Miss Bianca

Margery Sharp, illustrated by Garth Williams (1962) I found a paperback edition of Miss Bianca on my mother’s nightstand when I was in upper elementary school. Someone must have lent it to her (it didn’t look new), not realizing that (A) she has a horror of small rodents and (B) she doesn’t like narratives that… Read more »

Tanith Lee

When I heard that Tanith Lee had died, in 2015, I wasn’t surprised. I assumed she was really old, since she had written two of my favorite childhood books. But she was only sixty-eight. Which made her twenty-four in 1971, when The Dragon Hoard was published, and twenty-six when Princess Hynchatti came out. Which was… Read more »

Nancy Drew books

Carolyn Keene I first discovered Nancy Drew in our basement, where my mother had stored her childhood copies. After my sister and I devoured these musty volumes, we moved on to the then current versions. Many elements had been updated, including Nancy’s car and her (possibly related) predilection for “warm woolen car coats.” But somehow… Read more »

The Hall Family Chronicles

Jane Langton, illustrated by Erik Blegvad I drove past a house I’ve always admired recently, and it was for sale. I looked it up online and it is my dream home. Not so much for the house itself, which is lovely, but for the grounds. Not yard. Grounds. (It goes without saying that any house… Read more »

The Egypt Game

Zilpha Keatley Snyder, illustrated by Alton Raible (1967) My best friend, Lisa, and I tended to immerse ourselves in Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s books, but this one became an obsession. It started with a mild case of Ancient Egypt interest. Which was fine—even healthy. We invented our own hieroglyphs. Nothing fancy, just a symbol for every… Read more »

The River at Green Knowe

L. M. Boston, illustrated by Peter Boston (1959) This is a magical book with marvelous illustrations, and none of what follows can change that. I was in fourth grade, and we were supposed to do an art project based on a book. Like a diorama or a mobile—those were always solid choices. But I took… Read more »

Harriet the Spy

Written and illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh (1964) The best childhood books often drive their readers to do something: whether it’s making your neighbors act out the Awful Dynne chapter from The Phantom Tollbooth, forcing those same long-suffering neighbors to spend most of a week in a shrub after reading The Changeling, or searching high and… Read more »

Oscar Lobster’s Fair Exchange

George Selden, illustrated by Peter Lippman (1966) This was my first “beach book” in the marketing sense of the term. I always brought books to the beach, but Oscar Lobster’s Fair Exchange took place in the ocean, which felt just perfect to me. There I was, reading about talking lobsters and fish, mere yards from… Read more »

Oz books

L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W. W. Denslow and John R. Neill I read all the Oz books the local library owned at least once, including the late ones written by L. Frank Baum’s relatives and in-laws and assorted hangers-on. I believed in Oz. Literally. There was a map, so it had to be real…. Read more »

Moomin books

Written and illustrated by Tove Jansson I broke my Little My mug the other day, which is a shame. But I can easily replace it. And I still have my three Moomin T-shirts, my Moomin backpack, and my Moomin bank. Not to mention the stationery supplies. The point is that despite the relative (and totally… Read more »