I own a few bookshelves, mostly stacked with books from my teen years up until now (I’m 25), and I have a shelf at the very bottom of one of them where I keep some of the “chapter books” I had read as a kid. Normally I don’t touch these books, or even pay much attention to them, but out of curiosity I started flipping through some of them…and was immediately overtaken by some intense nostalgia from kid’s lit of the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
I thought I’d share some of the ones that meant a lot to me as a child – most of them about goofy, brown haired girls like myself just trying to survive the struggle of elementary school. Important stuff!
Also, I’m working purely off my memories of these, so if I’m grossly wrong about any of them- sorry! It’s what 8 year old Steph remembers and took away from them.
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
I found these books hilarious as a kid. I loved how messy, crazy, and goofy Junie B. was, and as a 6/7 year old I think I saw a lot of my own childish goofiness in her- that, and I think I wanted to be her. I was a very shy and quiet kid in school, and Junie…was not. I admired her, wanted to stand out like her, but a part of me was also glad I didn’t get in half the trouble she did, despite my admiration. Junie’s antics were super entertaining and I will always look back on these books with so much love.
The Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thonton Jones
I adored these books. I remember checking them out of my elementary school’s library and ordering them in those Schoolastic book order forms.
Each one featured a different mythological creature or character, with titles like “Leprechauns Don’t Play Basketball,” “Santa Clause Doesn’t Mop Floots,” “Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp.” And in each book the four Bailey School Kids figured out the mystery and saved the day. These books were SO MUCH FUN. I loved them. And even though I don’t remember the names of the kids (I think one was Howie?), I loved them, too.
Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary
I loooved the Ramona books. In my mind, I remember them as HUGE books that took me ages to read, and I was alway so proud when I managed to finish one. I remember Ramona as a girl struggling to make friends and have a place in school and in her family, and feeling overshadowed by her older sister, Beezus. I think the quiet side of me found solace in Ramona.
Amber Brown by Paula Danziger
Amber Brown was definitely a girl who marched to the beat of her own drummer. I remember her being messy, moody, and sarcastic. Like the Ramona books, I remember these as huge books that took me ages to finish. The messier side of me definitely resonated with Amber.
I ate up novels by Sharon Creech. Absolutely Normal Chaos and The Wanderer are two of my favorites in particular, and I read them many times. Absolutely Normal Chaos is from the point of view of a girl named Mary Lou Finney, who’s forced to keep a journal over the summer as a school assignment (and very much resents it). Mary Lou was funny, quirky, messy and she had one of the first romances I remember being invested in. I look back on this book with so much fondness.
The Wanderer is about a girl who spends a few months at sea, and while I don’t remember the finer details of the plot, I remember this book full of beautiful imagery and poetic prose. It fills my memory with blues and purples and starry skies.
P.S. Longer Letter Later by Paula & Anne M. Martin
I think I read this book and its sequel, Snail Mail No More when I was around 10 or 11, and I loved them. They were about two best friends, one of which moves away, and the book a compilation of the letters they send back and forth to each other. As cliche as it sounds, they were dealing with all of the pre-teen issues I was going through, and I remember these books resonating with me so much. That, and they were a lot of fun.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Okay, I know we’ve all heard the “Harry Potter changed my life” stories before, but hear me out. Before Harry, I hated fantasy. (I think I was forced to read one of the Bailey School Kids books for a school assignment before finding that I liked them – I never would have picked it up on my own). I explicitly remember, as a nine year old, when these books were first exploding with popularity, looking at all the kids (EVERY KID) around me reading Harry Potter, and thinking, “Wizards are so dumb. I’m never going to read these dumb books.” Where did I acquire this terrible attitude about wizards and fantasy as a nine year old? I have NO IDEA.
But then my brother got a copy, and it was just sitting on our kitchen counter, and I remember picking it up to look at it JUST to see what all the hype was about, and then….suddenly wizards weren’t so dumb after all. And my childhood and half of my teen years pretty much revolved around these books. I literally studied abroad in England in college because these books made me want to go to the UK so much. And, of course, I love fantasy. Thanks for breaking me out of my self imposed anti-fantasy shell, Harry. And for all the other stuff.
So those are a few of my favorite books I read as a kid! What books do you look back on with wistful nostalgia? Any of these? Anything newer, older? I’d love to hear about it!