guest blog

What were your favorite children’s books?

by Grace Bonney

I’ve always been book obsessed and, with a baby on the way, this has turned into an obsession with the books I loved as a child. Recently I’ve spent way too much time tracking down my out-of-print favorites. I asked six of my favorite bloggers for their favorite children’s book recommendation and they did not disappoint!

Three bloggers had really strong memories:

• Joanna from Cup of Jo says “I loved Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie, which is the prequel to Peter Pan. It tells the story of how the baby Peter leaves his nursery and goes to live in Kensington gardens, making friends with fairies and birds. It’s heartbreakingly sweet and has gorgeous images by Arthur Rackham. When I was 12 and still believed that peter pan would come to my window, I found a copy of this book for 25 pounds (which was my life savings at that point) in a tiny used bookstore in Cornwall, England, while I was visiting my grandparents. I was totally and completely over the moon. One step closer to never land!”

• M. from Sometime Dresses, Sometimes Jeans says “My favorite was the story of Heidi. My copy was a green-cloth-covered unabridged edition. I loved it for the story of the plucky little milkmaid, the vivid descriptions of the toasted cheese on bread that Heidi’s grandfather would serve them for dinner and the hay-filled mattresses they would fall to sound sleep on… but I really loved it for the full-page illustrations of Heidi. See, in my book, Heidi was a tiny girl with a short crop of brown curls. The illustrator made a point in the illustrator’s note of explaining that that was how Johanna Spryi originally intended her heroine to look, but that over the years Heidi had somehow morphed into the blonde with braids everyone else remembers. And, for one little girl with a short crop of black curls, that made this Heidi all my own.”

• Stephanie from Even*Cleveland who worked as a children’s librarian for awhile and has a million favorite children’s book says her favorite is “without a doubt The Wuggie Norple Story , written by Daniel Manus Pinkwater and illustrated by Tomie DePaola (of Strega Nona fame). It is the story of a family who get a new kitten named Wuggie Norple who grows exponentially fast. Every day when the Dad comes home from work, he says Wuggie Norple is bigger than a new animal, then brings the animal home to prove the point that Wuggie Norple is indeed bigger – he ends up bringing home a bulldog, a donkey, a young razorback hog, and even an elephant – and every animal gets a new, ridiculous name – Laughing Gas Alligator, Exploding Poptart, etc. It’s silly and delightful, and my brother, sister and I loved it. We read it to pieces.”

Black*Eiffel picked Celestino Piatti’s Animal ABC . Be sure to check out Rachel’s amazing series on vintage children’s books here).

• Brooke from Inchmark vividly remembers Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. One of my favorite features on her blog are posts about weekly trips to the local library and the books she finds there with her two children.

• Jennifer from Minor Details choose Mr. Pine’s Purple House. She also runs an amazing children’s interior consulting firm and check out her lovely home’s sneak peek here on D*S!

Thank you ladies for sharing! Now, D*S readers, it’s your turn: what was your favorite children’s book as a child?

Suggested For You


  • Nothing beats a copy of the Secret Garden. I have an amazing vintage copy that I am keeping for when my little girl is interested in reading it – being that she is only 1, it will be a few years. :)

  • All lovely choices! While it’s not vintage (although my copies very worn) Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen,” is a great kids book.

  • Top Three

    *Miss Rumphius*
    Three goals: 1. Travel the world, 2. Do something to make the world more beautiful, 3. Return home to live by the sea!

    *Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge*
    Exploring the question, “What’s a memory?”

    *A Very Special Trade*
    This one is out of print, so sad.

  • Miss Rumphius was, and still is, a favorite! also, Amelia Bedelia, One Morning in Maine and Kristina Catarina and the Box.
    once I got older nothing could beat Harriet the Spy, Sarah Plain and Tall and the ramona quimby series!

  • “Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse” by George Mendoza. Must be where my love of all things house related stemmed from. I used to stare at those pictures for hours!

