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Fév 17, 2007, 2:53am

Ok, this may have been done in some form before, but I checked an didn't see anything, so here goes. What books do you consider classics of YA fiction? I'm talking stuff you would read to your kids to introduce them to the genre, including stuff you might not necesarily let them read solo. I would include the following:

the Chronicles of Narnia

Lord of the Rings

I'm honestly not sure what else. I'm thinking more classics that aren't recent releases (at least 20 years old.) It seems like so much YA stuff is derivative these days. This is just my opinion, but it seems important to me at least to start kids out on classics so they gain an appreciation for well written fiction, and, well, there's just stuff thats refferenced so much and has become such pop culture icons that you kind of have to have some exposure to it.

Fév 17, 2007, 5:08am

Fév 17, 2007, 5:48pm

Just curious, Child of Light, but how are you defining YA in this forum/question? There is a huge difference between compiling a list of 'classics' or 'recommended' books for a 9 or 11 year old and one for a 15 or 16 year old.

My next note would be that these supposed YA classics (such as Ivanhoe and Little Women) are not YA in the truest since of the word. Most were written at a time when there really wasn't a separate branch of juvenile, and/or young adult fiction. So they were written for adults primarily, and perhaps picked up by kids and teens because that is what there was to read. (As opposed to some of these later dime novels and series books that were written later on...)

And regarding the second part of your question...'but it seems important to me at least to start kids out on classics so they gain an appreciation for well written fiction' I have some concerns.

The problem with pushing classics--and let's be honest adults try to force kids to read classics despite of or in spite of their interests--is that being made to read something or pressured to read something takes away any pleasure one might have gotten if they had discovered it on their own in their own time. When you have to read Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe (or Great Expectations or The Great Gatsby or any other so-called 'literary' wonder of the world) you only end up driving kids away from books altogether.
There is a world of difference between finding and taking pleasure in a classic novel because YOU want to and you find it entertaining and when you are coaxed or prodded by someone else to read a classic.

However, the same can be said of pushing other types of books. Teachers could be requiring a book published in 2006 and kids hate it because it is's the requiring, the pressuring, the demanding, coaxing, bossy attitude of 'you will sit here and read this book and like it because it is good' philosophy that doesn't work.

But to look at actual YA 'classics' you could start as early as the forties and fifties although I think the general concensus is that YA lit got its start in the late sixties with the publication of The Outsiders. Other classics or would be classics might be Catcher in the Rye, The Chocolate War, Flowers for Algernon, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Catch 22, Fahrenheit 451, The Pigman, A Separate Peace, etc.

You might be interested (in part) to look at the's 'Ultimate Reading List' . It combines older literature (pre-1990) with plenty of newer titles as well (even 2006). It covers all sorts of genres.

You can hold on to the belief that older is better if you like. I won't try to persuade you differently. I only know that there are amazing books out there that may have been around only two or three years but are without a doubt the best of the best and would top my favorites list over classics any day.

So it's depending on the purpose of your list...even though I've been out of high school ten years, I still have extremely strong feelings when it comes to teachers forcing supposed 'masterpieces' down our throats. It didn't make me like the books then...and it was a challenge to go back later and read those books again without conjuring up bad feelings. That being said, I, a person who HATED English lit in high school, fell absolutely head over heels in love with it in college. I majored in English in college and not only that got a Master's in it. The difference wasn't the books obviously. It is the perspective, the readiness, the choice of the reader. Still some of my favorite books are ones that have never been required for any course:
the count of monte cristo, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Three Musketeers and pride and prejudice.

And as far as references go, I think for the most part most can be picked up from movies as well as books. Sure there might be references to literary characters and whatnot in the culture, but most have had several adaptations onto tv or the big screen and are readily available and in some ways more accessible to young people in that format. I do for the record advocate reading books over watching movies...but still you can't pretend that it isn't out there and doesn't exist and that most kids aren't tempted to watch what they're required to read instead of reading it.

Fév 17, 2007, 8:21pm

Well, I'll get back to the first part of your question at a later time, but as for the second. I guess I phrased it a bit poorly. I meant more that these books should be around the house and available to be read, more than telling a kid, we're going to read this tonight. Thats what school does, and it ruins reading for a lot of people. I would define YA as geared for 10-18 year olds. I know this is a large span, but honestly, can one reasonably claim that a span of ony 2 or 3 years can be called YA?

