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20 Children’s Books That You Must Re-Read

October 11, 2013

I have always believed deeply in the power of children’s books.

In You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen (Meg Ryan) says: “When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” Straight from the pen of Nora Ephron, the bitch is right. All of the books that I read as a kid live somewhere inside of me and inform who I am. It’s a special kind of magic.

The books that made you who you are are worth re-reading now. Here are 20 to get you started.

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1. Tuck Everlasting

By Natalie Babbitt

I have to start this list with Tuck Everlasting, I just have to. I read this book every August and force my friends to read it too. It’s a beautiful ode to change and the life cycle; intricate ideas written delicately for a child. Read this again and weep from the beauty.

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2. The Giver

By Lois Lowry

The Giver is a total classic. I was home sick from school one day when I discovered this book in my sister’s backpack, and I read it all in one sitting. Like Tuck Everlasting, The Giver presents mature, 1984-esque ideas simply and clearly.

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3. From the Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler

By E. L. Konigsburg

Every child in the world wants to have a sleepover in a museum. BECAUSE IT WOULD BE THE BEST. This book is so good, my god. It’s just so good.

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4. A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L’Engle

“Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.” 

Thus begins an epic, magical adventure through time and space. I was never that into science fiction-y stuff as a kid (or as an adult, sorry nerds), but I was way into this book.

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5. Sideways Stories from the Wayside School

By Louis Sachar

I was a real weirdo, so I loved this book more than anything. Cause it’s suuper weird. The Wayside School was supposed to be built as one story, with thirty classrooms all on the same level. But the builder messed up and built it 30 stories high! As a result, everything that happens in there is a hilarious weird adventure.

I read this one million times.

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6. Matilda

By Roald Dahl

Obviously and of course. A book in which a little girl escapes her less-than-ideal reality by having magical powers? Um yes. Yes. Yes.

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7. Stuart Little

By E.B. White

A tiny mouse living in New York City who goes on adventures! Oh man, it’s great. The movie sucked, I think. The book is where it’s at.

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8. Where the Sidewalk Ends

By Shel Silverstein

Not a novel like the rest of this list, but rather a book of poetry. A true story about me is that I used to sit on top of the fridge and make my family listen while I read aloud from this book. I called it “Jana’s Poetry Corner.” I was not kissed until age 17.

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9. Holes

By Louis Sachar

This is a distressing book with an excellent protagonist. I remember feeling very, very invested and involved in Stanley’s plight at Camp Green Lake. I remember feeling some sort of pride when I’d finished the book, as if I were Stanley, myself.

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10. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

By Avi

An adventure on the sea! Another great protagonist swept up in a tangled plot! Written in Charlotte’s voice, this is one of those books that makes a kid feel powerful.

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11. The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

Despite having what I later learned was a heavy christian subtext, this book and the books that follow it are great. After reading this one, I wrote a story called “The Elevator” in which some kids go into an elevator which takes them to a magical, snow-covered world. It was straight plagiarism, and my parents loved it.

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12. Hatchet

By Gary Paulson

A teenage survival tale. Bangin.

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13. The Face on the Milk Carton

By Caroline B. Cooney

This book is messed up, true, but I read it a thousand times. Janie just wants an exciting life, but then she gets one when she figures out that her parents aren’t her parents and she was kidnapped as a little kid. Her ensuing investigation is fascinating. (Bonus: her boyfriend, Reeve, is super hot in my mind).

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14. Redwall

By Brian Jacques

I must be honest and say that I did not read this book and never really wanted to. But I know that people love this book. It’s about anthropomorphic animals.

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15. Number the Stars

By Lois Lowry

Everyone’s favorite holocaust themed children’s book. It’s really good. In this same category, though, I also recommend the less-famous “The Upstairs Room,” by Johanna Reiss, about Jewish girls who are hidden in an upstairs room. I loved that one.

Also obviously The Diary of Anne Frank, but you knew that one.

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16. Nancy Drew books

By Caroline Keene

Nancy Drew books are a cartoon in my mind, but they’re great. Start with “The Secret of the Old Clock.” Nancy is a real badass.

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17. Pippi Longstocking

By Astrid Lindgren

Pippi was a girl hero: she didn’t go to school, her braids stuck out, and she had a best friend who was a monkey (Mr. Nilsson). She also had a horse that lived on her porch and an entire suitcase full of gold coins. Her best friends, Annika and Tommy, thought she was nuts. It was all great.

Pippi is also an excellent Halloween costume, which I have used twice.

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18. The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer

Horrible confession: I have not read this book. But everyone in the world has told me that it’s amazing and that it changed their lives. Dear parents, why didn’t you expose me to this??

From what I can gather, the main character (Milo) goes to a magic world via a phantom tollbooth. Sounds solid.

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18. The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer

Horrible confession: I have not read this book. But everyone in the world has told me that it’s amazing and that it changed their lives. Dear parents, why didn’t you expose me to this??

From what I can gather, the main character (Milo) goes to a magic world via a phantom tollbooth. Sounds solid.

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20. The Borrowers

By Mary Norton

Tiny people! I have always kind of wanted to be a Borrower.

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