As a kid, I was always reading. I remember going to the library with my mom and coming home with an armful of books stacked up to my chin. I did normal kid things, like watching TV and playing video games, but I devoted the most time to reading.
Here are some of the books I enjoyed reading over and over again in elementary and middle school. It has been over a decade since I read some of them, so I’m a little vague on the details, but I remember reading these books repeatedly.
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman
In second grade I decided I wanted to be a meteorologist when I grew up (which didn’t happen, but that’s a story for another day). I was fascinated by severe weather and this book was right up my alley. Night of the Twisters tells the story of Dan, who is home alone with his baby brother when a tornado barrels through. The action is all up front, and he spends the rest of the book trying to find his mother and friends in the severely damaged town. I was old enough to think about how terrifying this would be, and it instilled a sense of deep respect and fear of the forces of nature in 8-year-old me.
The Jewel Kingdom Series by Jahnna N. Malcolm
This young reader fantasy series is one of the first I remember becoming obsessed with. Four princesses live in four different kingdoms, and each is associated with a different jewel/power. I remember the last book in the series came with a special charm bracelet, and I wore the crap out of that thing!
Various American Girl series by various authors
I was the proud owner of a few American Girl dolls and I was an avid reader of the books as well. My favorite doll and character was Molly, who grew up during World War II. While age-appropriate, the books introduced difficult topics like war, poverty, and class differences that appear in American history. I tried to look for these books online, but they, like my American Girl dolls, have been discontinued! (Call me old-fashioned, but the “vintage” covers look so much better than the modern ones.)
Other books relating to nature were these two trilogies. Island tells the story of a group of kids who becomes stranded on an island after a storm capsizes their boat. In the Everest series, a group of young, elite climbers attempts to climb the world’s tallest mountain. In both series, there is danger, desperation and death. I read these page-turners over and over again.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Throughout this series, the nefarious Count Olaf hatches plans to steal the fortune of the Baudelaire orphans. However, as the series progresses, things become more complex and sinister. What is VFD? Who started the fire that killed the Baudelaire parents? The series held my attention as I got older and I still have them on my book shelf. Snicket’s writing breaks off into humorous asides and tangents and I learned quite a few fancy vocab words from the books (for example, “a tenebrous hue”).
Spellfall by Katherine Roberts
I fell in love with this book, and I think it opened the door to many other fantasy books. After finding a spell, a girl named Natalie is whisked into a magical, mysterious world. She soon finds that this world is in trouble and she must race to save it.
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Harry Potter is my shit, but it wasn’t always that way. I picked up Sorcerer’s Stone in the fourth grade but thought the first chapter was really boring, so I put it back down. (That’s my one regret in life.) Luckily, I gave it a chance in fifth grade and the rest is history. I’ve read the series countless times…so much that some of my copies are starting to fall apart. I truly feel like I grew up with Harry Potter (like everyone else) and the series will remain in my heart forever.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
A boy genius kidnaps a fairy police captain and demands a ransom; thrilling adventure ensues. The memorable characters and seamless blending of reality, fantasy, action, and science fiction make this book (and the books that follow) lots of fun.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda doesn’t fit in with her family, so she escapes with books, knowledge, and school when she’s not playing pranks. Turns out, she has incredible telekinetic powers, which she uses to defeat the evil school principal Ms. Trunchbull. This is a classic book that all book lovers should read, I think. For a few weeks after reading this book in second grade, I was convinced I, like Matilda, had mind control powers. Alas, they still haven’t revealed themselves.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
An ordinary girl finds out she’s the princess of a small European country and hilarity ensues. (Full disclosure: I spent about 15 minutes looking for the country of Genovia on my globe.) Mia Thermopolis is an awkward freshman and awkward things happen to her, but she lives in New York City and was in high school, so I always thought that was super cool. A “coming of age” tale with a princess twist.
Lionness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Alanna wants to become a knight, so she chops off her hair, binds her breasts and kicks butt. These books were recommended to me by my neighbor, who was about 5 or 6 years older than me, with the caveat “your mom should read these first to make sure they’re appropriate.” Well, my mom was taking too long to read them, so I sneaked them out of her room and read them anyway. There were definitely some blush-worthy moments, but nothing a determined young reader couldn’t handle. This series introduced challenging gender norms before I even knew what gender norms really were, and I was a faithful Tamora Pierce reader for years after reading this series.
What books did you like as a kid?