So, remember the '90s? Yes, of course you do, because every vaguely '90s thing, from Pokemon to chokers, seems to be back with a vengeance. But still, the '90s were a pretty rad decade for young readers. We had the Scholastic Book Fair. We had Goosebumps and The Baby-sitters Club. We had Harry freaking Potter. What a time to be alive. So as long as we're resurrecting all things '90s, let's give a shout out to some of the forgotten gems of our childhood. Here are a few '90s books that should have been way more popular.
Now I'm not saying that none of these books were popular back in the day—they just should have been way more popular. These books had their fans, sure. But they should have spawned franchises, movies, tie-in lunchboxes, and theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Or, at least, more people should have read them. Because the true struggle of the '90s kid was reading a great book and then having no one to discuss it with.
Lucky for you, it's not to late to revisit some of these childhood favorites, or discover a brand new read from the not so distant past. Here are a few criminally underrated books from the '90s:
1. 'Catwings' by Ursula K. Le Guin
Remember the Catwings series? No? Well, OK, so there are cats and they have wings, and you never know why (nor do you need to). And it's only just now that I'm realizing this book from my childhood was written by science fiction great Ursula K. Le Guin. Either way, there are some winged cats, and they have winged cat adventures, and it's all deeply adorable and sweet.
2. 'The Two Princesses of Bamarre' by Gail Carson Levine
Everyone and their mom read Ella Enchanted back in the day. But The Two Princesses of Bamarre is another excellent fairy tale from Gail Carson Levine that doesn't get nearly the same attention. It's the story of a shy princess off on a quest to save her sister, and it manages to subvert classic "damsel in distress" tropes, while also giving us a female protagonist who's not your typical gutsy tomboy.
3. 'The Secret of the Attic' by Sheri Cooper Sinykin
So... apparently the Magic Attic Club series had its own low-key legion of fans, but it never quite reached Baby-sitters Club level of mania. And that's too bad, because The Secret of the Attic sets up an awesome gang of girlfriends who use their time travel powers to learn about history and help each other out while wearing amazing outfits. Female friendship! History! It has shades of the American Girls series and the Magic Treehouse series, and it deserves to be just as popular.
4. 'Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China' by Ed Young
Lon Po Po, man. Lon Po Po was straight up nightmare fuel. It's an absolutely gorgeous illustrated book that ruined my childhood with its creepy atmosphere. I wouldn't say it's quite as disturbing as some other '90s classics, like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but it should certainly be much more popular when it comes to terrifying small children.
5. 'Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher' by Bruce Coville
OK, please tell me someone else read this book, because I must have read it a dozen times as a kid. Ignoring the groovy cover art and the cutesy title, Jeremy Thatcher was just a phenomenal story. It's about young Jeremy trying to raise his dragon without killing everyone in town, and it's great. It inspired Christopher Paolini to go write Eragon. Go read it.
6. 'The Minpins' by Roald Dahl
Sure, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG are all great... but The Minpins was the last book Roald Dahl ever wrote, and it just has a certain poignancy all its own. Little Billy is tired of being stuck at home, so he runs out into the woods and meets a strange people called the Minpins. It's deceptively simple, and utterly entrancing.
7. 'If You Come Softly' by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson is best known for her more recent memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, but she is in fact a card carrying '90s author. If You Come Softly is a beautifully written romance, set amid the emotional turmoil of high school. It still has Woodson's lyrical touch, and it deserves a wider audience.
8. 'The Dragon and the Unicorn' by Lynne Cherry
9. 'The Midwife's Apprentice' by Karen Cushman
Brat is a nameless orphan just trying to survive. She has a grouchy cat companion. She's trying to figure out her place in the world through various shenanigans and medical training. Those are all the ingredients you need for a great '90s book, so The Midwife's Apprentice definitely should have had more hardcore fans.
10. 'Dark Lord of Derkholm' by Diana Wynne Jones
If you love/hate the fantasy genre in any way, drop everything and go read Dark Lord of Derkholm. It's a brilliant send up of all those "kid goes on an adventure in a fantasy realm" books. Because this is a fantasy world that runs on tourism, and mild mannered Derk was just cast as this year's Dark Lord.