Authors' Favorite Booklist
"You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children."
Before they were authors and illustrators of the books children rave about today, they were readers with favorite books of their own. Check out what these writers have to say about the books of their own childhoods.
David A. Adler (Cam Jansen series, Andy Russell series, The Babe & I) "My favorite for decades is 'The Doughnuts' in the book Homer Price by Robert McCloskey. I'm sure I identify with Homer, who tried to be so helpful. His work turned to disaster and then triumph. So often I feel I'm at the disaster stage and hope, like Homer, I'll be triumphant in the end."
Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Catalyst, Fever 1793) "I can remember being fully enchanted by The Borrowers by Mary Norton (illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush) and the other books in the series. It was one of the first books that completely transported me into a fictional world. It also influenced my decision to write books for children. While working as a journalist, I locked my keys in my car. Lucky for me, the car was parked in the library parking lot (I had interviewed a librarian for a newspaper story.) While I waited for my spare keys to arrive, I curled up in the children's section and reread The Borrowers. The magic still worked. When I closed the story, I realized how much I wanted to write a book that might touch a child the way Mary Norton's story touched me."
Joan Bauer (Hope Was Here, Backwater, Stand Tall) "I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee when I was 13 — remember where I was, what I was wearing. That book just electrified me with its power and grace. My parents were divorced when I was eight and I'd been in great need of male father figures. When I came to Atticus Finch, I knew I'd found the dad I always wanted. As a writer I try to remember how powerfully that character touched me. I try to create characters who can be role models in my novels. It all started with that book."
Francesca Lia Block (Weetzie Bat, Girl Goddess #9) "My dad read me fairytales and Greek myths. I was very lucky to have parents who gave me lots of encouragement." Some favorite books from childhood were The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell (illustrated by Maurice Sendak) and titles by Rumer Godden.
Judy Blume (Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, Freckle Juice, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing) "As a preschooler, I discovered Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans at the library. I loved it so much; I didn't want to part with it. In fact, because I thought I had the only copy in the world. I hid the book in my kitchen toy drawer so that my mother wouldn't be able to return it to the library."
Bruce Brooks (Everywhere, No Kidding, The Moves Make the Man) "In the fifth grade, a new teacher read to our class from books that weren't part of our schoolwork. The first was Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona. That was the first time I realized that school could be fun, and that books could be fun. That experience led me to read more on my own."
Eve Bunting (A Days Work, Fly Away Home, Smoky Night) "I always read voraciously. Growing up I loved every minute of the Anne of Greene Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. In fact I tried to get my friends to call me Anne."
Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries, All-American Girl) "I read a lot of fantasy such as The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper and the Lloyd Alexander books. Lately I am exploring all of the great books for girls that I missed because I was too much of a tomboy to read them."
Andrew Clements (Frindle, The School Story, The Landry News) "My favorite books are Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, and my favorite picture book is The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown (illustrated by Garth Williams). I think everyone should read Charlotte's Web when they are six or ten years old, and then read it again, every five years for the rest of his or her life. It's a great book that keeps on growing as you do."
Chris Crutcher (Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Whale Talk, Ironman) "From my adolescence, Harper Lee, my one and only... When I write stories today, I measure each and every one of them against To Kill a Mockingbird. When I get within a country mile, I'll raise my glass in the evening sunset and give eternal thanks to Harper Lee."
Bruce Coville (The Rod Allbright Alien Adventures, I Was a Sixth Grade Alien, The Unicorn Chronicles series) "As a child I loved Mary Poppins and Dr. Dolittle, and I can remember getting up ahead of everyone else in the family so that I could huddle in a chair and read The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting."
Paula Danziger (The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? and the Amber Brown series) "Favorite childhood books? Here goes: The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (when I was very little) and The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (in high school). In fact, I once named a cat "FinneyHolden" after two of my favorite characters... Finney in A Separate Peace and Holden in The Catcher in the Rye."
Bruce Degen (Jamberry, illustrator of the Magic School Bus books) "I read My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett) many, many times. I can remember stopping to read this under a big tree in the park halfway home from my library, because I couldn't wait to read it again. Fun, scary, great illustrations, the wild animals really mean business."
Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, The Tiger Rising) "I read everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid. And I loved it all. Some favorites were: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ribsy by Beverly Cleary and a strange little book called Somebody Else's Shoes."
