the 10 best children’s middle-grade novels of all time

by marjorieingall on January 26, 2010

NYPL children’s librarian Betsy Bird, who ran an awesome poll last year of the 100 best picture books of all time, is doing a new poll: the 100 best chapter books (fiction only) of all time. To play, send Betsy your top 10 list, and know that your top choice gets 10 points, your second choice gets 9, etc. So you gotta be strategic in your voting, particularly if you want a slightly offbeat choice to place.

I sweated my list. Josie, who is 8, breezed through hers, then resisted my harpy shrieks of HONEY, YOU FORGOT THE MAGIC HALF! YOU LOVED THE MAGIC HALF! and OH MY GAWD THE PENDERWICKS! She kept saying, “Mom. I made my choices. I’m happy with them. You have to let go.”

Shut up, spawn.

Here’s Josie’s list:

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

3. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

4. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

5. Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

6. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster

7. Matilda by Roald Dahl

8. From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg

9. Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson

10. The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

and here’s mine:

1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

3. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

4. Ramona and her Mother by Beverly Cleary (the one in which Ramona’s parents fight about the not-turned-on-crockpot and Ramona gets the cute pixie haircut and feels sorry for Beezus) … tho I could just have easily picked Ramona the Brave (the one in which rigid teacher Mrs Griggs WRONGLY praises Ramona’s nemesis Susan’s owl drawing – the one Susan PLAGIARIZED from Ramona — and then Ramona crumples up both drawings and OMG) or Ramona and Her Father (in which Ramona’s dad loses his job and Ramona tries to get him to quit smoking). THEY ARE ALL GENIUS HOW CAN I CHOOSE WAH WAH! Grr, I already know Ramona is gonna split the vote in her multitudinous awesometasticness.

5. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

6. Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

8. The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

10. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

My childhood self was at war with my adult self. As a kid I preferred The Four-Story Mistake to The Saturdays, but as an adult I can see that The Saturdays has tighter plotting and less authoooorial descriiiiibing of naaaature boggy languor. So I picked The Saturdays. Little Margie lliked The Magician’s Nephew better than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but now I feel that the scariness of the kids being plucked out of Blitz-era London and plunked down with a stranger and traveling through a mysterious wardrobe into an even STRANGER world is more resonant than the nuttiness and mystery of The Magician’s Nephew. I imagine that even though different Ramona books and different Potter books will get different votes, at least a couple of both will make the list. (PLEASE, AT LEAST TWO RAMONAS!) I have endlessly more appreciation for Cleary’s depth and humor since I became a parent.

I predict Charlotte’s Web for first place, though. You heard it here first. Or maybe you didn’t; what do I know.

{ 2 trackbacks }

lois lowry on that thing
February 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm
bless you, betsy
April 6, 2010 at 8:10 am

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fawn January 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Dude. I cannot believe Harriet the Spy didn’t make your list.

marjorieingall January 27, 2010 at 7:56 am

i considered it. it’s a fascinating book but not an emotional one for me — i think its dispassionate tone is what makes it so interesting. it’s a brave authorial choice that (to me at least) harriet isn’t that likable! so i guess i ADMIRE the book without LOVING the book. it would make my top 50 for sure, but i don’t think it would even make my top 20.

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