#1 Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant
This book was introduced to me earlier this year by my friend Jenn Ryan, who recommended it as a wonderful read aloud. She was spot on. Maegan and I loved the unlikely friendship between a dog, a squirrel, and a hermit crab.
#2 Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
All of the Ramona books are wonderful and I read them over and over again as a child, but this one is my favorite. Life isn’t easy for Ramona, but you grow and change with her as she learns that although things don’t always go your way, they turn out all right in the end.
#3 The BFG (The Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl
It’s hard to choose just one Roald Dahl novel for a top ten list, and I had a particularly tough time deciding between this one and Matilda. I feel better having mentioned them both. My husband would select a third title: Danny, Champion of the World. There, now he feels better, too. Dahl’s humor is a little dark but his language is wonderful and the storytelling is without equal. In The BFG, a little orphan named Sophie is snatched from the window of her orphanage in the middle of the night by a big, friendly giant. Their adventures will delight the whole family. Makes a great read-aloud.
#4 Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
This series changed the world of children’s literature more than fifteen years ago, and it is easy to see why. Rowling’s magical world leaps off the pages and creates a stunning landscape for the imagination. It’s tempting to allow advanced early readers slip through the walls at Platform 9 ¾, but this is really best saved for ages 9 & up. I cried through the last pages of the final book, not only because they were sad, but because this series that I love so much was coming to a close. The Boy Who Lived will live in your heart if you let him in.
#5 Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
This book is tangentially related to the popular Fudge series. Sheila the Great is tough as nails on the outside but really, she’s afraid of her own shadow. When she goes to spend a summer in a town away from her comfort zone, she makes new friends but will she be brave enough to show them her true colors?
#6 Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe deClements
This was one of my favorites as a kid; I read it over and over and feel like the characters are real kids from my childhood. Barthe deClements tells it like it is – how kids can be cruel to one another as well as how they can be true friends. If you like the character of Elsie Edwards, stick with this author and find out how she grows up with How Do You Lose Those Ninth Grade Blues? as a young adult selection, followed by Seventeen and In-between.
I read the entire series in grade school, and of course all the super special editions as well! As a 2014 parent it is interesting to think about how much independence and responsibility Kristy Thomas and her friends take on as they start their babysitting business together.
#8 The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White
Louis is a trumpeter swan, but not only is he not able to trumpet joyfully, he can’t make a sound. The sweet story of how he overcomes this handicap is a must-read, especially for Bostonians.
#9 Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
This delightful story of Mr. Popper the housepainter and his house full of penguins will delight children of all ages.
#10 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Misselthwaite Manor, a secret garden, and a boy locked behind closed doors. Need I say more? Dive into this wonderful, enchanting classic.