12 Childhood Books You Probably Still Have on Your Shelf Today

Though every day should be World Book Day, the calendar marks it as today. In honor of the occasion, the World Book Day website features a YA section detailing 50 books "that will change your life." So many of the books are great choices, with recent favorites like The Fault in Our Stars joining The Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men. (The seemingly only questionable choice is pitting Twilight alongside John Green and The Outsiders for "Books that will help you understand love." Blech.) But with their list as an inspiration, I thought of the childhood books that changed my life, or stuck with me into adulthood. Why do you keep some books and donate others? What childhood books are still lingering around your house now, as an adult? 

And because I couldn't stop at just 10, here are 12 books from my childhood that are still lurking on my bookshelves today.

1. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Okay, so this book is technically an adult book, but after devouring Judy Blume book after Judy Blume book, I found this one on the shelves and hadn't heard of it, so I picked it up in middle school. It's a story that has stuck with me for about 17 years, and I still read it every summer. My friends and I would spend beach afternoons down Cape Cod casting the roles for the movie we always wished would happen. (We're still looking at you, Jesse Bradford, circa-14 years ago, for Gus.)

Summer Sisters taught me about friendship, family, and how love isn't that first insta-connection, it's the lasting part that matters. And as a testament to how beachy this story is, I opened my old copy and some sand fell out.

As this list could easily be populated by 11 other Judy Blume books, shout-out to some other notable works that I have around today: Deenie, Tiger Eyes, Just as Long as We're Together, and Otherwise Known as Shelia the Great.

2. Kristi's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

As I was a girl born in the '80s, I read every single Baby-Sitters Club book — Super Specials and Mysteries included. But this book started it all, and my friends and I, and I'm sure the rest of us too, spent a lot of time figuring out which character we were (we all wanted Claudia), and trying to form our own babysitting club.

And now, after movie and TV adaptations, when I see the books, I can only hear this song. Say hello to your friends...:


3. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

There is only one thing to say about this book by an absolute genius of absurdity: There is no 13th story, and there is no Mrs. Zarves.

4. Who Put that Hair in My Toothbrush? by Jerry Spinelli

In school, we all had to read Spinelli's Maniac Magee, but I was always partial to Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? Maybe the sibling rivalry of Grosso (Greg) and Megamouth (Megin) stuck to me as a middle child — but we certainly never came up with nicknames as awesome as those. As a child I learned the lesson that prank wars with your siblings are a really good time, which I'm not sure it intended.

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This, like Summer Sisters, isn't a true YA or MG novel, but it was assigned to my 6th grade class, so I still associate it with my childhood. The murder mystery among 10 guests to a stormy island was my Clue-loving dream come true. And from this assignment day on, I picked up a new Agatha Christie book every time I hit a bookstore, and one was in every of my Christmas stockings. Try having to explain that you're not a psychopath with all those when your husband is helping you move to another country. But, despite all the others, And Then There Were None, my first, is still my favorite.

6. The Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi

Rinaldi is a master of middle grade and YA historical fiction, and I read most of them, but The Last Silk Dress still holds a spot on my shelf today. The main character, 14-year-old Susan Chilmark, wants to help the Confederacy's cause with her parents, and so she works on collecting silk dresses to make a hot air balloon that will be used to spy on the Yankees. But when her estranged older brother shows up, she finds out why he was banished from her proper Southern family (guess! guess!) and she starts to think she might not be on the right side of history after all.

7. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

I must have had a soft spot for wartime historical fiction, because when Johnny Tremain was assigned to my 5th grade class, I was completely sucked in. On the cusp of the American Revolution, 14-year-old Johnny is looking for work in Boston and falls into the company of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and other Sons of Liberty, and ends up taking part in the Boston Tea Party and other pivotal events. Bonus: Kudos to illustrator Michael McCurdy because I totally had a crush on the boy on the cover when I was 11.

8. Matilda by Roald Dahl

No explanation necessary here. It's easy to see why a girl who would read under the trees during family barbecues would love bookworm Matilda and sweet Miss Honey.

9. The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs

My 5th grade teacher Mrs. Warner read The Curse of the Blue Figurine aloud to the class, a little bit every day when we were finished with our lessons. As either a credit to Bellairs' spooky, suspenseful novels or to just how dorky we all were, my classmates and I would sneak into her classroom during recess and read ahead in the book.

10. Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

The very same Mrs. Warner gave me Catherine Called Birdy as a gift saying that Catherine reminded her of me. I keep the book on my shelf because it's clear to me now, as an adult, that this was a compliment greater than I realized in 5th grade, and probably a testament to my budding feminism, because as fans know, Catherine didn't take any crap from her father-chosen suitors (basically any rich man) and used her wit and trickery to pull one over on them every time. As a pay-it-forward move, I also gift this book to little girls I nanny, because girl power.

11. The Babysitter by R.L. Stine

When I wasn't reading about wholesome babysitting clubs, I was reading and re-reading (and OK, maybe putting on a live-action play version with my cousins) of R.L. Stine's The Babysitter. After graduating from Goosebumps, but before Agatha Christie hit, I read every Fear Street, Christopher Pike, and other spooky YA novel I could get my hands on, but this one always stuck with me — as a babysitter myself and someone who wanted to have a cool boyfriend named Ace.

12. The Boys Start the War / The Girls Get Even by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

My mother bought me the two-book set of Newberry Award-winning Naylor's stories, about a family of brothers and their rival family of sisters. The books are so lively and fun, and not at all as mean-spirited as they sound, and they remind me of late spring nights playing ringalevio around the town streets with neighborhood kids. And who doesn't want to remember the freedom of those days?

Images: Flickr / jm3; YouTube / SonicMoon1; WiffleGif; Giphy

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