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50 Books to Read Before You’re 11 3/4: Readers’ Picks

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

Kid-ReadingA little while ago, I posted my selections for half of the 50 Books to Read Before You’re 11 3/4, an idea based on a similar marketing campaign by the National Trust in the UK. I also asked you to respond with your own suggestions for another 25 books, and you responded wonderfully — in the comment section, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Tumblr. It was great to see how much you had to offer and you’ve left me with piles of Children’s Lit to wade through and examine.

For a start, thank you all for not lighting me on fire for skipping Charlotte’s Web. Not that many of you didn’t obviously want to do exactly that!

I’ve done my best to collect your twenty-five most suggested titles, generally in the order from most to least suggested. I’ve tried really hard not to curate these based on my own tastes or to manipulate the list at all. (Sometimes that’s hard because I am a control freak and want to decide about ALL THE BOOKS.)

Your suggestions and comments raised some really interesting issues, not the least of which is the lack of diversity in popular Anglo-American children’s writing — even more than literary fiction, the big names in literature for children are overwhelmingly white. Those of you who pointed out the whiteness of my list last time around will notice the same with this list; I decided that, rather, than imposing a diversity that wasn’t supported by the submissions, I would flag this issue for the consideration of all of us who make purchasing decisions around books for children. It’s probably a great idea for thoughtful discussion. Perhaps those of you with a wider sense of the diversity in this area can make some suggestions in the comments for people looking to make positive change in this area.

Ok.  Now.  Here’s the list as you saw it.

  1. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  3. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  6. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  7. The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  8. The Calvin and Hobbes series by Bill Watterson
  9. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  10. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  11. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • My People by Langston Hughes
  • The Guests of War series by Kit Pearson
  • The Jacob Two-Two series by Mordecai Richler
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Alrighty — it’s your turn again.  Time to tell me off in the comments!


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