Fév 17, 2007, 9:09pm

#3-bl books

oh boy!! thanks!! i'm already working on "1001 books to read before you die" and "the most challenged books of the century."

heh, at least it's an excuse to keep buying 20 or so books a month!! ;)

Modifié : Fév 17, 2007, 9:35pm

Child_Of_Light, thanks for clarifying! Yes, I think there are certain books that should be kept around the house to be discovered when needed. I know I certainly enjoyed reading some of the 'family' favorites like Gone With The Wind, anything and everything by L.M. Montgomery, Christy by Catherine Marshall, etc. My mom loved historical fiction and so I was influenced by her a lot. My teen years at a Christian school certainly weren't the norm as far as YA lit goes. None of the books on the shelves in the high school library had anything remotely 'edgy' enough to be offensive. If you think about the things that are typically in YA literature--profanity, drug use/references, alcohol, sex or sexual references, abuse (physical, sexual), cutting, eating disorders, suicide or suicide attempts, etc.--there was none of that. So I didn't 'read' an actual YA book until I was an adult in college. I'm not saying if lacking an exposure to those kinds of things was a good thing or a bad thing. Just that there has always been a wide variety of experiences represented in YA. Some are family friendly and would be fine for a young child in fifth or sixth grade to read...and some that would not be appropriate until later on. I enjoy reading family friendly titles. Titles that I feel comfortable with sharing and booktalking to people of all ages whether they're 8 or 70...
But I think all books have a place in the field. Each book has the potential of being 'the favorite' or 'the best' to some reader in search or in need of a book at that particular stage in their life.

Fév 18, 2007, 7:06pm

I will add Treasure Island, Robin Hood, and Pinocchio

Fév 19, 2007, 4:38pm

And I, for my part, will add The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Railway Children by E. Nesbit.

Modifié : Fév 23, 2007, 2:02pm

Has anyone read The Wheel On the School, set in the Netherlands by Meindert De Jong? It is illustrated in simple ink drawing by Sendak. It read it as a 3rd grader, a year into learning English. It stayed with me all these years, I bought a copy at age 30 to reread and enjoy again. He also wrote Sixty Fathers set in China.

Modifié : Fév 23, 2007, 2:03pm

>9 belleyang:Meindert also wrote Sixty Fathers

Fév 23, 2007, 3:32pm

I have to disagree about the age range.... certainly by 18 they should be making their own choices, probably from the adult section with YA included mostly for nostalgia value. I do think that what's generally classified as YA lit is really best for a very small age range, about 11-13 (I still read YA now at 21, but I just recently started again after stopping at around 13). But I'm going to suggest a few books that I think are good for about 8-14. I'll include some that aren't YA if I read them at that age.

Other than the ones that have already been mentioned....

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Giver by Lois Lowry (not quite 20 years, only 13 I think, but it's still a classic)
Jane Eyre
Pride and Prejudice

I'll add more if I think of them.

Modifié : Fév 23, 2007, 4:35pm

I agree that most people are switching to adult books by the age of thirteen but there are still a number of books written with 12 to 16 year-olds in mind and because of subject matter are not appropriate for younger children. However my 'YA' was mostly the classics (Dickens, etc.), authors like Nevil Shute and Sinclair Lewis, Shakespeare, and any science fiction I could get my hands on.

Fév 23, 2007, 7:34pm

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret

Anne of Green Gables

The Bell Jar

Cather in the Rye

Slaughterhouse Five

There are more, but my mind is blanking...

Fév 28, 2007, 5:30pm

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery (timeless)

Mar 1, 2007, 5:06pm

Where the Red Fern grows by Wilson Rawls

The ending is a real tear-jerker.

Mar 1, 2007, 5:52pm

YA is my favorite level. Maybe the fact that I have spent 90% of my day for the last 35 years as librarian (media specialist) to this age group has something to do with it!!

I love, in no particular order,
Madeline L'Engle, nearly everything she writes, especially Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Lois Lowry trilogy of Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger
Most of Lois Duncan's books
All of S. E. Hinton's books
Below the Root by Zilpha Snyder
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
Escape from Warsaw by Ian Serraillier
All of Robin McKinley's books
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I'll undoubtedly by forehead slapping tonight at all the ones I've forgotten. :-)

Mar 1, 2007, 5:57pm

I think I've read Escape from Warsaw. Mind giving a brief synopsis to refresh my memory?

Mar 1, 2007, 9:01pm

I don't remember reading any YA lit as a teenager.

I read Science Fiction, pulp fiction, horror, non-fiction and lots of short stories. I actually read more broadly then than I do now. I would say The Stand represents my YA reading, if no other.