Sharon M. Draper (Tears of the Tiger, Let the Circle Be Unbroken) "My favorite children's books were written by Beverly Cleary. Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, and all of the others were my very best friends. I knew their families, understood their problems, and shared their triumphs. They were just like me -- sometimes mischievous, often misunderstood, but wonderfully full of the glory of childhood."
Kathleen Duey (The Unicorn's Secret series, Survival series) "Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was a favorite. My parents were not fiction-readers. They didn't read novels and they didn't buy them -- I don't recall being read to at all as a child. I grew up on National Geographic, encyclopedias, and Life Magazine. It was a rich, wonderful way to learn how to read."
Mem Fox (Wilford Gordon MacDonald Partridge, Time for Bed, Hattie and the Fox) "The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall and The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs. That's why I now write so many wildly Australian books: my early book diet was heavily Australian in spite of growing up in Africa."
Russell Freedman (The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane, The Life and Death of Crazy Horse and many more) "My favorite writer was Howard Pease. Howard Pease wrote wonderful adventure stories (The Tattooed Man, The Jinx Ship, Shanghai Passage) about boys who ran away from home and sailed the world in the merchant marine. I read every book Howard Pease ever wrote."
Nikki Grimes (Bronx Masquerade, Talkin' About Bessie, Jazmin's Notebook) "Death be Not Proud by John Gunther taught me a lot about the power of storytelling and it appealed to my, shall we say, rather well-developed sense of drama!"
Mary Downing Hahn (Stepping on the Cracks, Look For Me by Moonlight) "I adored Lassie, Come Home by Eric Knight because of her devotion to the boy Joe. And, unlike the heroes of many dog stories, Lassie does not die. She triumphs over all adversity."
Joyce Hansen (I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, The Captive, Which Way Freedom?) "Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was my favorite. My mother read it to me before I even learned how to read. I think I enjoyed the world of this book. It fired my own imagination. I remember feeling as though I was really there with Alice as my mother read the story to me."
Karen Hesse (Out of the Dust, Letters from Rifka, Just Juice) "The most pivotal children's book for me was Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. My sense of moral integrity, dedication, fortitude and faith (not to mention a bit of whimsy) is balanced on the broad back of that beloved elephant."
Lee Bennett Hopkins (Marvelous Math, Climb Into My Lap: First Poems to Read Together, Lives: Poems About Famous Americans) "My favorite book as a youngster, and the first book I truly read from cover to cover, when I was twelve years old was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I loved that book then and still love it now. I suppose the main reason is that the book depicted the kind of family I didn't have as a youth."
James Howe (Bunnicula series, the Sebastian Barth mysteries, the Pinky and Rex series) "I was the youngest of four brothers, the next youngest was eight years older than me. That is probably one of the reasons why I loved Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, which my parents gave me when I was in the first grade. Like Wilbur the pig, I was the runt of the litter. I think I identified with his need to survive as the little one in a big world and to find his own way."
Johanna Hurwitz (Summer with Elisa, Rip-Roaring Russell, Class Clown) "Anne of Greene Gables (L. M. Montgomery), Heidi (Johanna Spyri), and Stuart Little (E. B. White) were favorites, as were the Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene). And best of all, the Betsy-Tacy series (Maud Hart Lovelace). I reread Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter every summer. In the sweltering Bronx heat, that book about plunging temperatures was my interior air-conditioning."
William Joyce (George Shrinks, Santa Calls, Dinosaur Bob) "One very courageous librarian who loved children's books worked at our rural library. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak changed my life and set me on the path of children's literature. After that it was Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter), Stuart Little (E. B. White), the Winnie-the-Pooh books (A.A. Milne), and The Borrowers (Mary Norton)."
David Kirk (Miss Spider series, Nova's Ark) "I was not a big reader as a child. I watched lots and lots of television. My favorite picture book was How the Mole Got His Car by Eduard Petiska (illustrated by Zdenek Miler) Even though I didn't read much as a child, I read with my daughters all of the time. So even though I didn't read a lot as a child, I read a lot now -- still children's books."
Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Meet the Austins) "I loved Emily of New Moon (by L.M. Montgomery). Lucy Maud Montgomery is better known for her 'Anne' books, but I loved Emily. Emily wanted to be a writer; Emily saw the transcendence, so she was definitely a hero who allowed me to be different!"
Lois Lowry (the Anastasia series, The Giver, Number the Stars) "The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawling was a landmark in my life as a reader and writer: It was while listening to that novel that I realized that the words of a book could stir intense emotions."
