Thursday, December 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (posted on a Thursday): Childhood Favorites

Image from The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, which is saving my blogging hide at this point in the semester.  If it wasn't for their engaging and quick blogging topics, "Matched" would be a very quiet place, at least until mid-December when exams are over, grading is done, and all of my students have fled the campus.  Then, in the midst of all of my holiday preparations and parties, I might find time to write.  But until that blessed day, I can always rely on The Broke and the Bookish to give me ideas for quick and interesting recommendations/reviews - although I may also be following Susan Byrum Rountree's advice at writemuch and blogging on her question a day for the month of December.  I am already behind, but I promise I have been pondering my answer to her query, "What new did you do this year to challenge yourself?," and it's a doozie.  But without further are the top ten books/series that carried me through my childhood:

1. Digby and Kate by Barbara Baker - This collection of short stories about best friends yet opposite species dog, Digby, and cat, Kate, has earned its number one spot on my list.  It was my favorite as a child.  I read it over and over again, and I still pull it out from time to time when I need to lose myself in the simplicity of childhood where a warm bowl of tomato soup and a cold glass of milk were all you needed.

2. The BabySitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin - I was obsessed with this series even though I was not a serial babysitter.  I loved the close-knit friendship the girls shared, their crushes, and the exoticism, to my pre-teen eyes, of fashionable Claudia and California born and bred Dawn.  My favorite book of the series (and the one I still own despite its tattered edges) has to be the Secret Santa novelty edition.  It combines the characters I had grown to love with one of my favorite literary tropes - the interactive letter (which I have also blogged about here).  The story of this Christmas is told through letters and Christmas cards the girls share, and the reader gets to actually open each letter and card, all hand-written in the girls' respective handwriting.

3. The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner - I was introduced to this series in the third grade when my teacher, Ms. James, read us the first book in the series.  I was hooked.  Although each book centered around a mystery the children had to solve, I was most interested in the development of each character and the evolution of their boxcar hideaway.  The first book remains my favorite because I am forcefully reminded every time I read it of a child's need to inhabit and lay claim to his/her own space.  I credit The Boxcar Children for the inspiration for my own (brief) foray into the genre of mystery, the product of which my grandfather still has copies of today.  Written in the fourth grade, the story centers around the mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Cornflower's diamond.

4. Taffy of Torpedo Junction by Nell Wise Wechter - Another excellent mystery, this one set by the sea, introduced to me by my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Waters.  I loved Taffy's tenacity; she is a gutsy heroine, and she certainly sparked an interest in strong female characters for me.  She was everything I wasn't as a little girl, bold and adventurous.  Bonus points: this book is set in North Carolina (where I am from) and has ties to the Holocaust, which I am always interested in reading about.

5. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - Like Taffy, Laura, the heroine of the Little House on the Prairie series, was a strong female presence in my reading life.  Although Laura is a more subdued character than Taffy, she is tough in her own way.  She lives in the middle of nowhere with panthers lingering outsider her door!  My favorite scene from this book is the part where Laura receives her homemade doll for Christmas - the warmth and simplicity of the family's Christmas puts the out-of-control consumerism of our modern day Christmas to shame.  Even as a child, I reveled in the true holiday spirit emanating from the page.

6. Little Witch's Big Night by Deborah Hautzig - My maternal grandmother lives around the corner from a library.  My mother taught school, and as a child, I often spent afternoons at my grandmother's house and, of course, at the nearby library.  I loved the silliness and magic of The Little Witch series.  Little Witch is the youngest of her coven, and even though I am the oldest of three, I could relate to her desire for her talents to be taken seriously.

7. Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry G. Allred, Jr. - A fantastic book about the dangers of the substitute teacher, Miss Nelson is Missing! describes a classroom gone wild in the absence of their teacher, Miss Nelson.  The class is quickly put back in order, though, by the terrifying substitute teacher, who some students think have kidnapped their beloved instructor.  The book has a surprising twist when the reader discovers the stern substitute and sweet Miss Nelson may be one and the same.  This book reminds me of one of my favorite teachers, Miss Wilson.  Miss Wilson followed my class from first to second grade, and one Halloween, she dressed up as a witch and came to class as her alter ego.  While some students were not fooled, it wasn't until many years later that I realized that the witch from that Halloween and Miss Wilson were the same person!

8. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - Caddie was another girl in my reading life that inspired my adventurous side.  My play time during the fourth grade year I read Caddie Woodlawn evolved into a recreation of Caddie's "live-off-the-land" philosophy.  My best friend at the time, Coley, and I would hunt and gather and write letters to each other, pretending we lived in a much earlier era where this was the only way of life.  Caddie's open minded approach to people and to life is one most eleven-year olds would do good to emulate.

9. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White - One of the most timeless and important pieces of fiction about the power of friendship.  I read this book so much as a child that the cover is literally in pieces, but I cannot bear to part with it for a newer, brighter copy.  My copy carries the memories and emotions created during each new reading.

10. Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. - My sisters and I adored this book as children and read it over and over again.  It is a colorful and fun look at the alphabet sharing the premise of "no more monkeys jumping on the bed."  The lowercase letters in the alphabet all decide to climb a coconut tree, with disastrous results.

*Honorable Mentions: These are books that I read more during my "pre-teen" years then as a child, but they are books that shape my memories of those times and that I returned to over and over again when I had nothing new to read.

Ashleigh's Diary (Thoroughbred Series) by Joanna Campbell
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume
Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal
Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney
It Happened to Nancy Anonymous
The Diary of Anne Frank


  1. Of course I agree with you on alllll of these. I would add "The lion the witch and the wardrobe" , Bernstein Bears (particularly the one about the babysitter that looked mean but turned out to be awesome), June B. Jones and the R.L. Stine "Goosebumps" (which I know you are no fan of hahaha). As I come up with more inspirations I will let you know.... It happened the Nancy ; traumatized me I believe and set me towards my cynical lifestyle hahaha

  2. hahahaa I remember our many conversations about "It Happened to Nancy" and its effect on your outlook on relationships.

    Per our phone conversation, I would like to add:
    The Little Critter Series
    The Monster at the End of this Book (featuring Sesame Street's Grover)
    The Little Miss and Mr. series, which hung in thick, smeared plastic bags in our school library with cassette tape pairings

    Ahhh...the good ole' days

  3. This is great! May I repost this to our facebook page for "Caddie Woodlawn the Musical"?