24 Childrens’ And YA Books Everyone Should Read Or Re-Read

No matter how old you are, these gems are wise beyond their targeted age group. posted on

24. The Magic Treehouse

Courtesy of Random House

Why it was awesome then: Secret transporting treehouse in the woods. Need I say more? How many hours did you spend climbing around the brush behind your house hoping you’ll stumble upon Morgan le Fay’s hideout?
Why it’s still awesome now: You can obviously better appreciate the catchy as hell titles, but also, these are great lessons in history and literature. Mary Pop Osbourne introduced you to the wonders of reading at a young age, and her series still posseses the same magic that captured you as a kid.

23. Matilda

Courtesy of Puffin Books

Why it was awesome then: It was beyond therapeutic to see all those nasty adults get owned by a little girl.
Why it’s still awesome now: Matilda is a fable about the power of and desire for knowledge. It teaches that intellect and a kind heart can overcome anything - and that’s not just a lesson for childhood, it’s a lesson for LIFE. Plus, it’s STILL therapeutic to see all those nasty adults get owned.

22. Charlotte’s Web

Courtesy of Harper & Brothers

Why it was awesome then: Charlotte’s Web played with your heart BIG TIME. It’s captivating and emotional and TALKING ANIMAL BOOKS WERE THE BEST.
Why it’s still awesome now: When you think about it, or take the time to reread, Charlotte’s Web is all about friendship and compassion. It’s about a people/animals who come from different species and lifestyles who take care of each other, befriend each other, and really love each other despite all of their differences and stereotypes.

21. The Outsiders

Courtesy of Viking Press

Why it was awesome then: “Stay gold, Pony boy,” would be your cool motto for years.
Why it’s still awesome now: “Stay gold, Pony boy,” is still your cool motto.

20. Bridge to Terabithia

Courtesy of Harper Trophy

Why it was awesome then: Magic and makebelieve and kids without their parents in the woods (we’ve already established that this is awesome via The Magic Treehouse).
Why it’s still awesome now: Here’s another celebration of imagination and friendship. And like Charlotte’s Web, it’s not afraid to be emotionally bruising.

19. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Courtesy of Magical Books Publishing

Why it was awesome then: Two kids runaway and live in a museum and solve mysteries. WHY WASN’T THIS YOUR LIFE?
Why it’s still awesome now: The book contains tons of art history tidbits, and is all about ingenuity, independence, and sibling love.

18. My Dog Skip

Courtesy of Vintage

Why it was awesome then: ADVENTURES! AND PUPPIES!
Why it’s still awesome now: The bittersweet coming of age story really taps into the truth about the early relationships you formed. As a kid, the book makes you want to go have adventures. As an adult, it makes you nostalgic for those early years when everything was new, and the bonds you formed as you discovered the world.

17. Tuck Everlasting

Courtesy of Square Fish

Why it was awesome then: Tuck Everlasting posed some big questions for children about life, love, morality, and family. We felt grown up being involved in a story which allowed us to really explore these themes!
Why it’s still awesome now: It’s everything Twilight could never be.

16. Artemis Fowl

Courtesy of Hyperion Books

Why it was awesome then: This hi-tech sci-fi about a child genius was essential the YA version of Oceans 11 if you threw in an underground elf and fairy population. It was awesome.
Why it’s still awesome now: THE MOVIE IS COMING! Also, even though later installments left a bit to be desired, the Artemis Fowl series is very much about the universal quest to find your place in the world, and of course, promotes the power of the brain.

15. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Courtesy of Atheneum Books

Why it was awesome then: ANOTHER TALKING ANIMAL BOOK!
Why it’s still awesome now: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH poses some pretty legitimate concerns about animal testing, and in everybody saving each other and making peace in a better environment where everyone is treated well. Ah, UTOPIA.

14. Gregor the Overlander

Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Why it was awesome then: Speaking of talking rats. This one is supercool in that category. Also, it’s about kids who find a secret world underground where people live without sunlight and among overgrown vermin. It’s a bit creepy but eternally awesome.
Why it’s still awesome now: Suzanne Collins wrote the Gregor books before her huge splash with The Hunger Games!

13. Ella Enchanted

Courtesy of Harper Trophy

Why it was awesome then: Ella turned Cinderella into a dynamic badass and fiercely independent chick. Anyone who said this book wasn’t perfect was LYING.
Why it’s still awesome now: It’s good enough that the poorly-written movie didn’t ruin it (how dare they leave out the staircase scene and oh, just COMPLETELY CHANGE THE PLOT), but the book also makes a comment on gender roles and power dynamics through Ella’s curse of obedience. But it’s still a little bit romantic. Sigh. Perfection.

