Are you ready for the Children's Literature Challenge?

I can't believe our event starts tomorrow!  December got away from me a bit, as I'm sure it did for many of you.  I'm looking forward to kicking off 2013 with some great children's literature.  Amanda at Simpler Pastimes has put up a great post of book recommendations, which I am reprinting here with her permission.  The comments are Amanda's, but I have put my own in on some titles in green italics.    She asks for further recommendations to be added to her comments, so head over and put your two cents in.

Amanda will be hosting a readalong of George MacDonald's wonderful story The Princess and the Goblin.  She also wants you to simply read whatever children's classics you choose, post about them, and link up at a page she will provide at the first of the month (tomorrow!).   Meanwhile, I'll be writing posts about lesser-known children's authors and their works--or just special favorites of mine that I can't resist! 

  1. Tales of Mother Goose – Charles Perrault (France) – A collection of fairy tales even older than those of the more famous Grimm brothers; some are original to Perrault while others are based on folktales or stories from France and Italy. They include some of the most famous fairy tales such as “Sleeping Beauty” and “Little Red Riding Hood,” and were probably originally intended for an adult audience.
  2. Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Germany) – The best known collectors of fairy tales, although their original interest was in a scholarly preservation of oral stories.  For a complete edited collection, go for the Jack Zipes edition.  If you want to read the stories to a young child, Wanda Gag's wonderful "Tales from Grimm" is the right place to start.  But my own favorite is the one I read a zillion times as a kid--the Junior Illustrated Library edition.
  3. The Swiss Family Robinson – Johann David Wyss (Switzerland) – My mom read this to my brother and I when we were little – all I recall of it is that it introduced to me the fascinating idea of tree-top living.  I've never read it at all, but my 9-year-old is reading it right now!
  4. Fairy Tales – Alexander Pushkin (Russia) – As best I can tell, the best-known Russian fairy-tales.  These are lovely.  I have all 6 in one book, and one in a fancy edition illustrated by Bilibin.  Pushkin originally wrote them in rhyming verse, and you will often find them translated into English verse too.  You can also look for Arthur Ransome's "Old Peter's Russian Tales," which is a collection of his favorite stories--they are not exact translations or anything, but retellings from memory.
  5. Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark) – If you only know “The Little Mermaid” from the Disney movie, Andersen’s original will be quite the surprise. And this is only one of the well over 100 stories which he wrote.  I think I'll have to devote a day to HCA.  Since I once lived near Odense, I have many Andersen-themed souvenirs!
  6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll (England) – I don’t know if I’ll ever understand the Alice books, but they are certainly fascinating.
  7. Eight Cousins – Louisa May Alcott (U.S.) – An alternative to the better known Little Women, its sequel is Rose in Bloom.
  8. Black Beauty – Anna Sewell (England) – Probably the best-known horse story ever written, it has been very influential.
  9. Heidi – Johanna Spyri (Switzerland) – One of many hand-me-down books I read when I was little, but all I remember are Heidi, her grandfather, and a goat. Or two.  I read it aloud to my girls once.  It's very very long.  A nice story!
  10. Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi (Italy) – I’ve heard tell that Collodi’s Pinocchio and Disney’s are rather different. True or not, if you visit Collodi’s hometown of Florence, Italy, you can find Pinocchio figurines all over the place.  VERY true.  Collodi's tale is pretty dark.  Recommended!
  11. The Happy Prince and Other Tales – Oscar Wilde (Ireland) – I was surprised a few years back to learn that the short story “The Selfish Giant,” which I remember from childhood, was by none other than Wilde.
  12. The Blue Fairy Book – Andrew Lang (Scotland) – I devoured the Andrew Lang fairy books when I was in fourth and fifth grades; they contain fairy tales from all over the world. This was the first.  I did too!  I collected them all after college.
  13. The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling (England) – I’ve read just enough of this to know that the Disney movie is only a portion of the original. I find chapter 9, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” unforgettable.  I own two copies and have never read it.  Maybe it's time?
  14. Seven Little Australians – Ethel Turner (Australia) – I discovered this title while researching suggestions – it has apparently remained popular for over 100 years.  I read this a couple of years ago!  I liked it overall, but the ending is a real shock.  We name my mom's chickens after literary characters, and one chicken is an Aussie breed so she is named Judy, after this story.  Another popular Australian classic is "The Magic Pudding."
  15. The Reluctant Dragon – Kenneth Grahame (England) – I perhaps have Grahame to blame for my fondness for dragons.  A lovely book, don't miss it!
  16. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum (U.S.) – The first of a fourteen book series. I actually preferred Ozma of Oz when I was little, but the first book is the best introduction to Baum’s Oz.
  17. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Kate Douglas Wiggin (U.S.) – I was surprised by the similarities to the later Anne of Green Gables, but found Rebecca adorable on her own merits. (I read this last year.)
