children and young adults, and I believe that each of these books should be required reading – not necessarily as a child, but definitely at some point in their lives.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle. This is the book that introduced me to scifi and fantasy. It has been won the Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award… but it is also a frequently challenged book. There’s witchcraft and stuff in it, but there’s also the very prominent good vs evil story. While the dialogue is a little dated at times, the themes are just as relevant today as they were when this book was originally published in 1962. View book on LibraryThing
  2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl. Quite frankly this is a classic, and everybody should at least read one Roald Dahl book in their life. I don’t really have a reason why, except for the fact that they are just so gosh-darned good. View book on LibraryThing
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll. I have an absolute obsession with Alice, so it should be no surprise that this book is on here. This is one of the books that I’ve included because of just how much influence it has had on our culture. There are movies, comics, miniseries, spin-off books, games… it’s everywhere. Reading this will help you understand a lot of references to pop culture items you had thought unrelated. View book on LibraryThing
  4. Essential Reading: Children's BooksLittle Women – Louisa May Alcott. When I say Little Women, I mean only Little Women. None of this stuff where Good Wives is also included as this book, where Amy marries Laurie and all that junk. No no no. This is one of the sweetest books that shows the love between a group of four girls who are all coming of age during the American War. View book on LibraryThing
  5. Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie. This is yet another book that has played such a role in our pop culture that everyone knows bits and pieces of the story. It was originally written as a play, and has since become a book, gone back to being a play (or two), a musical, many movies, other books… (Also, have you seen the 2003 Peter Pan movie? Jason Isaacs plays THE BEST Captain Hook.) View book on LibraryThing
  6. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis. So apparently people who read this as adults really see how it’s a Christian allegory. But it’s not like that at all when you read it as a child. It’s just pure magic. (Though if you have a problem with Christ-like heroes in pop culture than you must not have liked The Matrix, The Green Mile, Superman… the list goes on.) View book on LibraryThing
  7. The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper. I didn’t actually read this until I was much older, which I am disappointed about. This series, and this book, would be a great introduction to both fantasy and Arthurian legend. Again, it deals with the battle of good vs evil, which is extremely prominent in older fantasy. Oh, and, don’t judge this book by the movie. View book on LibraryThing
  8. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – ETA Hoffman. This book, written in 1816, is just such a staple of Western culture, especially in the holiday season, with movies/cartoons, the ballet, music… it’s ingrained in our culture. For that reason alone, this book should be required reading, just to get the big picture of why this is such a beloved Christmas story. View book on LibraryThing
  9. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank. This is another book that is frequently challenged, which causes me no end of frustration. This is an extremely important read, because it’s a real-life account of a Jewish girl during WWII. Definitely something we should all read to get an idea of what living through this was like for the Jewish people. Okay, so this is not a chapter book, it’s a non-fiction diary. But I’m including it on this list anyway gosh darn it. View book on LibraryThing
  10. Rilla of Ingleside – L.M. Montgomery. I had a hard time choosing just one of Montgomery’s books for this list, but since this one is my absolute favourite… Published in 1921, this is the coming of age story of Anne’s youngest child, which just happens to take place during WWI. Rilla of Ingleside gives a great perspective of what life was like in rural Canada during this war, and showcases the impact it had on those whose sons, brothers, husbands and friends were sent off to fight. View book on LibraryThing

What do you think?

Which children’s books do you think everyone should read at some point in their life?

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 10:47 pm September 19, 2014.
Category: Bookish Talk

  • Natalie McKay

    … Rilla of Ingleside is the one book from the Anne series i’ve avoided reading as it is the last book. Something in me finds it hard to think about finishing that series.

  • Courtney Wilson

    But it’s the best one in the series!! And then once you’re done this one, you can read all of her other novels! :)

  • Cat

    I have had a couple of people tell me to read The Dark Is Rising and I’d never even heard of it until sometime in the last 4 years. I guess I should get on this… Hmm.

  • Cat

    Annnnd… my library has books 2, 4, and 5. Lovely.

  • Courtney Wilson

    You totally should. The whole series is right up your alley. Just don’t watch the movie. Don’t ever watch the movie.