Mar 1, 2007, 9:09pm

Escape from Warsaw is aka The Silver Sword. The story opens with a man escaping from a Nazi prison in the bitter cold of late winter. But the majority of the story concerns this man's children left alone in Warsaw. The children are determined to get to Switzerland, where they hope to be reunited with their parents when the war is over. The 3 children (teenage Ruth, slightly younger Erik or Edik, and much younger baby sister whose name might be Bronia. Can't remember) struggle for survival in the bombed out city, and then head across country for the border, picking up a homeless boy named Jan along the way.

Mar 1, 2007, 9:26pm

#19 I've never heard of it being called Escape from Warsaw. Is that the title it's published under in the States?

Mar 1, 2007, 9:37pm

Yes, I've always seen it as "Escape from Warsaw (Original title: The Silver Sword)" I first read it decades ago - under the EfW title - and it's still in print, still with this sort of double title. I'm from Nebraska, and you can't get anymore middle of the States than that!

Mar 6, 2007, 7:36am

Mar 11, 2007, 11:51pm

Not every one of these would be considered a "classic" in the traditional sense, but they are all wonderful for different reasons and will find places in different children's hearts. All of them can be enjoyed between 10 and 18 and reread again into adulthood.

Caddie Woodlawn - Carol Ryrie Brink

Dicey's Song & Homecoming - Cynthia Voigt

Neverending Story - Michael Ende

Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy

Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow - Elizabeth George Speare

I, Juan de Pareja - Elizabeth Borton De Trevino

Man in the Iron Mask - Alexandre Dumas

My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George

The Once and Future King - Terence Hanbury White

Mar 15, 2007, 12:17pm

#9 Belleyang, I'm so glad you mentioned Wheel on the School, I remember treasuring that book when I was in elementary school, I read it over and over. I was totally fascinated with Holland and it was such a satisfying book for me. I'll have to try and get one - maybe on eBay? and read it again, makes me smile just to think of it!

Mar 15, 2007, 7:01pm

Oh, one of my favorites was Caddie Woodlawn. How I loved that book growing up!!

I remember reading two other books, not classics, that were favorites of mine. Summer Pony and Winter Pony. I don't know if this is the correct touchstone or not. I can't remember the author.

Another favorite, was Bridge to Terabithia. The movie looks interesting, but doesn't seem to follow the story line from what I remember. Of course, the last time I read the book was probably about 20 years ago. I'll have to re-read it.

Modifié : Mar 15, 2007, 8:51pm

Escape From Warsaw was one of my favorites growing up. I might even still have the book packed away in the basement, I hope. I'd forgotten about it.

The Littles by John Peterson were my all time favorites when I was about 7 years old. They made a cartoon about them, but in my opinion, the cartoon wasn't very good at all.

Books by Frances Hodgson Burnett and L.M. Montgomery. I loved Anne of Green Gables.

The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope and Trixie Belden by Julie Campbell, both series of mystery/adventure type books that are great for younger readers. Although they might seem too old-fashioned now. But I devoured them growing up. I never much liked Nancy Drew.

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken which is the first in a series of three, I believe, but I never got around to reading the other two.

Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective series by Donald J. Sobol

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

The Black Pearl and The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Rebecca's War by Ann Finlayson

All books that I loved as a child.

Mar 15, 2007, 11:31pm

There are so many wonderful YA and children's books out there. With every post I'm reading I think "Yeah, that's right I'd forgotten about.... and it brings back wonderful memories of enjoyment. I loved Joan Aiken and Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom (the sequel) were definitely favourites. I will even confess, now that zimbeline else has, that I loved The Bobbsey Twins as a child too. There are a few very old ones for sale at a local used bookstore, in really good condition, and I look at them and am very tempted to buy them, just for old time's sake. :-)

Mar 16, 2007, 5:29am

Me too, katylit. I'd love to get my hands on some Bobbsey Twins stories...just for old times. :)

Mar 16, 2007, 5:06pm

I still have a few Bobbsey Twins books that my grandfather bought me over fifty years ago.

31Nanhoekstra Premier message
Mar 16, 2007, 6:15pm

Yes, what a pleasant memory. I read it aloud to my three sons when they were about 9, 8 and 3. He also wrote a wonderful dog story "Hurry Home, Candy".

Mar 16, 2007, 11:30pm

i like some of the older stories like Cheaper by the Dozen, A Little Princess, and The Berry Patch.

