If you’re as much of a book-lover as I am, you might want to remind yourself that you took steps to get to this literature-crazed point you're at. You didn’t start out reading Proust, after all. (Did you?) No, I think that, in general, a true book-lover’s adoration for the written word starts much, much earlier. Like in utero. Or at least not long thereafter.
Do you remember the first children’s book you ever read all by yourself? For me, it was The Rainbow Fish — you know, that story about the fish who wants to keep all the bedazzled scales for himself, but later learns to share, and ends up happily ever after. (My sister insisted I had just memorized the story, but I was sounding out those words like a champ!) Or what about the first chapter book you took on solo? (Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs Before Dark, and I read that sucker ‘til the pages fell out.) You see where I’m going with this, right? Children’s books are where a love of reading beings. So maybe, every once in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to revisit some of those titles that first sparked the book obsession wearing out your credit card today.
Here are 13 children’s books for every woman’s bucket list — and if you already loved and left some of these titles back in your days of pigtails and saddle shoes, at least humor me with a quick trip down memory lane. It’ll be like reuniting with all your best friends from kindergarten, I promise.
Eloise at the Plaza by Kay Thompson
Eloise lives on the tippy-top floor of the Plaza Hotel in New York City; she has a nanny, a pug dog, and a turtle; she can order room service whenever she likes; and she has a laundry chute. I love Eloise. I want to be Eloise. This little lady's joie de vivre is a force to be reckoned with. Most of all, she genuinely believes she can do anything she sets her mind to. She's also enviably unafraid of consequences.
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
I'll confess: as a child I hated Amelia Bedelia. She was always messing everything up, and I COULD NOT figure out how she was perpetually so confused. "Don't put that in the cake!" I'd shout, angrily flipping pages, or "You can't say that kind of thing when running for office!" But now I'm all grown up and I love her. The poor woman is simply trying to do too many things at once, and her memory just isn't what it used to be. But no matter how much she screws up, Amelia Bedelia never fails to turn a negative into a positive. She also isn't afraid to laugh at herself.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Miss Rumphius or, "The Lupine Lady," tells the story of a world-traveling librarian who returns to her home by the ocean, and wants to make the world a more beautiful place. She does so by planting lupine — that fluffy-looking purple flower — everywhere she goes. I really think we should all start doing this.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
When Karana's brother Ramo is abandoned on an island, Karana risks her life to stay with him. But after Ramo is killed, she must learn to survive on her own in the isolated wilderness. In case you didn't know: this children's book is based on a true story too — that of Juana Maria, a woman who was left alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island, off the coast of California. This is the ultimate girl-power survival children's book.
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
As an adult I feel for Mrs. Mallard. Sure, I have neither eight children nor ducklings of my own to take care of and teach everything I know, but I've done my fair share of babysitting, and getting those little rugrats to cross the street in an organized fashion was a feat unto itself. This multi-tasking momma is kinda my hero. She leaves no duckling behind.
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
When you're little, Wilbur always gets all the attention, because he's a pig and therefore adorable, and spiders are seriously terrifying. And yes, spiders are still seriously terrifying even though you're all grown up now, but at least you can appreciate Charlotte's artistry, gumption, and the sacrifice she makes for her children.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
If you had the original copy of this book you'll definitely remember the handful of gloss, full-color illustrations that punctuated the text about every 50 pages. I couldn't wait to get to those pages. I'm sure you all know the story, but Dorothy Gale takes on a whole new level of coolness when you meet her again as an adult. Plus, what grown woman doesn't want to travel around the countryside with three ridiculous friends and a puppy?
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
Another children's book based on a true story, The Librarian of Basra wasn't around when you were a kid, so definitely give it a read now. The book is about a librarian named Alia Muhammad Baker who risks her life to save more than 30,000 books from being destroyed when her library in Iraq is bombed. There's something so wonderfully meta about a powerful book about powerful books.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
When Stellaluna — who is seriously about as adorable a bat as you're ever gonna see — is separated from her mother by an owl, she lands in a nest of newly-hatched baby birds. The inevitable identity crisis ensues: is she a bat, is she a bird, what is she?! Stellaluna reminds us that you can learn interesting lessons from lots of different kinds of people, but still be true to who you are.
The Silver Slippers by Elizabeth Koda-Callan
If you've lost the magic charm necklace (about two decades ago) that came with this book, I think it's about time you treat yourself to a new copy. The star of The Silver Slippers wants nothing more than to be a prima ballerina, and with a lot of practice and a little luck, she makes it happen. A lesson we can always use a little reminder of.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I absolutely adored this book growing up. When Mary Lennox is discovered orphaned and ill in her family's mansion in India, the surly little girl is promptly shipped off to England to live with her uncle, who is just as unhappy as she is. But it's nothing a little digging through the brambles won't cure. This book always makes me want to take better care of my tomato plants.
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Anyone whose little sister still annoys you like Ramona annoys Beezus raise your hand. (I'd raise mine, but I have to type this.) Although the characters you identify with may have shifted all these years later — Mrs. Quimby and Aunt Beatrice sound uncomfortably familiar to anyone else? — there's still a whole lot of sisterly goodness to be garnered from these two hellions.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
When 12-year-old Claudia Kincaid decides to run away from home because she thinks her parents do not appreciate her, she enlists her brother Jamie to tag along (because he saves all his allowance.) This brother/sister duo take a train to New York City and actually live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art — tell me you've never wanted to do that. If I thought I could get away with it, I'd pack my bags and catch the next flight to JFK now. But at least we can read about it.