Ann M. Martin (The Baby-sitter's Club series, P.S. Longer Letter Later) "I was a huge reader. I loved The Story of Babar (Jean De Brunhoff), Mary Poppins (P. L.Travers), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum), and the Doctor Dolittle books (Hugh Lofting). I read Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh) just before our family took a long train trip across the western United States. I spent most of the trip taking notes on the other passengers."
Pat Mora (Tomás and the Library Lady, A Birthday Basket for Tia) "It's impossible to talk about ONE favorite book since there are so many books I enjoyed. Certainly, a favorite set that I "discovered" at the El Paso Public Library long before the television series was the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. How I loved them!"
Laura Numeroff (If You Take A Mouse to School, If You Take A Mouse to the Movies If You Give a Pig A Pancake) "The writing in the Eloise books by Kay Thompson (illustrated by Hilary Knight) was so much fun to read out loud and I enjoyed pretending I was Eloise. The illustrations were some of my favorites. All the details and the poses Eloise took were just incredible."
Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard, When My Name Was Keoko, The Kite Fighters) "I have about a million favorite books. Those below are listed because I've read each of them over and over and over... and I never get tired of them. (I also like making lists!) What Then, Raman? by Shirley Arora; Tales of a Korean Grandmother by Frances Carpenter; Half Magic by Edward Eager; The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright; From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg; The Borrowers by Mary Norton; Roosevelt Grady by Louisa Shotwell; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor; The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder; and The Man with the Purple Eyes by Charlotte Zolotow."
Katherine Patterson (Bridge to Terabithia, Lyddie, Jacob I Have Loved) "I loved being read to and my mother read to us a lot. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett by affected me at 8. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, which was my favorite at 11/12, certainly influenced me. I loved Kate Seredy, Robert Lawson, Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Heidi. What can I say? I read a lot."
Rod Philbrick (Freak The Mighty, The Fire Pony) "When my younger brother and I read (I should say devoured) The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron, we immediately rushed down to the basement to try and build a rocket ship to take us to Mr. Bass's Mushroom Planet. Needless to say we failed - but that book was one of the very first that made me want to write stories that would make readers want to launch themselves into a whole new world of reading."
Patricia Polacco (The Keeping Quilt, Thank You Mr. Falker, The Bee Tree) "Of all of Dr. Seuss's books, Horton Hatches the Egg is such a heartwarming tale. I was once inspired as a child to climb my grandpa's cherry tree and sit on the skinniest branch you ever saw."
J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) "The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge was my favorite childhood book. I absolutely adored it. It had a cracking plot. It was scary and romantic in parts and had a feisty heroine."
Pam Munoz Ryan (Esperanza Rising, Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride,) "I have to admit, that based on the number of times that I've read it, Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is one of my all-time favorites. I love it because of its simple beauty and finely woven words."
John Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man, Math Curse, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) "I loved Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham, P. D. Eastman's Go Dog Go, and The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss (illustrated by Crockett Johnson). I'd make my mom read them over and over until they were burned into my brain. I was so jazzed by the rhyming in Dr. Seuss's books that I tried to write my own funky little verse."
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Jingle Dancer, Indian Shoes,) "I probably read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, oh I don't know how many times. Often enough that the pages curled at the corners and became smeared with the occasional Twinkie or plop of applesauce. For me, having hardly ventured beyond the mid-to-southwest, it was a treat to vicariously visit New York."
Jerry Spinelli (Crash, Maniac Magee, Wringer) "My favorite book as a young child was The Story of Babar by Laurent De Brunhoff. I cried at the death of the elephant, but next night I wanted my mother to read it to me again."
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
- The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown
- Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman
- The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
- How the Mole Got His Car by Eduard Petiska
- The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
- Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
- The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall
- The Man with the Purple Eyes by Charlotte Zolotow.
- Tales of a Korean Grandmother by Frances Carpenter
- Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
- Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
- Half Magic by Edward Eager
- The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
- The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
- The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
- The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell
- Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace
- Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
- Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
- Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne
- Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
- Roosevelt Grady by Louisa Shotwell
- Eloise books by Kay Thompson
- Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
- Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
- Stuart Little by E. B. White
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
- The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
- My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
- Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
- Lassie, Come Home by Eric Knight
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
- The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton
- Anne of Greene Gables series by L. M. Montgomery
- Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
- The Jinx Ship by Howard Pease
- The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
- Heidi by Johanna Spyri
- All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Death be Not Proud by John Gunther
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain