I love children’s books. I’ve had the immense pleasure of spending the last year of my life collecting back most of the books I once owned and loved as a child. I was hoping I’d gain a deeper understanding of myself if I revisited some of the worlds that caught my imagination as a kid. These were the books that fired my very first creative sparks. As an adult reading these books is just as pleasurable and magical. What better place to escape to than the innocence and wonder of worlds like these? Here’s a list of my favorite series. For a complete list of my kid book collection please click here.
17) The Henry The Duck Series – (by Robert Quakenbush)
Poor Henry! It seems our beloved Henry can’t avoid a mishap no matter how hard he tries! This lovable seven book series chronicles the (mis)adventures of Henry The Duck. My personal favorite is “Henry’s World Tour” in which Henry travels the globe in an attempt to understand his ancestory.
16) The Curious Little Kitten Series – (by Linda Hayward/Maggie Swanson)
Of the zillions of books about troublesome little kitties this series is the most charming. There were seven books in the series and each is in a different format, making for a fun collection. My personal favorite is The Golden Sturdy Shape Book “The Curious Little Kitten Gets Lost”. I discovered these books about two years ago. They are fabulous.
15) The Hardy Boys – (by Franklin W. Dixon)
Although a bit formulatic at times, the stories about this famous detective duo are still iconic. Frank and Joe Hardy rule. But some of the peripheral characters in the series rule even more. My two personal favorites are Chet Morton, their doofy friend who eats non-stop, and the tart-tongued (but lovable) grouch Aunt Gertrude. I own all 58 of the blue-spined original hard-backs in this series. I never pursued these boys into the paperbacks.
14) The Woodsey Series – (issued by Fisher-Price)
In the late 1970s/early 80s a series of toys called “The Woodseys” were put on the market. There were three main pieces to the set – The Woodsey Home, Grandma and Grandpa’s Store, and Uncle Filbert’s Airport. Which each set came the squeezable squeaky characters and a book. Three more peripheral characters were released – the mayor, the mail man, and the handy beaver. With these characters also came corresponding books. I highly recommend seeking out all six of these books. They are gorgeously illustrated and a beautiful read. High quality stuff for the imagination.
13) The “Dog” series – (by Lucille Hammond)
For some reason I feel deeply in love with the three books in this series. This were certainly pretty much run-of-the-mill releases by Little Golden Books (how iconic can a dog named “Dog” be unless he’s the bounty hunter?) Despite their initial generic feel, there’s something extra cute and whimsical about these three titles: “When Dog Grows Up”, “When Dog Was Little”, and “Dog Goes To Nursery School”.
12) The “Snoopy and Friends” series
I have always been a huge Peanuts fan. I am absolutely thrilled by the comic strips being collected in its entirety in the new “Complete Peanuts” series. But my all-time favorite Peanuts-issues were the “Snoopy And Friends” series that ran from about 1986-1988. Various authors were commissioned in to write these sometimes run-of-the-mill books. But regardless something about the vibrant colorful illustrations really made me latch on to these. Within this series were six educational books, two magic slates, a few coloring books, two short story books, a paint-with-water book, a sticker book, some puzzles and a few various odd and ends. I still love these to this day. I am also a huge huge fan of the “Charlie Brown ‘Cylopedia” set.
11) The Saggy Baggy Elephant Series – (issued by Golden Books)
I’ve always been drawn to the misfits, whether it’s in real life, adult, or children’s literature. Saggy Baggy elephant is a lesser known character who has popped up in releases by Golden Books throughout the decades. Although I own most all books featuring this character, my personal favorite is the lift-and-look “The Saggy Baggy Elephant And The New Dance.” As Saggy Baggy wanders through the jungle he tries to find a dance to replace his “one-two-three-KICK!” In the end the book touches on the life-long-lesson that our own unique moves make us who we are. AMEN to that Saggy Baggy!
10) Encyclopedia Brown – (by Donald Sobol)
This clever 24 book series is unique in that in each short story you are given a subtle fact or clue to the outcome of the case. If you can’t figure out the answer/solution on your own, you can flip to the back of the book and find out what it is. I love reading about Encyclopedia, his tomboyish friend Sally, and the bully Bugs Meany. These books are rad. I own all 23 of the main series, plus all of the random “Wacky Facts” books.
9) The Donna Parker Series – (by Marcia Martin)
These seven books from the 1950s are interesting in that they trace about a year and a half in the life of Donna Parker. We get to experience life with Donna as a camp counselor, newspaper editor, detective, and mentor. I enjoyed reading these and getting to experience how teenage dialogue was written in the 50s. Donna and her best friend Ricky (that’s a girl) are a hoot! Donna gets a bit bratty and annoying at times but in the end there’s always a lesson learned. Search these out, they’re worth it! I own all seven.
8) The Frances Series – (By Russell Hoban)
I love Frances the badger! These books were written and released in the 1960s with pencil illustrations and then re-released in the 1990s in color. These simple reading books are gorgeous and a valuable lesson is always learned. Frances tends to be a bit spoiled and pouty. As usual, by the end of the book a very important point has been made. These are a must read!