Mai 20, 2007, 6:03pm

The Borrowers by Mary Norton and the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mai 24, 2007, 4:30pm

Definitely the Little House books. It really is an experience to read them and think about how much life has changed since they were written.

I am nearly 30 and just re-read them for the first time since childhood. I was amazed at how much anthropological/historical detail they contained for the adult reader that I had never picked up as a younger reader. I had thought I was just having fun - who knew I was actually learning something as well?

Modifié : Juil 25, 2007, 4:43pm

As a third grader, I adored Pippi Longstockings. Although I was a little boy, I had longish red hair and a Swedish grandmother, so Pippi was like a sister. Now, more than thirty years later, I have a dog named Pippi!

Oh, oh, I have to add: the wonderful books of Elizabeth Enright, like The Four-Story Mistake. My kids loved them.

Sep 17, 2007, 4:54am

Anne Frank: The diary of a young girl should definitely be around the house for kids above 10.

Sep 17, 2007, 12:55pm

I would add:
The Phantom Tollbooth because I loved the play on words.
The Day of the Triffids and The War of the Worlds because they satisfied my dark and cynical side as a teen. Add Frankenstein, but it was already mentioned.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes because, um, it's Sherlock Holmes.

Modifié : Juin 18, 2008, 1:19am

Juin 19, 2008, 9:41am

Adding, because I didn't see them mentioned:

Dodie Smith's books: 101 Dalmatians for the younger kids, and I Capture the Castle for the older teens.

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Juin 19, 2008, 10:03am

Most of what I wanted to mention has been mentioned above, although I think I'd like to 'second'
The Giver
The Little Princess
Where the Red Fern Grows
My Side of the Mountain
and The Phantom Tollbooth

I also wanted to add A Day No Pigs Would Die

Modifié : Juin 19, 2008, 10:13am

At school we were given a list of 100 books that we should have read by the time we turned 13. I don't have it any more, but I know that it included many already mentioned (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Moby Dick, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Ivanhoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, Treasure Island, The Railway Children, The Little Prince, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Once and Future King, The Borrowers, The War of the Worlds, Lord of the Flies, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, To Kill a Mockingbird, 101 Dalmatians, and Gulliver's Travels).

I'm pretty sure it also listed The First Men in the Moon, Pilgrim's Progress, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, The Water Babies, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, The Call of the Wild, and The 39 Steps. The only book I remember reading simply because it was on the list was Anstey's The Brass Bottle, which is rather obscure now, but good fun. I haven't read the whole list yet, though, and I'm a lot older than 13!

Juin 19, 2008, 7:51pm

Hello MyopicBookworm. That 100 book list sounds as if it would be very helpful. I don't suppose there's any chance of tracking it down? Does anyone have a recommendation for a list like this available on the Internet. I know there are plenty of lists for adults, but is there anything that really works for kids? I really like the idea of the 100 suggestions for under 13s.

Juin 20, 2008, 5:57am

If I ever come across it, I'll post it somewhere. But school was a long time ago, so (1) I doubt I've managed to hang on to it for that many decades, and (2) it may look a very old-fashioned list now. (It was probably pretty old-fashioned then: my teacher was an English prep school master of the old school, then coming up for retirement. I should think Watership Down was the most recent thing on it.)

Juin 25, 2008, 4:01pm

I work in a bookstore (and am studying for a Masters in Secondary Education - High school English) and I believe the vast majority of the time the books listed as YA (or in our store we have a section ages 7-12 and then teen reads) and I think the overarching way of characterizing these books as such is that the protagonist is a YA. And in most cases, this stays true. Few very adult literature books are writtten about children and very children's books are written about adults. At least that is true in recent years.

Though I entirely agree that young adults are more than welcome to read adult books if they are able and want to. But I think we also lose a lot of potential readers but forcing them into the adult stage early. Kids want to read about people like them going off on adventures, saving the world, or just having the same sort of struggles. The exact same storyline with a younger protagonist might grab them more easily then one with an adult - they just relate better. Plus, YA lit often really gets down to the point, whereas adult lit might have 50 pages of prose at the beginning before even really delving into the story. That's when they pick up the cliff notes (or Sparknotes now).

Mar 27, 2009, 12:11pm

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (I had to read it in English class three years in a row)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lord of the Rings
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I suspect the Twilight series will become classics when they have been around long enough, as well as Harry Potter.
Cheaper by the Dozen (the actual book, not the one based on the movie) would be a good one, too.

