It may not surprise you to learn that I was a voracious reader as a child. Some of my fondest memories are of curling up in an armchair and polishing off the latest Babysitter’s Club book; exploring the protected forest surrounding our farmhouse with the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder in hand; and acting out the misadventures of Anne Shirley and Trixie Belden with my friends and siblings.
I was drawn to endless series like Nancy Drew–names I could trust, characters I could grow with. And I count these characters among my closest childhood friends. That’s the mark of an excellent children’s book.
A few disclaimers: Because I read so frequently and quickly, my local librarians couldn’t contain me to the children’s section. I often ventured into the adult stacks, and since my library was in an almost entirely Mennonite town, I ended up reading a fair bit of Christian romance. So there’s that. Also, it’s pretty clear I was a product of the 80s, judging by these covers. Ye gads!
Anyway, I present to you my top ten favorite series when I was just a tyke.
10. “Brides of Montclair” by Jane Peart
Let’s dive right into the heavy-duty Christian romance, shall we? The Brides of Montclair series, set in “the Old South,” follows willowy young women and foolhardy, dashing men as they dash and willow about. Hardly classics, these books enchanted me as a child with undertones I fought to understand. Even though they were Christian, I sometimes had to hide them from my mother when there was a particularly racy plotline.
9. “The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner
This was one of the best books to read up in the garage loft that my brother and I turned into a home-away-from-home. Our “clubhouse” was, we imagined, the spitting image of a boxcar, with rough wood planks and sunlight peeking in through the tar-paper roof. Cleaning and decorating that old loft was one of the first times in my life that I felt self-sufficient. Dennis and I were confident that were something to happen to our own parents, we could take care of at least a few of our siblings like Henry and Jessie.
8. “The Babysitters’ Club” by Ann M. Martin
With so many siblings, I was a born babysitter. I liked the Babysitters’ Club because for them, staying at home with the young’uns was not only a choice, it was a pleasure. They turned a dull after-school job into adventures to remember, and they taught me to see children as gifts to cherish–even when they had stinky diapers and colic.
7. “The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle” by Bill Myers
Wally McDoogle, the “walking human disaster,” is the kind of kid that makes the average klutz look like a graceful butterfly. He always seems to find himself in the worst of situations… but he always finds a way out of them as well. A lesson in both resourcefulness and self-esteem, these books were really, really funny to a 9-year-old me. And because they are overtly Christian, they were never crude.
6. The Seven Sleepers by Gilbert Morris
Dennis and I read read this seven-part series more times than either of us can count. Despite Christian overtones and glaring inconsistencies (one of the characters is a blue-eyed brunette in one book and jade-eyed and raven-haired in the next), we loved how characters like ourselves–the misfits–were plopped into exciting adventures and proved that they had the mettle to take on any challenge.
5. “Trixie Belden” by Julie Campbell
One of my childhood best friends had an almost-complete collection of Trixie Belden novels. Though I was initially put off by “sweet” characters named “Honey” who drive around in “jalopies,” I quickly came around. Trixie and her friends are like an empathetic Nancy Drew, and their stories are much more fun to act out!
4. “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery
Anne was another favorite to act out with my friends. Carey, one of the most willful and outgoing kids I had ever met, found comfort in Anne Shirley’s antics, and I was a born Diana. We read all of the sequels and prequels together, and imagined that our lives would turn out just like Anne’s does.
3. “The Golden Filly Collection” by Lauraine Snelling
The title doesn’t impart it, and the cover certainly doesn’t help, but this was an excellent series, perfect for the horse-crazy pre-teen. It brings up a surprising number of difficult issues–illness and death, rebellion and rapprochement, ambition and sacrifice, faith and doubt–without seeming like it was trying too hard or preaching too much.
2. “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I love pioneer stories, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone; this series would be on most little girls’ best of lists, if you were to ask. Ingalls Wilder so completely transports the reader to another world, one encountered in history books but marvelously fleshed out in these children’s books. (I even read the spin-off novels.) I can think of few literary works that had such an effect on my tender psyche.
1. “Love Comes Softly” by Janette Oke
Oh, Janette Oke. There was a time when you could have written a grocery list and I would have read it over and over again. I’m not sure what struck me so about these books, but I was hooked. I kind of thought of the main character, Marty, as a grown-up Laura Ingalls Wilder… only more Christian and more naive, if possible. Oke has written more than 70 books, and I’ve read a good many of them, following the Davis family through generations of hardy, God-fearing folk. And I kind of miss them.
Now I want to go read some of these throwbacks! What about you–what were your favorite books or series?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!