Children’s books are still a reading option for one and all well into adulthood. One does not outgrow a classic story worth its salt even if the wording is simplified for little ears. Sometimes, that is the best way for a story to reach the heart.
Unfortunately, not all children’s books are discovered by us when we are children. Not all children’s books that should be appreciated at a young age are until we are much older. And not all children’s books are really worth reading at any age.
I’m not a literature professor. But I was a kid once, and knew my taste in books. I thought it would be interesting to do a post on the books I remember loving -and hating- when I was a kid. The books I have listed as loving are titles I feel have been underrated (or at least, I haven’t heard them talked about much) and wanted to bring attention to them. Were my tastes correct? My opinion on some of these stories have changed over time (my commentary is provided with each). Sometimes, there is no right or wrong (just unique) taste.
I loved: …The Kingdom of Kidderminster books, by Christopher A. Lane. Based on the parables of Jesus, good King Leonard and his animal kingdom learn familiar lessons in tales such as King Leonard’s Great Grape Harvest and Nicholas and His Neighbors. The illustrations are rich and super cute. These were also some of the very first “audiobooks” I narrated as a child :). To this day I can’t hear of these parables in a sermon without thinking of Mrs. Beaver or Sir Humphrey.
I disliked: … Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books. I’m not sure why I could never get into them, but I have an idea it was the pictures of scraggly-drawn creatures.
I loved: … The Goose Girl, by the Brothers Grimm. A twist on the Cinderella story, the goose girl uses her creative talents to design a beautiful ball gown made entirely of white downy feathers. This always captured my imagination!
I disliked: …The Princess and the Pea, by Hans Christian Andersen. I believe I now have this enigmatic fairy tale figured out, but as a little girl I was upset with the ending that did not make sense. Could it be it was all about the noble use of discernment?
I loved: … Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey. Long chapters, great vocabulary, fun illustrations! For older readers. My sister and I made a radio drama out of Nothing New Under the Sun. I loved the small town setting with familiar characters in new adventures chapter after chapter.
I disliked: Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson. I tried many times to start and restart this book. I can’t tell you how many times I checked it out of the library. But that old yellow cover just did not appeal to me and I could never get beyond page 2.
I loved: …Incognito Mosquito, by E.A. Hass. Not exactly a classic forevermore, but I’ll reckon maybe you never heard of it. I’d done run out of Encyclopedia Brown books and was hankering for more of the like, when I come across a private insective with a gnat for witty bug jokes in rambling narrative who saves history slime and slime again.
I disliked: …Paddington Bear, by Michael Bond. I wish I could say this was a book I loved, but I required much more action and the marmalade-sucking, rain-dripping bear wasn’t cutting it.
I loved: …Snow White & Rose Red, by the Brothers Grimm. This was one of my favorites from the old Childcraft books. I loved the story of two sisters, a cottage among roses, and of good things coming to those who are kind and loving. I always wondered though- did they fight over marrying the bear prince and who would settle for his brother? Probably not; they were so good, after all. They weren’t like my sister and me.
I disliked: …Diamonds and Toads, by Charles Perrault. Rather an obscure tale overshadowed by the more popular Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Ironically, although I didn’t like this story growing up, I believe I was fascinated with the idea all the same. It isn’t what goes into a person that corrupts them, but what comes out of them (ie, the heart) through their words and actions. But imagining frogs and toads coming out of their mouths made me shudder. Actually, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be rewarded with diamonds and butterflies coming out of mine, either.
I loved: …The Ivan Series, by Myrna Grant. I think these books are almost unheard of among today’s generation, and probably were for mine as well (they were published in the 1960’s). But my grandparents were church librarians at the time and that was how I discovered these gems. Set during the Cold War era in Soviet Russia, the suspense had me on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t get enough of them!
I disliked: …The Pansy books. If you are an Anne of Green Gables fan, you may remember a brief reference to these as books Anne and her friends passed around at school. As a homeschooler, I had access to them as well and did read one called ‘Esther Reid.’ The books are basically moralistic Sunday School tales with great benefit, I’m sure– but I was bored to tears. I could not bring myself to slog my way through another one, though my friend enjoyed them.
I loved: …The King of the Golden River, by John Ruskin. We had this as an oversized storybook when I was a kid. There was something mysterious about this tale and its pictures that captivated me. Perhaps it was partly because it was given to us by an old man with a funny accent and a mysterious past himself.
I disliked: …Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. I can appreciate this story now with a few more years under my belt, but as a kid the utter chaos lost me but good.
I loved: …The Story of the 10 Lepers, found in Luke 17:11-19. I loved the stories of Esther and David and Goliath. But there was something about this story as well, that made me fall in love with the one leper out of ten who had a heart of gratitude for what Jesus had done for him. His simple and sincere thank you made Jesus smile.
I disliked: …The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling. As I said, I was usually much more into romantic stories of kings and queens than I was into half naked boys and mongooses. It was just too different of a culture for me to understand and get interested in at the time.
What stories did you love or hate as a child? Are there any you consider underrated that deserve more attention? Share below!