Books my future kids will read (whether they like it or NOT)

So I’m 24 years old. I spend the majority of my time with — ahem — adults, and I love them dearly . . . but let’s be frank: if I tell you I was born on a sultry July day in 1985 and you groan loudly, laughing and rolling your eyes, I’m just reminded — yet again — that I’m not yet admitted to the Married Parent Club but too old to saunter around the mall with tweens in Zac Efron tees and Ed Hardy shirts (um, do kids still wear Ed Hardy? And who is Ed Hardy?).

Me, the Happy Reader (and Pretend Napper), circa 2003

Me, the Happy Reader (and Pretend Napper), circa 2003

Yes, I’m in my twenties — and single in my twenties. While friends are getting engaged and starting their families, I’m still up late gabbing with my sister, shopping to my heart’s content and generally causing independent, self-reliant mayhem. I’m happy with my life, don’t get me wrong — and this isn’t a post about how desperately I’m ready to “move on to the next phase.” It’s just that I’ve been giving some thought to, of all things, my future children — and how I don’t want them to live in a world bereft of Disney classics like “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty & The Beast” and “Aladdin.” Seriously, kids these days? I mean, what with their cell phones and iPods and laptops and digitized everything? It just makes me wonder about what’s to become of Mini Meg — and what sort of entertainment will exist for her. ‘Cause Lord knows no six-year-old of mine will be texting at the dinner table!

Which brings me to books. (Are you with me? Stop snickering — I needed to give you some background, all right?) When I’m browsing at a bookstore, running my fingers along the spines of children’s and young adult paperbacks, I’m frequently reminded of all the books I loved as a kid — and have started making mental note of all the books I want my children to read someday. When they’ll arrive and become literate is a giant Meg Mystery, but I’m hopeful that when they first open their little adorable eyes, it’ll be to a very well-stocked library!

I haven’t yet purchased any of these, so don’t freak out. I’m just beginning to cull them all in one place so when The Day finally arrives, I’ll know I’m bringing up some cute little book nerds . . . just like yours truly. (Emphasis on the cute, let’s be honest.)

And if they don’t like my selections? I’ll whip out a tactic my mom and dad used when I was, um, reluctant to practice piano as a kid — I’ll set a cooking timer. Thirty minutes of practicing — or reading — before I could get up and go about my general business of pestering my sister, watching TV or obsessing over the Weather Channel (yes, the Weather Channel, friends). “Think you’re getting up without finishing that chapter, little Johnny? What does Mommy’s clock say? Hmm, right — I thought not.”

Clearly, I’m already in the running for Future Parent Of The Year. I’ll let you know where you can cast your vote as soon as I find a contest I can enter!

Some Books Meg’s Kids Will Read

(Or They’ll Be In Time Out For-ev-er)

very_hungry_caterpillar The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

OK, so I don’t really imagine Mini Meg putting up a fight about reading this one . . . because what’s not to like? Carle’s classic tale of “science and gluttony” (nicely said, Amazon) has sold more than 12 million copies since its publication decades ago. I remember loving the colorful illustrations as a kid, and the transformation from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly was a fun, powerful thing to behold as a child.

tiggy_and_the_babysitter Tiggy and the Babysitter by Happy Endings Books

I’m not going to lie — I got a little verklempt when the cover of this one appeared on Amazon! I read (and loved) this story of why babysitters aren’t scary — not that I should have ever been scared of babysitters, anyway (mine were always my lovely grandparents!). A little part of my soul died when I realized Tiggy is out of print, but I’m happy to report I still have my (battered) hardcover, straight out of 1987, tucked away on a dusty bookshelf somewhere. Now nobody touch it!

giving_tree The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

What do you mean, this book was published more than 40 years ago? Silverstein’s tale of the friendship between a boy and a tree is timeless and touching — and one of the first times I got a realistic portrayal of unselfish love as a kid. I remember unwrapping the copy given to me by my grandmother and running my fingers carefully over the green cover, even poking that little red apple! I still have my hardcover, so thankfully Mini Meg will get to peruse my very copy! I’ll add it to the stack with Tiggy.

bunniculaBunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
by Deborah & James Howe

So when I was growing up, the “vampire” we were all obsessed with reading about didn’t have the initials E.C. — and ours was considerably smaller. And fuzzier! The Bunnicula books were beloved in our school library; we all took turns reading about the misadventures of Harold the dog and Chester the cat, who are forced to welcome a new bunny into their home after the Monroe family discovers him at a showing of “Dracula.” Harold seems to be the only one to realize the rabbit’s evil tendencies, and I remember the books being both hilarious and creepy.

berenstain_bears_trick The Berenstain Bears book series
by Stan & Jan Berenstain

Some of my fondest bookish memories as a kid involve The Berenstain Bears, that loveable family of Mama, Papa, Sister & Brother and their many, many adventures. My parents loved sharing them with Kate and me because every story had a “moral,” teaching us a lesson about sharing, family, love or health. Trick Or Treat is awesome, joining the elite ranks of The Truth and Learn About Strangers as several of my favorites. The Berenstain series is alive and well, so I’m not too worried about stockpiling the paperbacks right now. Still, I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t have Mama and Papa to help me teach my kids about junk food, another of my favorites. So maybe I better grab it when I see it!

super_fudgeSuperfudge by Judy Blume

It’s pretty much impossible to read about Farley Drexel Hatcher — a.k.a. Fudge — without falling at least a little in love with this adorable, meddlesome and Dennis the Menace-esque brother of Peter! Blume’s books were another huge hit at our elementary school, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of them at least twice. It took me a little while to find the orange cover I recognized, pictured at left — but I knew I had a winner when I spotted Fudge covering the baby with stamps! Classic!

