Recently, I have come to the conclusion that I am more or less over grown-up books.
I mean, don’t get me wrong — I, like everyone else, loved A Little Life, even though it made me faint when I was reading it on the subway because I was holding my breath while trying to hold back my tears! — but my recent slogs through various summer reading and best-of book lists of late have reminded me that there is a certain joy that goes along with reading children’s and YA books that often gets lost even in the finest of adult literature. Adult books generally seem to come with an overtone that gives away the fact that the author is baldly clamoring to get a place on some shortlist or another for a prestigious literary prize, and, while there is some of that in children’s literature, most kid’s books just seem more content just to exist.
And this content existence, of course, produces some great stuff. In fact, it’s produced a lot of books that you have probably already read, and, over the passage of time, probably forgot about, but might also be worth a second (or third) read. So, check out these (awesome) books you forgot you used to be obsessed with when you were little:
Harriet The Spy by Louise FitzhughNo offense, but this book is a goddamn delight. It's about a young girl, Harriet, who fancies herself to be a spy, and writes down everything that happens to the people in her life with meticulous, unsparing detail -- even her friends. One day, the journal gets discovered and, unsurprisingly, Harriet has to come to terms with what she wrote down. If you've already read it, re-read it. If you haven't read it, make it a priority this summer.
Eloise by Kay ThomasEloise is one of my favorite books. In fact, it has everything -- a super-bratty six-year-old. The Plaza Hotel. A pug named Weenie. Basically, it's about a little girl who lives with her nanny (and, sometimes, her mostly-absentee mother) in the Plaza Hotel and has a life that most of us could only dream about. Plus, Eloise speaks in a way that you'll want to mimic for at LEAST week after you read the book -- trust me.
A Bad Case Of Stripes by David ShannonA Bad Case Of Stripes also has everything -- it's about a girl who loves lima beans, but won't eat them because her friends dislike them and she wants to fit in. Then, one day, she wakes up covered in thick, colorful stripes. The cure? Lima beans. It's an important lesson!
A Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony SnicketChances are good that you remember this book series -- it just had an excellent revival on Netflix, after all -- but it's definitely worth another read. There's a lot of stuff in the series that might have gone over your head (there's a great piece in The Atlantic about how it's the first example of postmodern literature that a lot of kids see) that you'll definitely appreciate more as the sophisticated, mature person you are now.
Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis SacharAnother great introduction into literary absurdism is Sideways Stories From Wayside School. It's about an elementary school that's 30 stories tall, with no 19th floor (due to a construction error), and, as one might expect, being a student there is very much not like being a student at any other school. It's very good!
Chrysanthemum by Kevin HenkesThis book is about a young girl (well, girl mouse), named Chrysanthemum. She loves her name, until some other girl-mice, with more ordinary names, make fun of her for it. Chrysanthemum is devastated until her music teacher (Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle) reveals that she has a long name, too. It's simple (it's a picture book, after all) but it's really cute.
Captain Underpants by Dav PilkeyThis is a silly book! If you can't remember, it's about two fourth graders who accidentally summon a comic book character they created (the titular Captain Underpants) to life, and have to deal with the consequences. It's going to be a movie this summer with Ed Helms, Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, and Nick Kroll voicing the characters, so, if you have time, give it a quick read before you see it.
Corduroy by Don FreemanThis book is about a teddy bear who lives in a department store and, since he has a missing button on his overalls, no one wants to buy him. One night, he spends a night wandering around the store to try and find himself a button, which is very soothing if you've ever dreamed about spending the night in a department store, and, somehow, totally heartbreaking. (Don't worry, though -- no spoilers here, but things do work out okay in the end.)
Every Max and Ruby BookI!! Love!! Max!! And!! Ruby!! It is possible that you know about this book from the (inferior) TV series that uses the same name and characters, and, if that is a case, please do yourself a favor and give the books another chance. Especially Max's Dragon Shirt. (They're picture books, so it's very easy.) Also, please look at this Tumblr post about Max. That's all!
The Witches by Roald DahlWhat would with list be without a Roald Dahl entry? Many of his books would be worthy of a mention here -- Matilda, The BFG, James and the Giant Peach -- but The Witches, about a boy who discovers that he lives in the midst of children-hating witches, has always been my personal favorite, both because of the writing (it's peak Roald Dahl) and the nature of the story itself (it's legitimately terrifying). If you can, give it another read this summer!
Did you read any of these books when you were little? Did I forget any good ones? Let us know in the comments!