If you're here on my blog, then you must know how deeply I love books. For as long as I can remember, reading has been important to me. My parents read to me when I was unable to do so for myself. And as soon as I learned to read and write, I devoured everything I could get my hands on and even wrote my own little stories. In fifth grade, I checked out and read 100 books from the school library. This love of reading wasn't something I was born with, though. Rather, I learned to love reading by reading a lot of books and finding the ones that sparked my imagination. Frank Serafini said, "there is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book." I believe this to be absolutely true, so I thought I'd share the books that were right for me in the hopes that someone reading this will be encouraged to find their own right books or will share some of these books with a child who is still developing their love of reading.
1) Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles
This was the first book I remember staying up all night under the covers to read. I could not put it down. Ruby Lavender is a nine-year-old girl who has a very special relationship with her grandmother, Miss Eula. The two loaded a getaway car full of chickens from a slaughterhouse and rescued them, painted Miss Eula's house entirely pink, and write each other daily letters that they exchange by stuffing them into the knot hole of a silver maple. When Miss Eula leaves for the summer to go to Hawaii to meet her new grandchild, Ruby is certain she will have the most boring summer ever in Halleluia, Mississippi. However, a reluctant Ruby makes a new friend, saves the school play, and finally learns to stop blaming herself for her grandfather's death.
2) Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books multiple times throughout elementary school. I still have vivid pictures in my head of scenes from On the Banks of Plum Creek. The Little House books are based on the childhood of Laura Ingalls Wilder growing up in the northern Midwest during the 1870s and 80s. The stories are all about life during the time period and the way Laura and her close-knit family survived through every good and bad time. It may sound dull, but reading these books was a magical experience.
3) Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by James Howe
There are seven books in the Bunnicula series, which follows the story of three family pets: a dog, Harold; a cat, Chester; and a vampire bunny who sucks the juice out of vegetables, Bunnicula. The family found the bunny in a movie theater where they'd gone to watch the movie Dracula, hence the name Bunnicula. Soon after Bunnicula arrives in the home, however, the family cat, Chester, becomes convinced Bunnicula is a blood thirsty vampire and begs Harold to help him save the family from the perceived threat. The books were hilarious, endearing, and ever so slightly spooky. I read the first book in the series, Bunnicula, at least five times during elementary school.
4) Soon Be Free (Steal Away Home series) by Lois Ruby
Soon Be Free is actually the second book in the Steal Away Home series, though I don't think I actually ever read the first book. However, I remember reading Soon Be Free countless times. The story follows thirteen-year-old Dana Shannon from Lawrence, Kansas as she tries to discover the secrets her family's bed and breakfast (once a stop on the underground railroad) and two shady guests are hiding. Alternate chapters follow the story of James Baylor, a thirteen-year-old boy from 1857, as he tries to fulfill the promise he made to a runaway slave, Lizbeth, before her death. The story is a historical mystery that captivated my imagination while teaching me a thing or two about the underground railroad. Not a bad combination.
5) The Winter of Red Snow: The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 1777 (Dear America series) by Kristiana Gregory
"In her beloved diary, eleven-year-old Abigail Jane Stewart chronicles the despair and the hope of the winter of 1777 and 1778, when she witnesses the struggles of George Washington and his soldiers on the fields of Valley Forge." The Dear America series of books have stories from every conceivable time period that were written to engage young readers, while also teaching them about different moments in history. I know I read several of these books, but The Winter of Red Snow has stuck with me.
6) The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
I don't know a single person my age who didn't read at least one of these books, so I'm not going to go into much detail. However, I will say that the woes of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, while quite woeful, were immensely entertaining to this young reader. Also, if you haven't already heard, let me be the first to inform you that Netflix is currently working on adapting these books into a series starring Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, and I can barely contain my excitement.
7) Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza lives on a beautiful ranch in Mexico where she wears extravagant dresses and has servants to wait on her. However, when tragedy strikes, Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee to California during the Great Depression and live in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza now faces a life of hard labor, financial struggles, and a lack of acceptance, but she must find a way to rise above her circumstances to save her own life and the life of her mother.
8) Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Coerr and Himler
"Two-year-old Sadako Sasaki was living in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped. Sadly, ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia, also known as "atom bomb disease."
There is a Japanese legend that says that if a sick person folds 1,000 paper cranes, the gods will make her well again. Sadako spent long hours in bed, folding those paper cranes, and never giving up that hope. When Sadako had folded six hundred and forty-four cranes, and they hung above her bed on strings, her classmates folded the rest.
Today there is a memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park dedicated to Sadako. Children come there and leave the paper cranes they make in her honor. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is based on a true story."
9) Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie Tolan
I remember my teacher reading this book to the class and being almost devastated when reading time was over. Sitting in a circle and hearing this story was my favorite part of the day. Jake Semple is a notorious trouble-maker. He has been kicked out of every school around, and the only one left that will take him is a home school run by the Applewhites, an eccentric family of artists. With both of his parents in jail, Jake must learn to embrace the Applewhites and himself or risk being kicked out of yet another school.
10) The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood
"Delrita likes being invisible. If no one notices her, then no one will notice her uncle Punky either. Punky is a grown man with a child's mind. Delrita loves him dearly and can't stand people making fun of his Down's syndrome. But when tragedy strikes, Delrita's quiet life—and Punky's—are disrupted forever. Can she finally learn to trust others, for her own sake and Punky's? This story captures the joy and sorrow that come when we open our hearts to love."
What books did you fall in love with as a kid? Do you still re-read them as an adult? Let me know in the comments!