Favorite Childhood Books

What were your favorite childhood books, the ones you cherished and read a thousand times and still remember vividly today?

 Ellen Byron


One of my favorite books as a kid – aside from A.A. Milne’s poems and all things Peter Pan – was an old-timey tome called The Peterkin Papers. It was about a family that was book-smart but common-sense stupid. They were usually saved from their own idiocy by the appearance of their neighbor, known as the Lady from Philadelphia. For example, in one story they bought a Christmas tree that was too large for their living room. To accommodate it, they cut a hole in the ceiling. The Lady from Philadelphia pointed out they could have cut off part of the trunk, and they were like, “Duh!” I still have my copy of the book and read the stories to my daughter, who enjoyed them as much as I did.

But my all-time favorite book from my childhood? Edward Eager’s Knight’s Castle. It’s funny, touching, and magical, transporting four quarreling cousins back to the court of Ivanhoe, where they learn life lessons and come away with a grudging respect for each other. I love Knight’s Castle so much that I’ve tried to get the rights to it a couple of times for a TV or film version. I’m still hoping that happens someday.

Vickie Fee

vickieA couple of years ago I finally found and ordered a copy of my favorite childhood book, Mystery on the Nine-Mile Marsh, on Amazon. It’s now available on Kindle. (If you scroll down the page on Amazon, you’ll find a glowing review from yours truly.) Re-reading it after so many, many years, I was surprised how well it holds up, despite being a bit dated. As an author now, I’m especially impressed with the suspense and pacing of this little reader. It’s a real page-turner! When I was nine or ten I checked this book out so many times, the school librarian told me I wasn’t allowed to check it out again. I was forced to get classmates to procure it for me! Here’s a nice archived post from the Maine Crime Writers blog about the author, Mary C. Jane, who wrote a dozen children’s mysteries in the fifties and sixties, all set in Maine. We had only the one book penned by her at my school, so I’ve got some catching up to do!

Kellye Garrett

6Even as a kid, I loved to read two things that I would carry on into my adult life: mysteries and series. In addition to Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, I also loved reading the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series. As the names give away, these series were about girls who babysat and girls who were twins. I can’t tell you a single thing about a single book. But I can tell you that I read each and every one of them. And would force my poor parents to take me to Livingston Mall just so I could scope out both Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Booksellers to see who had the better selection that month. Good times.

Marla Cooper

CotC Marla Cooper

I’m sure I won’t be alone in this, but I loved all things Nancy Drew when I was growing up. I also loved anything scary, and I remember in sixth grade when my grandmother took away my copy of Amityville Horror because she thought I was too young. (Luckily, she “hid” it from me in her desk drawer, so I would just get it out after she’d gone to bed and read it in the dark.) I don’t really remember much about my reading habits before my penchant for mystery and horror kicked it, but one time I was at an antique store and found a darling picture book I’d had as a child with stories about naughty squirrels, precocious rabbits, and kittens who didn’t want to take a nap. It brought back so many memories! (Spoiler alert: The squirrels made amends to their next-door neighbor and the kittens finally did manage to doze off.)

Cynthia Kuhn


Oh my, this is a difficult question. So. Many. Choices.

Aside from re-reading Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and the Meg series*, I loved everything by Edward Eager, especially Half Magic, and by L.M. Montgomery, not just Anne Shirley but the Emily Byrd Starr books too. Preferred books with female protagonists of the strong, sassy variety, but would read anything as long as it had something interesting happening. That sums up my childhood, pretty much: no matter where we went, I’d bring my book and could happily curl up and read for hours, squinting through my weirdly shaped eye glasses (that’s a whole different story).

*Not sure there was a full series title, just “Meg and…” like Meg and the Disappearing Diamonds.

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36 thoughts on “Favorite Childhood Books

  1. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie – of course. Kellye, I remember the Sweet Valley and Babysitters Club, too.

    The Phantom Tollbooth was another. I don’t know why that one mesmerized me so, but it did.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Love this discussion—and looking forward to checking out some of these titles. Never even heard of Edward Eager, but with two of you recommending, he’s going to be tops on my to-check-out list. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Typo corrected, early readers! Cynthia, I’m so happy to find another Edward Eager fan! Our books are related. KNIGHTS CASTLE followed HALF MAGIC. Or the other way around?

    Art, yes, do. They’re witty books, but with some substance. I think your son would enjoy them. Liz, now I want to read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH!

    And I’m telling you, kids still get a kick out of the PETERKIN PAPERS. In one story, when a piano is delivered, it’s placed the wrong way, facing outward, not inward. So the daughter is playing it through the window, sitting on the outside porch. The Lady from Philadelphia says, “Why don’t you turn the piano around?” And they’re like, “Eureka! That never occurred to us.”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Kellye! I was all about The Baby-Sitters Club and the Sweet Valley Twins, too! I legit was a member of the Baby-Sitters Club fanclub (anyone remember Scholastic book orders?) and those Sweet Valley books became absolutely bonkers. Still loved them.