7) Leo The Lop – (by Stephen Cosgrove and Robin James)
There are four tales (or should I say tails) in this series that was originally released by Serendipidy Books. I could very much relate to Leo, the lop-eared bunny who didn’t quite fit in with all the other rabbits. My favorite of the series is Tail Three, which takes place during a gorgeous winter-time.
6) The “How Spider Saved…” Series – (by Robert Kraus)
I am aware of sixteen titles featuring Spider, and I love them all! Follow the adventures of Spider, Fly, and Ladybug as they get themselves into one jam after another. In the end, it is always the quick-thinking and wit of Spider that saves the day. Ever character is lovable–the adorable Ladybug, the cocky Fly, and of course Spider himself. My ultimate favorite character that only shows up sometimes is the teacher Miss Quito. She rules it! My favorite book in the series is the very first I bought when I was very young – “How Spider Saved Christmas”.
5) Little Critter Series – (by Mercer Mayer)
Little Critter just rules. Period. There are far too many titles in this series for me to collect them all, but I have the entire main series and many of the offshoots. (I have avoided collecting the multiple Little Critter education workbooks that have been released.) Little Critter is always eager to help out but little does he realize how much of a mess he causes! There’s really not one loser in this long-running series. I recently purchased the new editions that are being released by Harper Collins and they are perhaps even more vibrant and enchanting than some of the early classics! My personal favorites were the board books released in the mid-80s each depicting Little Critter in a different profession (Mail Critter, Sailor Critter etc. etc.) I bet many of you have owned a Little Critter book at one time or another. Which was your favorite?
4) Frog And Toad- (by Arnold Lobel)
Only four original books were released telling the tales of happy-go-lucky Frog and his grumpy friend Toad. But these books are rich in their story telling and depth. A fifth book was released–a pop up book featuring different stories from the original four books. So which are you more like? Mr. Frog or Mr. Toad? I’m definitely Frog…
3) Morris The Moose – (by Bernard Wiseman)
Morris the Moose has to be the biggest dork and idiot of all time! And I love him!!!! Third book into the series Morris is given a partner…a super grumpy bear named Boris. These books are hilarious to this day! My favorite is “Morris Gets A Cold”. Poor Morris is sick and Boris tries to take care of his friend. But Morris’ complete lack of common sense ends up frustrating Boris and he gets sick himself! I own all twelve Morris the Moose books.
2) Trixie Belden – (First six written by Julie Campbell, the rest by Kathryn Kenny)
At first glance one might think these books were a second rate Nancy Drew or Bobbsey Twins series. Dig a little deeper and you will find that is a very unfair assessment. These books are set in the lush, shadowy, and enchanting Hudson Valley. The writing is so rich and picturesque that there’s times it feels you are in the same moment as the characters. There’s a very strong emphasis in these books on teamwork, the bettering of humankind, and the understanding and accepting of those different than us. Main character Trixie is sometimes overzealous, but she is always loveable. The same can be said for the supporting characters. I love love love these books. There were 39 in the series, but books 34-39 (pressed only once in the mid 80s) are expensive and difficult to find. On my recent vacation to Portland I finally completed my set! If you love children’s books, you will certainly not be disappointed by the “Bob Whites Of The Glen”.
1) A tie: The Berenstain Bears (by Stan and Jan Berenstain) and Nancy Drew (by Carolyn Keene)
There are two tangible things that have always anchored my existence – my music collections and my book collections. These two series are the ones that started it all. It would be absolutely impossible to pick which I prefer over the other. I have spent countless hours collecting, reading, researching, and loving all these books. Upon revisiting these series in the past year I have come to realize the importance both have played in me becoming who I am as a writer and truly as a person. I have chosen to pay tribute to this by getting both Nancy Drew and Papa Bear (from the Berenstains) tattooed on my arms.
The mysterious and clever world of Nancy Drew became a fixation of mine from the moment my classmate had “The Mystery of The 99 Steps” in third grade. I have since come to own all 56 of the yellow-bound hardcovers, the soft covers through number 105, The Nancy Drew Files 1-59, and various other curious. The Nancy Drew mysteries have such a strong set of characters. Nancy herself. The plump but lovable Bess. The tomboyish George. Housekeeper Hannah Gruen. The worldly Aunt Eloise. And the list goes on… Each mystery is magic. Even the cover art on the original 56 books captivates me to this day. You almost feel you can climb into these pictures and enter their dark and sometimes sinister worlds. I unfortunately am not able to commit the time to exploring the various new series featuring my beloved Nancy. But with books as iconic as the original titles…is it really necessary? It would be impossible for me to choose one favorite Nancy Drew book. I could not even give you my top 30.
The Berenstain Bears are simply A++++++. As an adult, there’s still valuable lessons to be learned from the Bears I love each character. I love each book. I chose to get Papa tattooed on my arm because I especially enjoy how his always-good intentions and big heart never stop him from causing trouble! Oh Papa Q. Bear! I own over 200 Berenstain Bear books. Unlike the Nancy Drew series, I do in fact have a favorite Berenstain Bears book. That honor would go to “The Berenstain Bears and The Christmas Tree” hardcover edition from 1980. If any book were ever to possess magic, it would be this one.