Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The 100 Best Kids' Books EVAR

Blogger Betsy Bird is running a poll: What are the top 100 middle grade novels of all time?

Readers are invited to submit their top ten, ranked. There are some limitations and suggestions for determining age level; read the post, vote.

I've been working on my list all month. Well, not really. On the first day I brainstormed titles; on the second day I ranked and revised. I haven't looked at my list in weeks, and am amused to see how my list that I thought was totally objective was influenced by what I was reading and what people were talking about on Goodreads. I made some last minute changes.

My biggest problem was in sorting out what was young adult and what was middle grade. My standards for this are stricter than Betsy's, but I'm going to go by them, anyway. I went back and forth on The Witch of Blackbird Pond--then glanced at the comments just now and saw that others have the same question. Ultimately, I decided it was a young adult book and didn't include it. I disagree with a commenter who says it's not YA just because the characters are older and it really has a middle grade treatment; that's probably the kind of person who thinks there wasn't any YA until the 1970s. Or the 1990s.

I'm not going to tell you my list, but I'll tell you the following things:

1. One author is male, and nine are female.
2. All of the authors are white, which is sad, but reflects my childhood reading (that will come in a new post soon)
3. Two of the authors are Jewish; the rest are Protestants.
4. Bizarrely, eight of the ten are part of a series. I wonder what this says about me and my reading? I selected the books individually, not as "I love this series and I'm going to pick a book to represent it".
5. The oldest book was published in 1940. (Actually, two of them were.)
6. The newest book was published in 1978. Despite all the great books published during my lifetime, I believe in this list and would like to think nostalgia is only a small part of it. That was a Golden Age.
7. Three of the books won the Newbery Medal.
8. Eight of them should have. (Two of my choices I acknowledge as being not quite right for the Newbery.)
9. One of the books won a Newbery Honor.
10. The one book that is possibly, POSSIBLY a pure nostalgia pick is All-of-a-Kind Family.

Now, submit your own lists! Or just tell me in the comments what a couple of your choices would have been. Or both. Or speculate on what my list includes. (I think the clues above could make it pretty easy to figure out at least six, if you were dedicated.)


Deb Holland said...

I knew AOAKF was one, and it should be. I'm sure one of the 1940 books is BT? And one of the Little House books is on your list.

Genevieve said...

I included AOAKF too! I so hope it makes it on to the top 100.

I went back and forth over my list, kept bumping a couple books up and not sure what to take out, and finally settled on my list. I was a bit strategic, bumping a couple out because I was sure they would get enough votes without me to be high on the list - The Westing Game is the only one I took out for that reason that I kind of regret.

My earliest is 1904, and my latest is 2009. I have seven books written by women (two by the same woman) and three written by men; one African-American author and eight white authors; two Newbery Medals and two Newbery Honors (one of which should've been a Medal); one Jewish author and presumably eight Christian authors; one British author, one Canadian author, and seven American authors.

I'm guessing that you listed A Wrinkle in Time (Newbery Medal), Charlotte's Web (with E.B. White as your male author)(Newbery Honor that should've been a Medal), All-of-a-Kind Family, Mixed-Up Files by E.L. Konigsburg (Newbery Medal)(second Jewish author), The Long Winter (Newbery Medal), and Betsy-Tacy. But I think I'm short some series books. I would've guessed Westing Game and/or Bridge to Terabithia, but I'd used up my three Medal guesses.

Wendy said...

You got five of them! (And you're right, too, Deb.)

The Long Winter didn't win the Newbery Medal, though...

Can't wait to see how it all shakes out.

Genevieve said...

Oh, I got mixed up, Long Winter was an Honor!
I'm going to say Bridge To Terabithia as your other honor, then, since it was 1978 which is your latest book.
Don't know which Wilder you had (or else you had Long Winter but not Charlotte's Web).

Eric Carpenter said...

until reading this i had not thought about my list in demographic terms. My top 8 are locked in and i'm still going back and forth with my last 2. Of the 8 only one is male and all Caucasian Americans. Hmmm do I consider this when in determining my final 2 titles? Five medal books too many? I thought I was close...so much more thinking to be done.