    I was also all about The Boxcar Children, The Goosebumps series (especially the choose your own ending ones) and Encyclopedia Brown. I checked out “Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake” so many times, they made me stop so other kids could read it too. Looking back, that book was probably the precursor to my love of culinary cozies ^^

    Oh, and the book that still gets reread every few years? Little Women ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mia, I love that you were a member of the Babysitters Club fan club! I was a card-carrying member of the Donny Osmond fan club! (You had to Google who that was, amiright?!)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My first obsession was Little Pilgrims Progress. I had my own copy, and I’d read it and immediately start over from the beginning.

    In third grade, I tried to read a Hardy Boys book and the Chronicles of Narnia at the same time. That was the last time I tried to read two books at once. And it was two years before I tried the Hardy Boys again. Yes, this mystery reader chose fantasy over mystery that time around.

    But yes, I did love the Hardys and Nancy and Encyclopedia Brown. Then I discovered Trixie Belden and never looked back. (Cynthia, the series you are thinking of is the Meg series. Just that – nothing else. I’ve got all six of those around here somewhere, too.)

    My brother is seven years younger than me, so I was in high school when he started reading the Accidental Detectives books thanks to his recommendation. I still love them. A Christian middle grade mystery series with some of the best plotted mysteries, real characters, humor, and good themes that never slow down the story.

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  6. Such a fun trip down memory lane! I’m like Cynthia – I think I read anything that fell into my hands. My big fave was, no surprise, Nancy Drew, but I also loved Encyclopedia Brown and still own the Hardy Boys Detective Handbook. Comes in handy when I want to delve into police procedure circa 1962.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Count me as another Half Magic and Knight’s Castle fan. Loved. I was also a fan of anything featuring lonely English girls: A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, then the Shoes books… One of my fave heroines, though, was Katie John of Honestly, Katie John fame. Oh, and the All of a Kind series with five daughters in a Jewish family in NYC. Face pictirenook ever: The Snowy Day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. OMG, I can’t believe you brought up the All of a Kind series!! I LOVED that. I bought a copy for Eliza, but she didn’t get into it, sigh. She didn’t get into a lot of the books I loved. Except Nancy Drew. She got totally into them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Kellye, Liz, Mia: The Babysitters Club was after my time (I am old). But I look forward to checking them out! Ditto for the Peterkin Papers, Ellen!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, my, such wonderful memories of favorite books. I worked my way through all of Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr, Tom Swift. and more. But as much of a mystery lover as I was (and am) my all time favorites were Girl of the Limberlost and Robert Heinlein’s youth books.

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  10. I was an avid bookworm from a young age. I had a big bookcase in my room with over 300 books – I counted! – handed down from an older cousin and I was at the library at least weekly. The books that stand out to me the most are the Baby-Sitters Club series. I vividly remember going to KMart every time a new one came out and handing over 2.95 + tax of my tiny monthly allowance and begging for any BSC book in the school book orders. A few of my other favorites were A Wrinkle In Time, Where the Red Fern Grows, and anything by Judy Blume and Christopher Pike. I spent many wonderful hours inside and outside reading.

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  11. You guys, I forgot the most important book of all that I read!! LITTLE WOMEN. A friend of my father’s gave me a copy for Christmas when I was nine and I became obsessed with it. I read everything Louisa May Alcott wrote after that.

    And here’s a great story. That book meant so much to me that about five years ago, i used Zaba Search to track down the woman who gave it me. I found her, called – mind you, this is someone who I haven’t seen since I was ten – and told her how much that book meant to me and that I still had the copy she gave me. And she said, “I thought you hated it!” The thing is, during the Christmas break, we moved from Queens to Scarsdale. I was sad because I knew I was saying goodbye to my friends probably forever (which did turn out to be the case). So that was why I wasn’t too expressive.

    BUT I got to tell this woman – who was close to ninety at the time – the real truth, and it just made her day. I’m so glad I did that.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I came to this blog post late, but found it after the interview with blogger Mark Baker. If you haven’t heard, Mark created a FB group called First Lines Monday. We all enjoy adding the books recommended to our TBR lists based on the great first lines *(what we writers all strive to create ourselves.)

    No one mentioned the most famous children’s mystery “The Westing Game.” It was very popular in my school library when I was the media specialist. Can you keep a secret? There will be a special feature on children’s mysteries in the next First Draft! Hope you enjoy and comment on your favorite new and old mystery novels for middle grade readers. SHHH!!!
    January, 2018


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