There were SO many books I adored as a kid. My reading game was never higher than when I was aged 9-12, because back then I actually had the time to read and it was really only school that got in my way. But here are the top five children’s series/books that come to mind. I tried to stick to books that I don’t see often on these lists.
The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix
Genre: Fantasy, middle-grade
I’ve written about this series before, but I just can’t stress how much I adored these as a kid and still do today. And almost no one has ever heard of them. The Seventh Tower is my Harry Potter. I didn’t read Harry Potter until much later in life, and so have little to no nostalgia surrounding them, other than a vague frustration at the obsession everyone else has with them. But then I think of this series and I completely understand the nostalgia induced slobbering. Because that is exactly how I am with this series.
I think the thing that I love the most about Garth Nix is that he does not write for children. I mean, he does, but he doesn’t talk down to them. He presents a world in which consequences are real, in which evil is real, but it is also a world of wonder, imagination, and a place where good does conquer evil. Nix is a master of atmosphere and his world of shadow and light have enchanted me since I first discovered it when I was ten years old. I wish more people read this series, because I think it is phenomenal and far too under recognized.
Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Historical fiction, middle-grade
What little girl growing up in the United States did not want to be Laura Ingalls? Wilder’s story of pioneer America has enchanted girls for generations and I was completely within its thrall. These books have everything: a loving family, adventure, adversity, and the triumph of a strong woman living in a man’s world. It taught me not only to love adventure, but that women were just as strong and intelligent as men.
Dear America Series
Genre: Historical fiction, middle-grade
This too, was a series that taught me not only the importance of women in American history, but also of their resilience. These girls faced situations I could never dream of–war, arranged marriage at 14, death, racism, sexism, plague, starvation, etc. But they all came through these difficulties stronger than before and often found happiness in spite of them.
My top picks from the series are A Coal Miner’s Bride, A Journey to the New World, West to a Land of Plenty, The Great Railroad Race, Voyage on the Great Titanic, My Secret War, and When Christmas Comes Again.
My Daniel by Pam Conrad
Genre: Historical fiction
An old woman accompanying her grandchildren to a Natural History Museum is struck with memories of her beloved brother and the frenzied hunt for dinosaur bones in Nebraska before the turn of the century. Brimming with history and humanity, My Daniel is a book that has stayed with me for more than fifteen years after I first read it as an impressionable 3rd grader. This book is a riveting and heartfelt story of a girl and the love she has for her brother, as well as the greed that can tear the innocence of childhood apart.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond has everything I could ever want in a book when I was a kid. The coming of age story of a spirited girl dropped into a society she does not understand, overcoming prejudice, standing up for what she believes in, but also coming to care for the people in her new home will never get old. I loved not only the historical aspect to the story, but also the relationships fostered between Kit, her aunt, uncle, and cousins, Hannah, Prudence, John, and Nat. Speare does an incredible job of painting a tale of overcoming prejudice, hope, and redemption. I have reread this book countless times since I first came across it in 5th grade, and I hope it will continue to enchant and empower young girls for many years to come.