To change subjects from travel to books, I’m going to talk a little bit about my favorite children’s books. I’ve been asked to put this list together in the past by friends and coworkers for their nieces and nephews. I’ve decided that I’d put it together here for posterity. These are books I’ve read as a child and have reread as an adult or read as an adult. I’m excluding the ones that are fairly well-known like Alice in Wonderland or the Little Prince. I’m also not discussing the more recently popular like the Hunger Games or Divergent.
1. Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliett
This is a trilogy about kids in Hyde Park who solve mysteries in art and architecture. The books celebrate math, science, architecture, art and literature. There are puzzles and codes in the books for people to solve. The first book deals with a missing Vermeer painting.
2. Order of the Odd Fish, James Kennedy
Jo was found in a basket in the laundry with a note “This is Jo. Please take care of her. But beware. This is a DANGEROUS baby.” It’s a story about finding out who you are. But it has cockroach butlers, a strange order of knights dedicated to useless tasks, and an ancient prophecy.
3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
This is a classic about two kids who run away to live at the Metropolitan museum. They become pleasantly embroiled in a mystery of an Angel sculpture that may or may not be by Michelangelo
4. The Egypt Game, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
This is another classic about young kids who develop a special, secret game about Ancient Egypt. However, their game and lives are threatened when kids in the neighborhood go missing.
5. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
A living boy, named Nobody, is raised by ghosts in a graveyard after his parents are murdered. He negotiates the worlds between the living and the dead.
6. The Wonderful O, James Thurber
A group of pirates on a journey to find treasure find themselves on an island. The head pirate hates the letter O since his mother died in a porthole. He decides to take over the island and bans the letter O completely on the island. So no songs, flamingos, nor houses. Dirges, ravens, and shacks are okay. It’s a charming book about authoritarianism, and words.
7. The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery, Gramae Base
This is a picture book but it’s the most intricately drawn book you’ll ever seen. A rhinoceros invites his animal friends over for a costume party but something goes amiss. It has a mystery to be solved with numerous codes and hints.
8. Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Light in the Attic, Lafcadio: The Lion who Shot Back, by Shel Silverstein
He writes delightful poems about mischief and adventure for kids. His poems talk about ghosts, ghouls, animals and strange children. And he’s the guy who wrote “The Boy Named Sue.”
9. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
This book is about a little girl who is taken in by a foster family in Germany during WWII. It’s narrated by death who describes this girl’s interactions with her foster family and other villagers. It’s an incredibly moving book that brought me to tears.
10. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Sixteen people living in a high-rise find out that they are the heirs of the mysterious Samuel Westing who challenges them to solve his death. Whoever solves the murder gets the entire fortune. However, there are some who would get in the way of that discovery.
11. Sideways stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar
This is the first of three books about a strange school accidentally built 30 stories high instead of horizontal. Adventures ensue with the wacky students and their teacher. There are talking dead rats, three Erics, and no 19th floor.
12. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
This trilogy is about a young orphan named Lydia who lives in a theocratic world where everyone has an animal familiar. She finds out that children are going missing and makes it her mission to find out what is going on. It’s a riveting trilogy of this world. However, it was written as a atheist’s reaction to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. The first book is The Golden Compass.
13. If you are afraid of the dark, remember the Night Rainbow, Cooper Edens
This picture book is probably my favorite book as a kid. It’s got these inventive sentences advising you on how to take less than ideal situations. For instance, my personal favorite is: “If you lose the key, throw away the house.” The illustrations match these whimsical sayings. It’s beautiful, heart-breaking, and probably the only advice anyone ever needs.
I’m always on the look out for more, so please bring on suggestions.