About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to read all the Newbery winners.
As I worked my way through the list, I often would get them on CD and listen to them in the car as I drove to and from the UT Austin campus or out to my internship on the edge of the city.
When I finished one book, I’d go back to the library and look for more audiobooks with the tell-tale Newbery sticker on the spine.
But one that I never could quite convince myself to check out was Dicey’s Song.
It’d won the Newbery, but it was actually a sequel to Homecoming.
And I hate to read a sequel without reading the first book.
But Homecoming was a solid 14 hours long, and to listen to THAT one before I could listen to Dicey’s Song just seemed like too big of a commitment.
So I just kept checking out other things.
Then the library closed down for about five weeks for major renovations.
Which meant that I needed to get something long that would keep me going through those five weeks, and it was the perfect time to check out both Homecoming and Dicey’s Song with the knowledge that I had many weeks to get through them both.
And holy cow, I LOVED them.
I couldn’t believe I had never read them as a child.
My in-laws happened to visit during that period and saw the CDs in the car and they raved about how much their whole family loved the Tillerman series.
Who knew I’d completely missed the boat on those?
It made me think of other classic children’s books I didn’t read until I was an adult.
Here are a ten others:
10 childhood classics i didn’t read until i was an adult
- The Giver by Lois Lowry. I remember my mom reading this one when it won the Newbery and she wasn’t a big fan, so I never picked it up, but then one of my college roommates loved it and so one summer, I picked it up and flew through it. I was completely obsessed with it and a year later, I read it aloud to Bart because he’d never read it either. (Tragically, I don’t think either of the follow-up books are nearly as good).
- The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. This was one I was prepared to suffer through for the sake of getting through all the Newbery titles, and then I absolutely loved it.
- Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. For the record, I am not a huge animal lover, so I wasn’t expecting to be delighted by this one, but it was so sweet and fun.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This was one of my dad’s favorite books from his childhood, so I always wanted to read it, but when he started reading it aloud to us, it scared me so much, we asked him to stop. Years later, as a slightly less wimpy adult, I listened to the audio and loved it. (Full review here).
- Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. This is one I’d never heard of and picked up entirely because it had won the Newbery. And I LOVED it – it still stands out as one of my favorite audio experiences. (Full review here).
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett . I’d never even heard of this book until I started looking for early chapter book recommendations and this one was on EVERY list. And I have to admit, I thought it was dull as dirt.
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. I liked this one, but it wasn’t terribly memorable to me.
- The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. My mom sent Ella a copy of this for her birthday a few years ago and we had the best time reading it together. When I told my mom I’d never read it, she was shocked since both of my sisters had read and loved it as children. Somehow, it just skipped me, but I am now the biggest fan of this sweet book by the author of Pippi Longstocking. (Full review here).
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I knew nothing about this book until I heard my aunt mention that it the book she’d just finished in her own quest to read all the Newbery books (which is where I got the idea in the first place). It was a couple more years until I read it, and then I just cried all over myself. I think this is the MOST beautifully written book. (Full review here).
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This was one I meant to read for years and didn’t get around to until it was the only audiobook I had when I was doing hours and hours of driving every week down to my elementary school libraries in Boston. And then I drank the koolaid in a big way. (Full review here).
And if you’d like a printable copy of this list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!
What childhood classics did you miss when you were an actual child? I’d love to hear!
Cadence Woodland says
Elizabeth George Speare was (is!) one of my favorite childhood authors. To this day The Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of my top ten YA novels.
Ailyn Koay says
I didn’t really like Bridge to Terabithia for some reason, it’s good but I just didn’t relate to the characters
Dicey’s Song was in my fifth grade teacher’s classroom library and I had no clue it was a sequel. I picked it up and fell in love with that book. It is still one of my favorites. Have you read the rest of the Tillerman books?
I just barely read the BFG to my kids a year or two ago. I admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of Roald Dahl! I seem to be one of the few who feels this way–I have to be careful who I admit that to! 😉 From this list, I grew up loving The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time (which I always read aloud to my 4th grade class–hope I didn’t scare any of them! and I always tear up at the end), and The Bronze Bow (I also love The Witch of Blackbird Pond by her). I couldn’t ever force myself to finish Rabbit Hill (maybe I should try as an adult), and I much prefer Mercy Watson Kate diCamillo to Because of Winn Dixie. Now I need to read Homecoming and Dicey’s Song! “Dull as dirt” perfectly describes my thoughts on My Father’s Dragon. I read it the same way you did–picking it up for my oldest after reading it recommended everywhere. There are just so many other good books, I’m not sure how that one gets so much love!
I LOVE Bridge to Terribithia, it makes me sob even when I know what’s coming. I’ve been terrified to watch the movie bc I’m afraid it will ruin the book for me. My husband watched it and cried and he doesn’t cry easily. Lol. I have only read a handful of these so I’m excited to try some of them out! Thanks.
I read Bridge to Terebithia a couple years ago on a plane. It was a mistake – lots of ugly crying.
Paige Flamm says
I’m a little heartbroken that you didn’t love the entire Giver series. You read them all so the that all the books come together right? Right? **Deep breaths**
I saw that you wrote you didn’t like “either” of the sequels. Did you know there are three? The last is called Son and I loved it, having hated the first two sequels.
