Estelle: A few years ago, I started a ritual with one of my best friends (I’ve known her since kindergarten and in March, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding!). For holidays, we buy each other books we used to read when we were in elementary school. At first it was easy. There were the old favorites to search for on Amazon, or in the bookstore. Then after a few years, it got pretty challenging. Mostly because we are getting old and can’t remember everything we read back then or because we’ve bought them already. But the good news is, we are still working at it!
While I grew up with a mom who loved to read books (my dad is more of a newspaper guy), my time in elementary school really solidified by love of reading. I was writing my own stories and sharing them with the class (sometimes making them up off the top of my head: true story). My teachers were giving my friends and I books above our grade level to enjoy, and like the geek I am proud to be, I loved any time spent in the library. I truly hope you enjoy my following list because these titles are so near and dear to my heart. Be sure to check out the fabulous The Broke and the Bookish where Jamie & Julia have worked together to make a fantastic list of books as well!
1. The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin: This is a huge one. My parents bought be a boxed set of the first four for Christmas when I was in fourth grade and it was all over. I had many books to catch up on, and loved every minute of scouting them out in bookstores, and later used bookstores too. My favorite baby-sitter is Dawn but I always wanted to be as cool as Stacey and Claudia. (My mom eventually gave my HUGE collection away which is hilarious because she never gives anything away so last year, I started recollecting them. I’m still a few short.)
2. Wayside School series by Louis Sachar: I can’t even tell you how popular these were in my elementary school. It was near impossible to get them out of the school library. Why? They were hilarious and silly. That’s all there is to it. I wish I knew where my copies went. I need to rebuy them ASAP.
3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech: If you have not read this book yet, shame on you. It was a favorite among my friends, and I just reread it last year and it continues to be relevant, emotional, and one of my all-time top books EVER. (And that’s saying a lot.) Salamanca Tree Hiddle is on a road trip with her grandparents to bring back her mom, and decides to entertain them with stories of all the new and bizarre people she has met in her new town. Her friend, Pheobe, is highly entertaining. (Warning: tissues. Lots.)
4. The Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynn Reid Banks: This is one of those books my third grade teacher suggested to me as a “challenge”. And it was. It sort of seemed like a boy series to me plus the words were really tiny but I loved that copy she gave me to death. It’s kind of like pre-Toy Story expect the boy knows his toys can talk. This series is another on my list to reread. (And there’s a fifth I haven’t gotten to at all!)
5. The Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: This series is MASSIVE in size (I still haven’t read all of them) but it always makes me laugh. Alice is a quirky young girl living with her dad and her older brother who is quite the ladies’ man. She has two best friends, always worried about her breasts (or lack of), and wants her dad to fall in love with her English teacher, Miss Summers. She deals a lot with not having a mother, figuring out about sex, and finding her place. While the more recent ones aren’t my favorite, there are more gems in this collection than not.
6. Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry: I like to think of Anastasia as the earlier version of Alice. This series is set in the 70s so it’s sort of fun to hear the antics of her professor/poet dad and artist mom. Anastasia is a serious writer herself and has a lot of strong opinions and big dreams. I reread the first book of the series this past year, and Anastasia is still hysterical. I have to say I love her a little bit more than I love Alice. It’s all about the details.
7. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz: Maybe this was just a fad but our school had a serious obsession with this series. This was another one that you had to just buy from your book club because it was never available at the library. Perfect for sleepovers, and even when you were alone (if you were brave, of course). My addiction snowballed after I read this one… I had a crapload of ghost stories in my house after that.
8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: A classic. I’ll admit: I always loved that we watched the movie after reading this (the old school cartoon, not the new one… although that one is REALLY good if you haven’t seen it). Wilbur is adorable, and I just love Charlotte (and how she is a writer). Friendship, adventure, all you can want in a really great book.
9. Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard: An oldie but a goodie. I think we must have read this around first grade. We all thought it was hilarious because one of the kids in our class had the last name NELSON. So, of course, it was his mom that was missing. A fun book for kids (scratch that: EVERYONE) with a nice lesson.
10. Corduroy by Dan Freeman: I’m just traveling back in time with this one. But I loved Corduroy. He was the most adorable bear and I loved his adventures in the department store (perhaps we both have an affection for shopping?). I have great memories of reading this one in class, and I know when I do have a child someday, it will be on their bookshelf as well.