  • I loved (and still love) The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. The illustrations are so excellent, and I still think of this book every time we get fresh snowfall.

  • My favorite story as a child was The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf but more importantly illustrated by Robert Lawson. There are plenty of good ones out now. Our current favorites are Finklehopper Frog and Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate. These are the books my kids will list 30 years from now. :)

  • Ooh, good one. Harry the Dirty Dog, The 11th Hour, The Alligator’s Garden, Geraldine’s Blanket, O Henry, Matilda…too many to count. I was in Weekly Readers, such an amazing thing!

    I should mention that I make hand-printed wallpaper, and my first line is based entirely on children’s books and childhood memories. This is such a fun topic to see on D*S. I never plug myself, I hope it’s ok: http://www.growhousegrow.com

  • Peter’s Chair or Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl
    Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
    Little House series
    Anne of Green Gables series
    Young Adult books: Are you there God its me Margaret by Judy Blume (I have 3 different out of print editions) and anything by Norma Klein

  • “Bread and Jam for Frances” by Ruzzell Hoban. Frances sings about how much she loves bread and jam for breakfast ,lunch, and dinner. I love all the “Frances” series, I still read them, to my nieces of course.

  • My faves were “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” specifically the Mayer’s version, and of course, “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” by Chris Van Allsburg! I still pull both of them out on a regular basis for inspiration of all kinds.

  • I had beautiful illustrated copies of The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Wind in the Willows, and The Wizard of Oz. The Little House on the Prairie series and Little Women were also favorites of mine.

  • You must check out A Hole is to Dig, A First Book of First Definitions. It is delightful thanks to lines like, “A face is to make faces” or “Mashed potatoes are to eat.”

  • I read Wuggie Norple when I was a kid too, and I’ve been searching for what seems like ages to remember the title! Thank you, Design Sponge!

    My parents liked to compare that book to the fictional “Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie” mentioned in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin forced his parents to read that terrible book night after night after night…

  • Love it, Abbey. Such great picks from so many of my fave bloggers. I loved the Little Miss books. I had tons. And I adored James and the Giant Peach, as well as Charlotte’s Web. I guess those are more like young adult books, but they are perfect for any age, I think.

    OH! And Pierre: A Cautionary Tale. God, I loved that book…you must must get it, Abbs!

  • I have so many favorites!

    The Story of Ferdinand ( Munro Leaf)

    The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)

    Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig)

    The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats)

    James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)

  • Definitely has to be “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett. What kid wouldn’t love the thought of food falling from the sky! :)

  • I have many favorites but here are a few.

    Pantaloon – A little golden book about a poodle who wants to be a baker. So good and I’ve had a heck of a time finding a copy.

    A Little Princess


    All of the Shoes books, Ballet Shoes, Skating Shoes, Theatre Shoes, I know I”m probably missing a couple.

  • Amelia Bedilea series
    Where the Wild Things Are
    Dr. Seuss books
    The Frances books were good

    There was one ocean life book I read until the book was worn out. I’m sure it was just a general book. I remember getting it from the monthly (or however often) Scholastic book orders.

  • The Big Orange Splot by: D. Manis Pinkwater

    its an adorable story! I adore vintage children’s books and their illustrations. I cut them out and fit them into vintage frames in my etsy shop. [olivesomeday.etsy.com] Its a lot of fun, but I usually buy two so I don’t have to cut up my only copy!

  • What a fantastic feature.

    My favorite was The Cow Who Fell In The Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky and illustrated by Peter Spier. I also loved Whistle For Willie by Jack Ezra Keats.

  • It is difficult to make just one choice… but I love something like this:

    A blast of wind, a house-rattling bang,and Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane.

    It is clear that Mary poppins, by P.L.Travers.

    My mom saw the film as a child, when it was launched. And I read it and then I´ve seen it lots of times!!!!

