My 10 Favorite Children's Novels

All the votes are in for Fuse #8's100 Best Children's Novels poll.I sent in my top 10 picks at the last minute, just under the wire of the January 31 deadline, so didn't get a chance to post them online before the deadline. Here they are now, with some quickly-dashed-off notes on why I chose them.

1.    .A Long Way from Verona, by Jane Gardam. “JESSICA VYE YOU ARE A WRITER BEYOND ALL POSSIBLE DOUBT.” Best. Telegram. Ever.

2.     The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright. Such a lovely happy idiosyncratic bickering family. And, New York City.

3.     Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. The dumbwaiter. Ole Golly. The boy with the purple socks. And, and, and… Someone on Facebook said this week that Harriet the Spy was her Catcher in the Rye. Mine, too.

4.    A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The perfect Victorian-era urban fairytale.

5.      A Room Made of Windows, by Eleanor Cameron. Probably no one else will list this one, but it was one of my favorites ever. So complex and subtle and full of unexpected relationships.

6.      Tangerine, by Edward Bloor The only sports story I’ve ever really loved (Well, except for the Dairy Queen books, but those are YA.) So jam packed full of STUFF. Like plot and character and suspense and the Revenge of Nature and other really meaty things to chew on. Issues-oriented without being didactic. A thriller without being too scary.  Plus: a sinkhole that threatens to suck down the middle school!

7.      The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer. It’s a historical epic! It’s a fantasy! It’s got everything, this one. I’ve got to read it again soon.

8.    The Long Secret, by Louise Fitzhugh. In some ways I feel even more affinity for this one than for Harriet, its more famous sister. Ah, Beth Ellen. “A shy person is an angry person.” Indeed.

9.      Father's Arcane Daughter, by E. L. Kongisburg. Another book I’ll be surprised if anyone else lists. I’m counting on enough people listing From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler for it not to need my vote; the Heidi character, and Winston’s guilty love/hate relationship with her, all the ambiguity they both feel about their sister Caroline (or is she Caroline, really?), and that twist at the end make this one I couldn’t leave off my list.

10.  Zeely, by Virginia Hamilton. I'm a sucker for books about mysterious grownups who come into the heroine's life (cf: Father's Arcane Daughter.). This is one of the first ones I remember reading.

It's probably pretty obvious that I leaned heavily on childhood loves when compling this list. Even more than I did for the Top 100 Picture Books poll last year, I found it very hard to create a list that satisfactorily melded criteria for "best books"--books I'd objectively, professionally rate as the best literature overall-- and "favorite books"-- books that I, personally, love beyond reason, whatever their objectively assessed (if that's even possible) literary qualities. When in doubt, I went with the latter, never mind if they were completely idiosyncratic and unlikely to make the final list, and trusted that the combined votes of others would lift up books like A Wrinkle in Time and Holes that I think are truly excellent but don't have such a personal attachment to. And it's actually painful to think of the dozens of others--like All-of-a-Kind Family, Enchantress from the Stars, and My Father's Dragon--that I do love beyond reason but couldn't squeeze into a list of only ten books.

Several other bloggers have posted their lists and thoughts about this poll, too: click here for Amy's list at Media Macaroni; Doret's list and predictions at The Happy Nappy Bookseller; and Wendy's hints about her list at Six Boxes of Books.

Like most other participants, I'm very excited to see what the results will be. Elizabeth Bird, the sparking fuse behind Fuse #8 and this poll, mentioned in a comment that she has tomorrow off from work, so I'm hoping that we'll start to see the first few titles in the top 100 within the next few days.

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Librarian Mom, you're great! Thanks for the recommendations! I haven't heard of several of these. I LOVE The Saturdays, though.

Wow! I've only read on book on your list. Clearly I have my work cut out for me. First up, The Saturdays.

Els, I've never heard of A Long Way From Verona, and my library doesn't have it, but you convinced me to order a copy.

Genevieve, I hope you'll like it! I'd love to hear what you think.

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