  18. Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie (Scotland) – The play came first, but Barrie adopted his own play into a novel a few years later.
  19. The Railway Children – E. Nesbit (England) – I haven’t read any Nesbit, but have seen her highly recommended.  I was lucky enough to grow up on Nesbit, and I think she is wonderful.  Expect a post from me about her!
  20. A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett (England) - One of my absolute favorites from childhood. I loved Sara’s powers of imagination.
  21. Emily of New Moon – L.M. Montgomery (Canada) – You may know the more famous Anne of Green Gables, but have you tried the Emily books? This is the first in a series of three.  I do love these, and they're especially good for a literary girl--but these are definitely creepier than the Anne stories.
  22. Pollyanna – Eleanor H. Porter (U.S.) – Although I’ve seen the 1960 movie several times, I forgot that it was based on a book until I started researching children’s classics.  I've never read it.  American children's classics are a category I have shamefully neglected.
  23. Winnie-the-Pooh – A.A. Milne (England) – It’s been so long since I’ve read this I have no memory of it. But if we’re to be consistent, I have to say I imagine it differs from the Disney version!  Yep!  Whimsical and fun.
  24. The Adventures of Tintin (various titles, although some are post 1960) – Hergé (Belgium) – Fun adventure stories in comic-book form – the three which were adapted into the 2011 movie are The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s TreasureI grew up on these too.  They are great adventure comics and a favorite in our house.  Another great Euro-comic tradition is the Asterix books!
  25. Little House in the Big Woods  – Laura Ingalls Wilder (U.S.) – This entire series is a long-standing favorite of mine. Little House in the Big Woods is the first, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.
  26. Mary Poppins – P.L. Travers (England) – I’ve never read the Travers series, but I would love to know how this compares to the well-known movie.  Oh!  You should read them!  They are very different.  I love the book Mary Poppins, who is vain, cross, impatient, and always denies the evidence.  I'm planning a post on P. L. Travers.
  27. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien (England) – A long-standing favorite of mine. It just had its 75th birthday, and with part 1 of the movie in theaters, if you don’t know the original, there’s never been a better time to start. (I posted on this recently.)
  28. The Little Prince – Saint-Exupéry (France) – Probably the best-known French title I’ve come across (at least in the U.S.) – I’ve had a copy for years but have yet to read it! A favorite of college students everywhere, right?  I am not a huge fan, but I will admit that I love the bit about the drawing of the elephant.
  29. Five on a Treasure Island – Enid Blyton (England) – An author I’ve heard of but never tried.  Possibly the quintessential author of British children's adventure/friendship books?  She never really became well-known in the US.  We have a few.  Harry Potter owes a lot to Blyton stories!
  30. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren (Sweden) – I’ve seen mixed opinions on this title, but it is probably the best-known Swedish title in the U.S.
  31. The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily – Dino Buzzati (Italy) – I discovered this title while researching the list–it’s only be recently translated into English, but if the author sounds familiar, he’s best known for the grown-up novel The Tartar SteppeI have a copy I had my daughter read, but maybe I should actually read it myself...
  32. Misty of Chincoteague – Marguerite Henry (U.S.) – I was never horse-obsessed, but for some reason I read quite a few horse books. Henry won the Newbery Medal for the later King of the Wind, but this title is the one I remember. (And it did get a Newbery Honor.)  I was very horse-obsessed, and I had most of these.
  33. The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge (England) – I’ve yet to read Goudge, but I’ve seen her highly recommended on blogs.  I love Goudge!  Look for a post soon.
  34. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White (U.S.) – My favorite White, The Trumpet of the Swan, falls outside the date range for the event, but all of his books are wonderful.
  35. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (Ireland) – The first and most famous of the series of seven books. Some advocate a chronological reading of the series (starting with The Magician’s Nephew), but I prefer the order they were originally published. And with its wintery setting, this one is perfect for January!  So it is.  I agree about reading them in the publishing order, too.
  36. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Elizabeth George Speare (U.S.) – My favorite book/author when I was in 5th grade.


  1. I think I'm working through yours posts a bit backwards here! Anyways, I enjoyed reading your comments on the list. I'm especially looking forward to your posts on the authors I haven't read.

  2. Oh my gosh you've got some of my favorites on your list!! I loved Little House in the Big Woods, Charlotte's Web, The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Speare is still one of my favorite authors!), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, A Little Princess, Heidi...OH LOVE IT!! I'm still deciding which books I'm going to read for this event!! It's so hard to choose!


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