Blume spoke at this year’s National Book Festival and, when asked by a member of the audience, explained that Fudge was based, in part, on her own son’s childhood. I thought that was adorable! And when someone asked her what Fudge would be like as an adult, the author recoiled; Fudge is, to her, perpetually small! It would be impossible to imagine him as a teen, or with a family of his own. I agree! Long live Fudge! I just hope Mini Meg doesn’t adopt any of his antics . . .

julie_wolves Julie Of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

George’s novel of Miyax/Julie, a 13-year-old Eskimo orphan, made a huge impression on me when I first read it in fifth grade. Julie Of The Wolves was one of the books I read over vacation, sprawled out on the couch under a fan, and it took no time for me to leap from the heat of another blazing Maryland summer to the cold, desolate Alaskan wilderness. A coming-of-age story of friendship, acceptance and survival, Mini Meg will probably have to hit middle school before I’ll share this one with her — because I remember the whole lonely, no-parents thing being a bit disturbing?

sarah_plain_tallSarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Unlike my sister, I was never into the Little House books; MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall was my first (and only) introduction to pioneer life as a kid, if you don’t count playing “Oregon Trail” on my dad’s old computer for hours!

The story of Sarah, who arrives from Maine to become the wife of widowed farmer Jacob, is sparse but moving and served, for me, as another great introduction to unconditional love. Caleb and Anna, Jacob’s children, could have served as stand-ins for any one of the other youngsters who read the book in my fourth grade class. I remember our unanimous stamp of approval!

14 thoughts on “Books my future kids will read (whether they like it or NOT)

  1. LOVE this idea! you have a great list–i LOVE the giving tree and bunnicula! (and don’t forget the follow up, ‘the celery stalks at midnight’!

    a few additions…if i may:

    have you read jean craighead george’s ‘my side of the mountain’? my fifth grade teacher read it to us and i wanted to immediately move to the catskills and live in a tree.

    the cam jansen series by david adler–the girl with a photographic memory…who didn’t want to be her?!!?!?

    ‘something queer is going on’ by elizabeth levy–this was a favorite and my husband also knew this one from his childhood. sometimes we tap our front teeth (like a character in the book) and joke about it!

    what a great idea. i did a post about childhood favorites a while back but may have to revisit the topic!! 🙂


  2. My mom got rid of all my kids books! Ok, so as a military family we moved around a lot, but now so many of my fav’s are out of print. I actually do occasionally by for my future Little Cara. I’m 30. I hope she gets a dad soon.


  3. This is a great idea! I have three boys, and my oldest (10) loves reading and books, while my youngest 2 (4 and 2) love it when I cuddle up with them at night and read to them. Ahhh….having a reader for a mommy is paying off!!!! I love “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and recently we took it out of the library to read again! I also agree about the Berenstein Bears….we have a collection of them too! How about the Mercer Meyer books? The boys love that devilish little thing!!!


  4. Ah the wonderful memories!! The only one I haven’t read is Tiggy and the Babysitter. Your Shel Silverstein pick is one of my all time favorites! I love that tree.


  5. Bunnicula! I loved that book and I think there was a sequel called The celery stalks at midnight! Chester the cat was the best. I remember him as being very sarky. I’m going to have to see if I still have those books somewhere.

    I am totally inflicting books on my child too. The first thing we bought when we found out I was pregnant was books!


  6. First of all, I have to say, I LOVE this: “independent, self-reliant mayhem”.

    What a great list of books! My two older ones are older teens now and neither of them are self-proclaimed readers (one doesn’t read much at all), but when they were young, I read to them at night, and several of the books I read are on your list. I read aloud to them until they were about 11, and I have such fun memories of reading all of the Bunnicula novels. The good news is, they enjoyed it too – we still talk sometimes about different books that I used to read to them. (Another favorite we like to recall is Ursula Le Guin’s Catwings series.)


  7. I love this idea! I’m lucky enough that most of my favorite childhood books are residing in my parents’ house and I totally intend to force them on my children. 😉 I do hope it isn’t forcing because I really want to raise readers!

    I have to say I was most amused by your list because I totally hated Sarah, Plain and Tall. I read it in second grade and I remember despising it, and I really don’t remember much else I read back then, so it must have made a huge impression! Clearly I still grew up to be a reader. 😉


  8. I loved The Giving Tree. It’s so touching. I have Julie of The Wolves to read for THE Shelf Discovery Challenge. I just saw Bunnicula the other day at the book store. I had never heard of that one.


  9. That’s a great list of books. I loved the Berenstain Bears. I don’t know how many times I read the Spooky Tree one with my daughter.


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