When I was younger, I was very intimidated to venture near the teen and young adult (YA) sections of the library. I remember telling myself that I would never read any books beyond the safety of the spacious and welcoming children’s section; I couldn’t imagine they could be as interesting as what I was already reading. I’m glad I quickly reneged on that commitment and expanded my interests. Although I realize that some of the books I read as a child weren’t necessarily the pinnacle of literary scholarship, neither are some of the adult and YA books I read now, and it’s honestly pretentious to dismiss any works of media just because they were geared towards children (I’m looking at you, critics of animated films and shows). If anything, shouldn’t we want the media that the younger generation consumes be just as high-quality and valuable so that they can properly appreciate the arts and characteristically develop?
Some of the books I read when I was younger still remain in my top reads, whether for their sentimental value or quality writing, even in comparison to what I’ve read thus far. Last semester, I mentioned some of my “book beginnings” with my list of favorite books, but, here are some more childhood books that helped shape my bibliophile tendencies. I may not have read some of these in a while, so forgive any rusty details.
“The Tales of the Frog Princess” series by E.D. Baker
This series is actually what the Disney classic is based off of! Granted, Tiana’s colorful New Orleans backdrop is absolutely nothing like what happens in this story, but, I love both works in their own ways. The part of the Baker’s work that Disney based the film off of was probably the part where the protagonist turns into a frog herself when she kisses her alleged frog prince. Emma is one of my favorite princess characters, being surprisingly realistic and fleshed-out, not written as clumsy or quirky for the sake of being different. Baker’s plots have enjoyable twists that make for fun storytelling.
“Warriors” series by Erin Hunter
I admit, I too was apprehensive about reading about talking cats, however, Hunter — which is a pseudonym for the five female writers, including their editor — manages to write such a compelling saga about the territorial and interpersonal conflicts between the four cat clans that I forgot how weird it sounds. That’s how you know it’s good! The worldbuilding, intricate plotting and relationships seem dramatic, but Hunter managed to pull it off with continual quality entries.
“Willow Falls” series by Wendy Mass
While you might recognize the author but not necessarily the series name, but if you saw the book covers, you would know what I’m talking about. This series includes “11 Birthdays,” “Finally” and “13 Gifts,” along with two additional entries I consider spin-offs since the main cast takes a slight backseat. (Also, I didn’t get around to reading the last two books, so this entry only really includes the original trilogy.) All three of these books center around magical circumstances during the protagonists’ birthdays, and the character relationships is where the writing shines.
“The Mysterious Benedict Society” series by Trenton Lee Stewart
This book kicked off my phase of “puzzle-based” books like “MVP*: Magellan Voyage Project,” “The Candymakers,” “The Name of this Book is Secret” and “The Gollywhopper Games,” but Stewart’s series still reigns supreme in my book. His writing was very characteristic of a witty narrator, and sometimes, the quirkiness and intricacy was a little much when I was younger, as was the length, however, it’s all worth it. The stories all seem a little far-fetched but work out in such clever ways, you’ll wish you had figured out before on your own, but let’s be honest, there’s a reason some of us aren’t the writers, okay?
I’ve already talked about “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” and “Percy Jackson” probably more than you guys would like to hear, so just know that those books are at the top of my list, even if I don’t discuss them here. If you want quick but enjoyable reads, any books on this list will suffice. I think what they all do is excel at representing well-developed, fleshed out relationships between its characters, which I think is vital for young readers these days.
Honorable mentions: “The Magic Treehouse” series, “Fairest” and “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine, “Enchanted” by Heather Dixon, “Dork Diaries” by Rachel Renée Russell, the “Candy Apple” series, “Gallagher Girls” and , “Year of the Dog” and “Dumpling Days” by Grace Lin, “The Books of Bayern” and “Heist Society” by Shannon Hale, “Sugar and Ice” by Kate Messner, “Once Upon a Marigold” by Jean Ferris,
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.