We all have our childhood favorites, the books that ignited our love of reading and stick with us through adulthood and are treasured memories. From Harry Potter to Narnia, there are books that remain in our consciousness for our whole lives, but what about our forgotten favorites? What about the books we read until the spines fell apart? How about the ones we circled in the Scholastic book catalogue and begged our parents to buy? There are a bunch of books that I used to love but either haven’t thought about in years or forgot about completely.
Here are a few of my old favorites:
Redwall by Brian Jacques
These books were absolutely everywhere when I was a kid. I think I only read two, but my older sister has read a bunch of them so they were always on our shelves. The first book was published in 1986 and the series ended up being 22 books long. It takes place at Redwall Abbey and features a cast of mice, badgers, rats, etc.
Redwall actually factors into my only bad experience with a librarian. I was in the third grade (about 8 years old) and pulled Redwall off the shelf at my elementary school library. The librarian told me I was too young to read it and refused to let me borrow it! I eventually managed to talk her into lending me the book, and I read it cover to cover out of spite. Ha.
The Bailey School Kids by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey
These were a big feature of my early reading days. Set in the Bailey School, the kids are absolutely convinced that their teachers are supernatural beings (looking back, I kind of feel sorry for the teachers). Featuring excellent titles like Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots and Pirates Don’t Wear Pink Sunglasses, there were about 80 of these books published between the original series and its spin-offs. I must have read at least ten of them, I had no idea there were so many.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
One of the best fantasy series for kids! I loved Lloyd Alexander anyway because of the amazing book Time Cat (about a time-travelling cat, of course) when I was introduced to The Chronicles of Prydain. The series follows the adventures of Taran, one of the ultimate Farmboys of Destiny, and features a cast of characters like Princess Eilonwy, the unofficial bard Fflewddur Fflam, and an ocular pig named Hen Wen. I’ve read the entire series at least once, but read the first one, The Book of Three, so many times that the spine probably wore out.
If any of this is sounding familiar, Disney’s first PG-rated animated film was based on the first two books in the series. If you haven’t seen The Black Cauldron, drop everything right now and watch it. It’s some scary stuff.
Gwinna by Barbara Berger
This was an early factor in my lifelong obsession with beautiful books. My grandmother gave this book to either myself or my sister as a gift, and I absolutely loved it. It’s about a couple who desperately want a child, but have not had one. The Mother of Owls offers to help them, but only if they send the child back to her on its 12th birthday to learn all kinds of magical goodness. Gwinna has wings – wings! – and plenty of animal friends. I desperately wanted to be her when I was a kid.
The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole
Any kid who loved Bill Nye the Science Guy also loved The Magic School Bus. These were a series of picture books that followed a class of students and their fabulous teacher Ms Frizzle on a series of ludicrous and incredible field trips on board her magic school bus, of course. They visit volcanoes, go inside the human body, and so much more. There’s also an equally amazing TV series, which is apparently available on YouTube.
I kind of still want to be Ms. Frizzle when I grow up. She has a sentient school bus that can turn into a spaceship, a pet iguana named Liz, and has a fabulous sense of style.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
You might recognize the author’s name as the person who wrote Holes, another incredible book. But it all started with Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Wayside School was supposed to be 30 classrooms built on one floor, but the builder accidentally built a school 30 stories high, with one classroom on each floor (he’s very sorry about this). The books follow Mrs. Jewls’ class, which is on the 30th floor. She replaced Mrs. Gorf, a teacher who would turn bad children into apples. She hated children, but loved apples. I think you can probably get a sense of how ridiculous these books were.
There were sadly only three of these books, but I also got my hands on the artithmatic spin-offs. They made absolutely no sense, but I didn’t mind.
Animorphs by K. A. Applegate
It was impossible to be cool and not read Animorphs when I was a kid. Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias stumble upon a dying alien who gifts them the power to morph into any animal they touch. Earth is being invaded by Yeerks, which are BRAIN SLUGS, and the Animorphs must fight them. I’m pretty sure they were telepathic too.
There were 54 of these books, which is kind of incredible. There was also a TV show that ran for two seasons on Nickelodeon, which I remember very little of. These books were the best. I had a silent competition with the annoying kid next to me in the fourth grade to see who had more Animorphs books. We’d quietly pile them on the corner of our desks and eye each other’s stack. I can’t remember who won, but I hope it was me.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.
Who let us read these? They, along with sticker collecting and Pogs, were all the rage when I was in the first grade. Why? Why did I read these? I can still remember some of the stories so clearly. There were three of these books: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. The best/worst part of these books were the amazing illustrations, which are completely horrifying. We would gather around and read them out loud to each other while pretending we were actually going to sleep that night.
HarperCollins rereleased these books in 2011 to celebrate the 30th anniversary, but chose to go with new and less frightening illustrations. This backfired pretty dramatically because anyone who has read these books know the illustrations are the best part.
Goosebumps by R. L. Stine
I’m sure that anyone who was a kid at any point in the last 30 years knows about Goosebumps. We all loved them. Even I, who is scared of absolutely everything, was obsessed with these books. Because most of us couldn’t quite read them on our own when they were super popular, my Kindergarten teacher would let us bring in copies of Goosebumps books and she’s read a few chapters a day to us out loud. How cool is that?
There are 62 books in the Goosebumps series and a bunch of spin-offs. They featured kids getting caught up in haunted situations or stuck with creepy dolls and such.