1. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I just loved this book as a kid. It has everything a good children’s book needs—adventure, fantasy, whimsy, and a good life lesson or two. The book follows Milo, a little boy who gets bored and drives his toy car through a magic tollbooth, on an epic adventure through the Kingdom of Wisdom. The Phantom Tollbooth is witty, heartfelt, and playful. And for all the English nerds out there, this book has all kinds of good wordplay. Enjoy.
2. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg is a story about friendship, bravery, and finding your tribe. I just love Konigsburg’s writing style—which may just be why she shows up multiple times on this list!
3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. The simplest (and best) way to describe this books is to say that its about friendship—real, genuine, no-matter-what friendship. The friendship that blossoms between the most unlikely pair, a pig and a spider, has something powerful to teach us about what can happen when we take care of one another and realize that we all need to be rescued sometimes.
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is just gold. I won’t gush about Harry Potter (too much), but every kid should read the Harry Potter series…and every adult for that matter. This is the kind of book that can make a kid fall in love with reading. It is about magic, yes. But it is also about good versus evil, growing up, figuring out what you believe in, friendship, and standing up for what is right and good and true. I honestly can’t wait to read these books to my kids.
5. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar is a hilarious book about a school that was built 30 stories high and the wacky things that happens there. My second grade teacher used to read us a chapter from this book at the end of each day, and we loved it. This is the book for the kid who doesn’t like to read, and I can guarantee that it will have him rolling on the floor laughing. Sachar just gets kids, and this book totally reflects that. Bonus: there are also two other books in the series that are just as wonderful.
6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a science fiction novel that follows a little girl named Meg’s journey through the fifth dimension to rescue her father. There are a lot of difficult concepts in this book, but the writing is beautiful and honest and authentic. It also teaches us that there’s nothing wrong with being the girl who is super smart and a little weird…in fact, it’s pretty awesome.
7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis might just be one of my favorite books of all time. C.S. Lewis possesses the rare ability to communicate effectively with both children and adults and to tell a story so vivid and tangible that it captures your heart and imagination and won’t let go. The world that Lewis creates in the Narnia series is a captivating and beautiful portrait of who God is and his role in our lives. This is another series that I’m super excited to read with my own kids one day.
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has so much to teach kids about empathy, patience, and being a voice for justice. It’s also the kind of book you can read over and over again—and you should.
9. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg tells the story of two kids who run away from home to go live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I mean, what kid hasn’t fantasized about running free in a museum at night? I love how the author combines the main character’s thirst for adventure, mystery, and quest for identity with a fascination for art and history. This is definitely my favorite Konigsburg book.
What would you add to the list?