  • My favortive was and still is; “There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake” (Paperback)
    by Hazel Edwards (Author), Deborah Niland (Illustrator)

  • Shel Silverstein! How are there so many comments with nary a mention of his poetry books. I still know many of his poems by heart. Where the Sidewalk Ends is a good place to start…

  • hi guys! this comment was eaten in the server switch yesterday:


    I LOVE children’s books. I could go on and on. But I won’t — I’ll just mention my favorite book of poems – Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee, illustrated by Frank Newfield. And, the Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, new illustrations by Loren Long (the original is good too but I love the new illustrations). And for older kids, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. There are so many more…

  • I loved “Where the wild things are,” I loved the illustrations it made monsters seem less scary.

    I loved reading “goodnight moon” with my mom before bed.

    I also remember my father reading “the secret garden” to me, mostly because I didn’t understand what was going on (I must have been too young) but was enthralled that he was reading a real book to me, so I never let on that I didn’t understand it.

  • I have never commented before though I visit your site EVERY SINGLE DAY! love it …
    and i love to read so heres my list. Hiedi
    the secret garden
    bedknobs and broom sticks
    the narnia series
    everything by enid blyton!
    all the laura ingalls books
    ok this could get really looonnngg, i think thats enough for now!

  • what a great post! I have so many favorites, but here area few:

    14 Bears Summer and Winter (which was out of print until I finally found a copy 14 years later, of course!)
    Eloise (I have my mom’s copy from 1955.)
    The Giving Tree
    The Polar Express
    and of course all Judy Blume and Roald Dahl books

  • Best Topic Ever. I’m currently obsessed with buying beautiful old children’s books from thrift stores to use for tattoo inspiration.

    my favorites-
    How Fletcher was Hatched – best watercolor illustrations just ever.
    Frog and Toad Are Friends- particularity the button story.

  • Oh gosh—Harold and the Purple Crayon, the Boxcar Children, The Big Orange Splot, Strega Nona, Goodnight Moon…the list goes on. I loooooved reading. Still do, in fact :)

  • I have always/will always love “Molly Moves Out” by Susan Pearson. The illustrations are in black and white and orange, and it is simple and beautiful and quiet.
    I recently read “Willoughby and the Lion” by Greg Foley and I thought it, too, was awesome. I bet it will win the Caldecott next year.

  • Mine was Hattie and the Wild Waves by Barbara Cooney and to this day, I still believe it to be the most beautiful picture book ever. I want these pages framed and up on my walls.

  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Pippi’s outlook on all situations provided great inspiration and lots of giggles for the red-head reading her stories in Minnesota;
    Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain carried me away from my bedroom on rainy nights and left me gasping for breath in graveyards, old houses and dark caves. Thinking back on my first 50 years, Pippi & Tom are two of my most constant friends. I will occasionally find myself wondering, “What would Pippi do?” or “How would Tom respond?”

  • Those are all amazing choices.

    Please can I add:

    The Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransom

    The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfield

    One Hundred Million Francs by Paul Berna

    The Moomin series by Tove Jansson

    And for the little ones Ann & Paul Rand, Bruno Munari, Leo Lionni each have more than one fantastic contribution.

  • I love hearing about other people’s childhood book favorites!

    I’m a huge fan of Tomie De Paola’s stories (especially Strega Nona) and his illustrations as well, so I’m excited to check out TheWuggle Norple Story.

    Some of my childhood favorites are:

    The Meanest Squirrel I Ever Met
    The Sugar Mouse Cake
    (both by Gene Zion)
    The Fat Cat
    (both by Jack Kent)
    A Friend is Someone Who Likes You
    (Joan Walsh Anglund)
    Oddity Land
    (Edward Anthony)

    I recently wrote a post about sharing memories of our favorite children’s books, and, if you’re interested, I’d be honored to have you link your post to my “Storybook Neverland” gallery (no strings attached).

    Jenn/Rook No. 17

  • I am looking for a book my mother read to me about a brother and sister visiting their grandparents. They learned lessons from their adventures. I remember bees or beehives being in some of the stories. And the pictures were orange and black on glossy pages.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.