Childhood is the first leg of an unremitting race through life that occurs in time-lapse. It’s every stroke of a paint-dipped finger, every scribble of a crayon, every splash of a puddle and swoop of a park swing. It’s the floor of bubbling lava that must be avoided at all costs, and the scramble of a shaky camera attempting to stay in frame as it follows one’s tiny steps around the house. Childhood is when all nonsense makes perfect sense and reality is whatever one desires it to be. It's being here, there and everywhere all at once; smack dab in the centre of a world that seems to spin only around oneself.
For many of us, children’s books were paramount in making our childhoods as wonderful as they were. Millenials can certainly recall the utter excitement of browsing through a Scholastic Book Fair or finally receiving a long-awaited book order in class. Children’s books gave us whimsical stories to be inspired by, unforgettable characters to call our friends, and dreams to believe in. Here are some children’s books that most 90’s kids (and kids today) are thankful for:
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1. The Baby-Sitters Club (series)
Surely, almost every girl has read (or at least knows of) a novel from The Baby-Sitters Club series. Created by Ann M. Martin, the series follows the adventures of a fictional group of seventh-grade girls from Connecticut who manage a local babysitting service.
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2. Ramona Quimby (series)
The success of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the 8-book series was completed more than a decade ago, and yet there are still countless kids obsessed with it today. After all, it’s hard to forget a character like Ramona, whose gutsy attitude and big imagination always got her into trouble.
3. Junie B. Jones (series)
The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park has established itself over the years as a big name in the children’s book industry. Junie B. Jones is most known for her tough attitude, loud-mouthed personality and subpar grammar.
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4. Animorphs (series)
Around the same time when the first Harry Potter book was released, Animorphs entered the book scene. Written by K. A. Applegate, the sci-fi books follow five teens and an alien who have the uncanny ability to morph into any animal they come into contact with. They’re kind of like animagi, but not really.
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5. Goosebumps (series)
Perhaps the main cause of many of our childhood nightmares, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps plays on the fears of readers by featuring stories of children in encounters with terrifying supernatural creatures. The success of the horror series led to the development of a TV show in 1995.
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6. Rainbow Fish (series)
Most of us will remember the distinctly bright and colourful illustrations in the Rainbow Fish. Written by Swiss author Marcus Pfister, the books center on the themes of individuality and selflessness.
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7. Amelia Bedelia (series)
Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia series was such a hit that several theatre adaptations of the books were produced. Amelia, the protagonist of the books, is known for constantly getting herself into trouble by taking her bosses’ figures of speech literally and misinterpreting their instructions.
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8. The Paper Bag Princess
The Paper Bag Princess is one of Robert Munsch’s most famous works. The story defies the typical damsel in distress stereotype by featuring a paper bag-wearing princess who must best a dragon to rescue a prince.
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9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar is perhaps most memorable for its use of unique collage images and holes in the pages. Most of us learned the days of the week, how to count and the stages of a butterfly’s life from this very book.
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10. Love You Forever
Love You Forever is another classic book in the Munsch repertoire. Munsch says that the book was inspired by his two babies which passed away at birth. Today, the book remains a clear favourite among parents and children alike.
11. The Magic Tree House (series)
This tree house was far from ordinary. Readers of Mary Pope Osborne’s The Magic Treehouse are familiar with the sibling partnership of Jack and Annie, who were sent on several mythical adventures in a tree house that moved through time and space.
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12. Clifford the Big Red Dog (series)
No childhood is complete without the world's favourite giant red dog! Norman Bridwell’s Clifford series is so iconic that Clifford himself is the mascot of Scholastic Books.
13. The Adventures of Captain Underpants (series)
The Adventures of Captain Underpants often took ridiculousness to another level. Although the Dav Pilkey classic received a Disney Adventures Kid’s Choice Award in 2007, it was still subject to book bans in some areas for concerns that it encouraged kids to rebel against authority.
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14. James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach is definitely a classic children’s book, and unsurprisingly so since it was conceived in the mind of the great Roald Dahl, who also gave the world Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In one interview, Dahl mentioned that he was initially going to write about a giant cherry; but he decided on a peach instead because it is larger and juicier.
15. The Teacher from the Black Lagoon
Perhaps a favourite among teachers, Mike Thaler’s The Teacher from the Black Lagoon is likely a book that you’ve come across in your childhood years. It gives the tale of a boy who falls asleep in class and dreams that his teacher is actually a smoke-breathing monster. Main lesson of the story? Don’t fall asleep in class!
16. Mr. Popper's Penguins
Richard and Florence Atwater’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins was one of those books in elementary school that one probably read together as a class for book study. Its many symbolic meanings and emblematic scenes were often the subjects of your book reports and dioramas. I don’t know about you, but ever since the movie version I can’t picture anyone else as Mr. Popper but Jim Carey.
Of course, no children's book list is complete without Dr. Seuss... He's just got too many classics to mention! But we love him all the same.