Fév 24, 2010, 2:35pm

Many books by Rosemary Sutcliff - although I might be thought biased, since she was a close relative. However many commentators consider her to have been one of the greatest writers of historical and children's/YA fiction in the 20th century; and Library Thing members may have views.

My favourites include: The Eagle of the Ninth and Mark of the Horse Lord as well as the retelling of Beowulf

More information at

Mar 2, 2010, 9:14am

These are on my list of books I wish more kids would read, that were important to me as a kid and are important to me now as an adult. I think they do a lot to teach many things. They are all at least 20 years old, but they may not fit some other definition of classic. I have gone to the extreme of reading some of these books to my children.

Citizen of the Galaxy YA Science fiction that talks about the idea of different sorts of cultures and so much more.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Kim by Rudyard Kipling. This may need to be read aloud to today's youngsters as it seems like it is too difficult for kids to get into.

The Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander

More recent books that I believe should become classics:

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Mai 8, 2010, 12:05pm

There is a bit of an American bias to some of these lists, and of course an anglophone angle, which I share... but starting with the non-anglophone classics:
Jules Verne was a big favourite when I was young; also Pierre Gripari's Tales of the Rue Broca, Dumas and, later, Stendhal. For the older teenager, a book written by a teenager (I think?): Le Diable au Corps, by Raymond Radiguet, and also, perhaps, Cocteau's Les Enfants terribles.
Astrid Lindgren; not just Pippi. but a story about a bandit's daughter – Ronya?
These may seem intended for younger readers, but are certainly classic: the Moomin books, by Tove Janssen. Emil and the Detectives, and EH Gombrich's A Little History of the World.
More books that made a big impression on me when I was young – some of which I haven't read since, after an unfortunate experience re-reading A Wrinkle in Time as an adult and choking on the McCarthy-style allegory.
Alan Garner, The Wierdstone of Brisingamen
Lynne Reid Banks, the Indian series
The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone, by TH White
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, By Robert C O'Brien
Nathaniel Hawthorne's Book of Wonders
(other American books that I remember enjoying: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Jack London's books, also Zane Grey was an obsession when I was about 12)
Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books
Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Verses still make me laugh, as do Edward Lear's Nonsense Poems
Titus Groan and Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake
Tom's Midnight Garden, and most books by Philippa Pearce
Anything by P G Wodehouse
Lots of Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities! Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, etc. Very good for reading over a long stretch of time, or for reading aloud.
The Animals of Farthing Wood, by Colin Dann
Swallows and Amazons, and others by Arthur Ransome
A Traveller in Time, by Alison Uttley

Mai 8, 2010, 4:12pm

I am LOVING your list, reedist! I think the Astrid Lindgren book you mean is Ronia, the Robber's Daughter. It's one of my favorites. I also really liked her book The Brothers Lionheart. Very poignant.

And the Indian in the Cupboard books... and Dickens... and Wodehouse... and Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH... and Mervyn Peake! Are you sure you're not me? :)

Mai 12, 2010, 6:28pm

Hm. I don't know... possibly I am?
I subsequently remembered My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
I've also just remembered a book that my mother gave me when I was really too young for it, but which I found mysterious and interesting, though I've forgotten the entire plot: The Trumpeters of Krakow. I must try and find it so I can offer it to my own children (too soon).
Jane Eyre is always included on such lists, but not Wuthering Heights... It's awhile since I read either, but it seems to me that both are masterpieces which would appeal to young or to older readers equally? Or have I forgotten some dreadful inappropriateness in the latter?
But... it's right to say, as I think someone does above, how relatively easy it is to select classic books from the past.
More recent children's books that I think were good enough to stand a chance of still being read 20 years from now: The Curious History of The Dog in the Night-timeMark Haddon, many of Philip Pullman's books, eg The Ruby in the Smoke; evidently his Northern Lights series. Definitely Daniel Pennac's The Eye of the Wolf (L'Oeil du Loup). (and not the book listed alongside by that title, of which I've never heard!)
I've recently read The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness, but was in two minds about it, because of the violence or the lack of violence: I mean that the premise of the story (which was very well-imagined and gripping) seemed to demand (even) more, and worse, violence than was actually written (particularly directed by men against women) – it felt as though the author was pulling his punches (sic) because he was writing for a young audience. These reservations prevent me from listing it as a potential future classic...

Mai 12, 2010, 6:34pm

I forgot The Mouse and his Child! How did that happen?

Mai 15, 2010, 12:08pm

And Colette! A great companion for a teenaged girl, anyway.