12. Hatchet

Courtesy of Bradbury Press

Why it was awesome then: Brian gets tough and works out his issues with his family through surviving alone in the wilderness.
Why it’s awesome now: Hatchet came before ‘Winter’s Bone,’ and while Gary Paulson’s novel obviously lacks the JLaw factor, it’s still an intense testament to the human will.

11. Looking for Alaska

Courtesy of Dutton Books

Why it was awesome then: JOHN GREEN JUST GOT YOU, OK?
I mean, come one: “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
It’s truly beautiful in all its angstiness.
Why it’s awesome now: Well-written teen angst is a hard thing to come by, but John Green is the master. There’s really no better way to relive your teens than by curling up with the John Green collection and some tissues, his manic-Pixie-Girl-esque-completely-unrealistic-tragic-heroine fetish aside.

10. Eragon

Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Why it was awesome then: “SOMEBODY MY AGE WROTE THIS!” Also, dragons.
Why its still awesome now: SOMEBODY YOUNGER THAN YOU WROTE THIS. Also, dragons.

9. Holes

Courtesy of Yearling Books

Why it was awesome then: It actually freaked you out a little. You didn’t want to do something bad and end up stranded digging in the middle of the desert. But at least you would have made some great friends and learned some cool local history.
Why it’s still awesome then: It’s a cross-generational story about crime, race, and redemption. It’s not exactly Spot the Puppy, so it can offer a lot to think abut, even for adult readers.

8. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Courtesy of Intervisual Books Inc

Why it was awesome then: Tom Sawyer was a snarky troll. What wasn’t to love? Plus, through in some mystery and young love? This book had everything.
Why it’s still awesome now: Mark Twain was a genius and his books are for everyone all the time.

7. Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Courtesy of Usborne Books

Why it was awesome then: It was the story version of all the Disney Movies!
Why it’s still awesome now: When you read the original versions, its kind of like a Disney Princesses: E! True Hollywood Story. All the gory and frankly bizarre details of the raw material make you feel like you’re getting the seedy underbelly you never imagined as a child.

6. The Hunger Games

Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Why it was awesome then: Well, ‘then’ is kind of ‘now’ in this case, isn’t it, kids?
Why it’s awesome now: Social commentary plus badass heroine plus dystopian society, it’s all just bang on trend at the moment.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Courtesy of Doubleday Books

Why it was awesome then: It was an alternative read. Plus, you felt like it taught you a lot about the way people different from you see the world.

Why it’s still awesome now: You have to admire Mark Haddon’s effort to write a sophisticated and nuanced YA mystery novel from the first person POV of an autistic preteen. It’s supremely well-written and interesting, and also promoted readers’ awareness and tolerance of autism. It’s now a top-selling West End play in London.

4. The House of the Scorpion

Courtesy of Antheneum Boom

Why it was awesome then: A cloned boy escapes being harvested for organs, persecution, and forms a secret resistance to set the world straight. Pure, science-fictiony goodness right there.
Why it’s still awesome now: Nancy Farmer touched on every delicate socio-political issue she possibly could at the book aimed for 9-13 year old. Illegal immigration, drug legalization, stem-cell research and cloning, religion… seriously, the lady doesn’t shy away from anything and offers her readers of any age to consider all of these relevant topics. She encourages compassion, fairness, and humanity above all things, and it’s just really, really, incredible. Also the long-awaited sequel is released next month!

3. Winnie the Pooh

Courtesy of Dutton Books

Why it was awesome then: Obviously more talking animals.
Why it was awesome then: A.A. Milne wrote some of the sweetest and wisest stories I have ever read. They have a calming effect no matter what age you are, and celebrate friendship and love in such a beautiful way.

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Why it was awesome then: Do I even have to say anything?
Why it’s still awesome now: Because after all this time, always.

And the most relevant children’s book for your life no matter your age is…

1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Courtesy of Aladdin Books

Why it was awesome then: Life can be s#!& man, even when you’re four.
Why it’s still awesome now: Because some days you fall in a puddle, stub your toe, get teased by your friends, have a crap lunch, and you just need to bitch it out.

What Children/YA Books Are Still on Your Shelf?


I probably left on some obvious classics, so what other books from your childhood do you read and reread?

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