Genevieve said...

Wait, I remember that The Westing Game is your favorite Newbery winner ever, and A Wrinkle in Time is not your favorite L'Engle. So I'll say you have The Westing Game and you don't have A Wrinkle in Time. (And perhaps you have your favorite L'Engle? I have Swiftly Tilting Planet on my list. Maybe you have that, or an Austin book such as A Ring of Endless Light? and that would count as series.)

Wendy said...

I decided that both The Moon By Night and A Ring of Endless Light were YA. One thing I changed when I looked at my list after a couple of weeks was that A Swiftly Tilting Planet was on there and Wrinkle wasn't. I got a hold of myself and acknowledged that literarily Wrinkle is much better, and yes, now it's on the list--and Swiftly Tilting didn't make it.

Jess said...

A Ring Of Endless Light by Madeline L'Engle. I'd personally put this firmly in YA, but Powell's calls it children's, so I'll include it.
Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
As The Waltz Was Ending by Emma Macalick Butterworth (has mature elements that could push it into YA)
Whistle Down a Dark Lane by Adrienne Jones (also has mature elements)
Into The Dream by William Sleator
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (I debate whether to say Theater Shoes or Ballet Shoes here, and decided slightly better quality/originality won out over my childhood WWII obsession.)
Annie's Promise by Sonia Levitin
The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I wouldn't consider these all kid lit masterpieces as far as the writing goes, but they're the ones that really stuck with me.

Jess said...

I have a scribbled list at work that I *think* I narrowed down to 10, but ranking them? I dread it. Especially since I'll think of more possibilities as soon as I try, and have to start from scratch.

LaurieA-B said...

I was thinking about this last night and thought you had said the oldest book was 1904, so I was thinking hmmm, must be Anne of Green Gables. Guess not, since you actually wrote 1940. (Anne was published in 1908, I see. I was close.) No books since 1978, huh? Mine will have some. (Though not The Giver. Or Holes. Though I liked Holes.)

Also, if I were making a list of "the ones that stuck with me," as Jess mentioned, that would be a different list. And would probably include Ballet Shoes.

Wendy said...

I did think about Ballet Shoes, because I love it so much and think it's very good, but in the end it's maybe a little uneven compared to the ones I chose. I really tried to go for masterpieces.

I might have included Anne of Green Gables (if it were more of a favorite), even though that was published as an adult book, because it's pretty solidly middle grade now. But I did, reluctantly, exclude Daddy Long Legs because it's really either adult or YA.

Genevieve said...

My list is partly the ones I think are masterpieces (including modern ones) and partly the ones that stuck with me from my childhood. Fuse seemed to allow for that in her guidelines.

And I narrowed my list for purely strategic reasons, too, thinking in terms of what I want to get on the list - I very reluctantly dropped The Westing Game, and less reluctantly dropped Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, reasoning that they would be there with or without my vote. I kept some that would be there without my vote, because I just had to vote for them.

I have both Wrinkle and Swiftly Tilting Planet on mine - the more I thought about it, the more I wanted Swiftly Tilting Planet to be on that top 100 list. I love it with a deep and abiding love.

I ended up with:

1. A Wrinkle in Time
2. Charlotte's Web
3. When You Reach Me
4. Anne of Green Gables
5. A Swiftly Tilting Planet
6. The Wednesday Wars (Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor)
7. Seven-Day Magic (the best of the Edward Eagers, and the more I re-read it the more I thought it should be in the top 100)
8. All-of-a-Kind Family
9. Bud, Not Buddy (Christopher Paul Curtis, Newbery Medal)
10. A Little Princess

And it's 3 Medals and 2 Honors - I forgot about When You Reach Me being a Medalist now.

MotherReader said...

Hey, I also included AOAKF! It could make it!

I had a few books that I loved more a kid than upon re-reading, but I think that's pretty common.

I had trouble with the Little House books, because later books in the set are my favorites now, but when I think of the books I think of Little House on the Prairie - so I went with that one.