I also read Bridge to Terabithia as an adult and also cried all over myself. Also- didn’t come out until I was an adult, but a kids’ book I read as an adult- Wonder. I read it with my class of fifth graders when I was student teaching and we all just cried. It’s SO good.
I just barely read Homecoming after years of my friend Megan telling me I had to read it! I now have Dicey’s Song on hold. Not sure how I missed them as a kid. Next I need to read A Wizard of Earthsea and Howl’s Moving Castle. My sister and I first read Patricia Wrede’s Dealing with Dragon’s series on a college road trip. We loved it. I first read The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg when I was in college too (although it wasn’t published until I was in high school, so it wasn’t like I actually missed it as I kid. I had read her other classic, From the Mixed Up Files.) Anyway, that set me on a Konigsburg kick, and I read a whole bunch of her books as an adult.
Haha, I read My Father’s Dragon to my son a few years ago, and while he loved it, I thought it was desperately boring! In fact, I couldn’t believe he wanted me to keep ready. I’ve often wondered why it’s on every children’s book list as well . . .
Janssen Bradshaw says
Whew! Glad I’m not alone.
I’m with you on this. I forced myself to read My Father’s Dragon and its sequel (while on the lookout for good books for my nephew), but finally ditched the third book in the trilogy. Sooo boring.
Oh wow, I love so many of these books! But I’ll admit, there are lot that I didn’t read until I got older either 😛 I finished The Giver in a few hours, and now my husband has convinced me to read the rest of the books in the series. I’m curious to explore Lois Lowry’s ideas about dystopia in the rest of her books 🙂
I just read The Giver quartet this month for the first time – on audio. Did you read the fourth one, “The Son,”? I know it was published a lot later than the other 3. I felt like once I read the fourth one, the first three came together and I liked them all so much more.
As a kid I hated a Wrinkle in Time–too fantasy/science fiction for me. So I decided to try it again as an adult. Still hate it and have no desire to see the movie. Glad you like Walk Two Moons. I love that book so much
I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn right after I graduated college. I’m glad I waited until that June, because I think it meant more to me than it would’ve if I had read it earlier. It was one of those instances of a book coming to you at absolutely the right time.
Janssen Bradshaw says
I felt just the same way!
I’ve been enchanted with some of the authors of children’s series lately: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rold Dahl, and Beverly Cleary. Little Women was wonderful on audiobook. And the Swallows & Amazons series is just fantastic! I love big family adventures. Wind in the Willows is my all time favorite children’s book, and I didn’t read it until I was an adult. Thanks for all the recommendations! I’m adding them to my list.
Janssen Bradshaw says
I’ve never heard of Swallows & Amazons!
Swallows and Amazons is my daughter’s favorite book and she listens to the audiobook when she’s sick. 🙂
Fun fact–I used to work at the Newberry Library for which the prize is named 🙂 Anyway, a few years ago I read the Phantom Tollbooth but I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. Now I’m thinking there are a few more childhood classics I probably missed and should go back and read!
Thank you for validating my feeling about My Father’s Dragon! I couldn’t even finish it. I read A Wrinkle in Time in middle school and really disliked it. I wonder if I would feel differently now that I’m older…and out of middle school?
I have to share that I remembered the story of Homecoming but forgot that this was the book from memory! I volunteered at my daughters school today for my regular library shift. I went and found the book and read the first few pages. It all came flooding back! I have a stack to get through, but I will read this book again this year!
I’m going to defend My Father’s Dragon! It’s kind of funny to see it on the same list as much heftier and poignant books, like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which I love!), because even though they’re both technically kids books, they are for very different ages. (Not your fault, of course – a result of the broadness of the Newberry list.) The reason I love My Father’s Dragon is because it’s very short so it’s pretty much the fastest read-aloud chapter book you can start with. It helped my kids get used to listening to an extended story. And I love starting read-alouds with older books because the language is not as dumbed down as today’s early reader chapter books.
I’ve seen you recommend The Children of Noisy Village before and I have been wanting to read it for years, but none of my libraries have it! How does that happen? But my daughter did just read Pippi Longstocking for the first time this week (and then immediately read it again), so I think I need to just buy all of Astrid Lindgren’s books! Thanks for the recommendations, as always! I always get great ideas from you!
Danica Middlebrook says
I read the Betsy-Tacy books as an adult – never heard of them as a kid. The Giver was required reading in 7th grade, but I’m fairly certain I had already read it – the sequels I read as an adult (The Son, the last one – only came out within the last five years or so). I haven’t read many of the others either. I think only Wrinkle in Time and Bridge to Terebithia – both as a child.
Noelle Bastian says
We are listening to wrinkle in time on audio right now because somehow I missed that one as a child. Next up is Winn Dixie (thanks to your mom). We got bronze bow to read from the library but didn’t get to it before we have to return it. Two of my all time favs from my youth were walk two moons and the giver.
Janssen Bradshaw says
Oh, so many good books here! And Walk Two Moons is SO amazing – I can’t wait to read it with my girls.
Oh my gosh, I made a goal to read all Newburys several years ago, too, haha! I’m about 35 books away still, but so loving doing it! And i had the same struggle with homecoming and diceys song. The kicker is there’s another winner that’s part of a series, but that book is, like, number 5!! Ugh. Don’t know what I’m gonna do about that one.