Children’s Classics – A Personal History

Inspired by The Classics Club December Question:

Let’s talk about children’s classics! Did you read any classic works as a child? What were your favorites? If not, have you or will you try any classic children’s literature in the future? (We’re aware children often read at an adult level. Please feel free to share adult OR children’s classics that you treasured in childhood OR children’s works that you’ve recently fallen for.)

I have a memory from 6th grade and a trip to the school library. I must confess, trips to the school library were never that exciting for me–it just never could compare to the “real” library. But this particular day, for reasons I don’t remember, the class went to the library and we were told to look for a book. I was a little at a loss. When the librarian asked what type of book I was looking for, my response? A “classic.” Somehow, even then, I wanted the old books.

I don’t know where this impulse came from. It’s certainly not like I had never read–and enjoyed–recently published novels. The Redwall books were favorites at the time, and I still have more than one then relatively recent Newbery Medal winner my mom gifted me over the years. But also on my shelves: Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and Huckleberry Finn and Hattie Woodlawn and A Wrinkle in Time and Black Beauty and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Confession: I’ve actually never finished Black Beauty and didn’t read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm until a few years ago. Apparently my problem of not reading books actually on my shelves is a long-standing one.) My dad had read my brother and me Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. (Yes, the whole thing. It took a while.) Classics have somehow always been there, whether I called them by that name or not.

Little House on the Prairie was probably the first classic I read. Maybe. It could have been the abridgment of Rose in Bloom that had been my mom’s when she was little. Or, do the Bobbsy Twins count as classics? I have photographic evidence that the Bobbsy Twins books were my chicken-pox era reading material. (Also my mom’s.) But the memory of Little House on the Prairie arriving in my hands, a garage sale find my mom made, is the strongest. Little House on the Prairie would lead to all the other Little House books, a birthday gift.

I didn’t know these books were old. They were stories I liked. They were good. That was all that mattered. They became books that I revisited again and again. If you ask what book I’ve read most, I don’t truly know the answer. I might usually answer Anne of Green Gables, but Little House on the Prairie would give it good competition. And as for a favorite? Impossible!

I’ve never truly given up children’s books. There might have been a bit of a gap when I was in college. (I didn’t have time for much fun reading then, but I do distinctly recall sitting in the university library rereading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) A few years ago, though, I made a point of revisiting—and discovering new-to-me–children’s classics. There are so many I didn’t know I didn’t know: Finn Family Moomintroll, The Thirteen Clocks, (the aforementioned) Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, plus so many others I have still to read. And I’ve discovered so much joy and delight in them, that I have no desire to stop, and so keep returning. Just like the “grown-up” versions, children’s classics keep calling me back.

And for some shameless self-promotion, anyone who wants to, please join me and others in January reading of Classic Children’s Literature!


9 thoughts on “Children’s Classics – A Personal History”

  1. Hi Amanda! I really appreciate this encouragement in the classics for children. I would like to like to link my readers to your challenge, if that’s ok. My children and I will be joining you in January. Merry Christmas!
    Hilary at Wholesome Reads

  2. Yes, please include me. I first found old children’s books in England, outside a junk store in the 6 penny shelves when I was a child, pre-teens, and went on to seriously collect, and of course read, them for the whole of my life (now in my 70s).

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: