You can force your child to read, but getting him to enjoy a good book is another story altogether. Not only have all the books listed below withstood the test of time, they are all page turners, even to this day. While some of these are marketed more towards one gender over the other, you will find that even books like Anne of Green Gables and Where the Red Ferns Grows will engross all children. A number of these have also been made into movies or mini-series, which means that if your child enjoys the book, you have your next present all lined up.
Anne of Green Gables
Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery first published Anne of Green Gables in 1908. It is the first book of nine in the series of the same name. The books follow the story of Anne who was adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert when she was 11 years old. She is a red-haired orphan who spends her days reading and daydreaming. The Cuthberts had intended to adopt a boy to help with the running of their farm on Prince Edward Island and when Anne arrives instead of the boy had requested, they find it in their hearts not to shatter her dreams and keep her on. All three discover the meaning of family through the series of mishaps Anne continually finds herself in. Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies in 36 languages worldwide. It has several stage and screen adaptations. The farmhouse Montgomery used as her inspiration still stands and is a tourist attraction in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.
Bridge to Terabithia
In 1977, Katherine Paterson published Bridge to Terabithia, which won a Newbery Medal the following year. It is the story of an unlikely friendship between Jess Aarons and his new neighbor Leslie Burke. Jess is a bit of a loner in a big family short on money, while she is the only daughter of well-off, liberal parents. As their friendship develops, so does the imaginary kingdom they create in the woods. They manage to keep Terabithia secret from their families and although it only accessible by swinging on a rope across the creek, they continue to embellish their fantasy world. This story takes a dramatic turn as tragedy strikes when Leslie falls into the creek and suddenly dies. Although it may sound like a rather mature ending to a children's book, it is through this that Jess develops his strength, courage and love for his family. This story is one of only a few that evokes such a level of emotion from its young readers.
- 1978 - Newbery Medal Winner
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl is one of the twentieth century's best-loved authors. Despite the number of his books that are often challenged, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of Dahl's most awarded books. Screen adaptations have thrilled viewers for a couple of decades but as with most of his stories, the book is every better. Near destitute and fatherless Charlie Bucket wins a lifetime supply of chocolate and a tour of the nearby chocolate factory owned by the eccentric recluse, Willy Wonka. The other winners, four other spoiled children slowly disappear on the tour, engorged by their greed and filled with futuristic sweets. Probably one of your child's first introductions to sarcastic humor, this book has a wonderfully happy ending.
- 1972 - New England Round Table of Children's Librarians Award
- 1973 - Surrey School Award
- 2000 - Blue Peter Book Award
- 2000 - Millennium Children's Book Award
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, written by E.L. Konigsburg is a mouthful. But this book, published in 1967 is an easy read. Eleven year old Claudia Kincaid runs away with her 9-year-old brother Jamie to live in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. She runs away because she feels as though her parents don't understand her, but she takes her brother because he has saved all his money. They hide in the toilets at night to escape the guards notice, bath in a fountain and mix in with the school groups during the day. Suddenly a new exhibit arrives; the angel's sculptor is unknown, but it is believed to be the work of Michelangelo. Uncovering the mystery of this angel leads them to the home of Mrs. Frankweiler. She agrees to leave them the file containing the secret of the angel, but only if they can find it in her files. This story is fast paced and ends on a happy note for everyone involved.
- 1968 - Newbery Medal Winner
- 1970 - William Allen White Children's Book Award
The Incredible Journey
British Author Sheila Burnford wrote this book set in the Canadian wilderness in 1961. The Incredible Journey's three protagonists are animal: Bodger who is an aging Bull Terrier, Luath is a young lab and Tao is the cat who prefers dogs to other cats. The animals are being cared for by John Longridge while the animals real owners are away in Europe. As John goes on a hunting trip, the animals become concerned that they have been abandoned and set out for their real home. They face terrible adversities and starvation, but eventually make it home. This is a great story about lasting bonds and working together as a team. Even those without pets will understand the easy flow of communication between these three.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis published this classic in 1950. It was the first book published in the Chronicles of Narnia series, even though its prequel was published later. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe starts in the English countryside during World War II. It follows the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, four children who have been evacuated from London during the bombings. Left with nothing to do, a game of hide and seek leads them through an old wardrobe into a magical world that is under the spell of the White Witch. The children battle evil to become the Kings and Queens of Narnia. Despite this being another recent release on-screen, this story is even better on the page.
- TIME magazine's 100 Best English-language novels (1923-2005)
The Little Prince
Le Petit Prince, first published in French in 1943, was written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This immensely popular book was written in first person, as though it is the memoir of the pilot narrating the story. As he is stranded in the desert, he is suddenly approached by a boy, whose name we never learn. This child, known as the Little Prince recounts his travel from his home planet, where he had a rose that he loved so much he thought his heart would break. He travels from planet to planet, meeting some of impressive caricatures of what children see in grown-ups. When he comes to earth, he sees millions of roses. Disappointed in his rose not being the only one in the world, he is taught by a fox that she is special because they love each other. A sad ending follows, but the values and lessons last longer. Although not well-known, a musical adaptation was made of this book in 1974 and is available here. The Little Prince has been translated into over 250 languages and has sold over 200 million copies worldwide.
- Voted best book of the 20th century in France
The Secret Garden
Written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1909, The Secret Garden was first publishes as a serial. It was released as a novel in 1911. Ten year old spoiled and self-important Mary Lennox is orphaned in India while the English were still in power as a colonial force. She is sent to live with her aged, recluse uncle in the much colder English countryside. Left much to her own devices, with only Martha, the maid, as a companion, Mary discovers two secrets her uncle has sealed behind walls - a garden and her cousin who has been bed ridden due to a spinal problem. In learning to live herself, Mary breathes new life into both, followed by her uncle. A heart-warming story filled with delightful side characters and history.
Sideways Stories From Wayside School
Louis Sacar first published Sideways Stories from Wayside School in 1978. If you made it to adulthood without reading this, you need to get a copy now. This is a collection of short stories from a school that was accidently built 30 stories high, instead of next to each other as the architect had intended. Well, 30 stories high, but they forgot to build the 19th story, so that one is missing. The first story starts with children being turned into apples by their teacher, but they get their revenge. Then there are the three Erics and Sharie who wears a gigantic overcoat so she can sleep in class. Filled with crazy students, their pets and their teachers, you can't go wrong. This book has two sequels. The collection will be a non-stop hit in your home.
Where the Red Fern Grows
Where the Red Fern Growns by Wilson Rawls was published in 1961. Set in the Ozarks, this story revolves around Billy Coleman and his faithful companions, Old Dan and Little Ann. They are two coonhounds he spent years saving for and then trains to hunt on his own. Despite a shaky start, the two dogs and their young owner become famous for the number of skins brought into Billy's grandfather's store. Despite tragedy and adversity, the dogs outperform in competitions and end up saving Billy's life and his family's fortunes. When they die, they are buried side by side, and between their graves springs a red fern. According to legend, only an angel can plant these. If this book doesn't have the tears flowing with the warmest feeling in your heart, you may not be human. Guaranteed to give your child a love of stories.
Each of these books is available on Amazon, at reasonable prices and many are included on the 4-for-3 promotion, meaning you save while building your collection. If you can afford it, splurge out on the hardcover edition as these books will surely be treasured additions to your family library. For a few more suggestions, read 4 Classic Kids Books For Your 8-10 Year Old.