by Arthur Ransome first published 1930. Imagine reading an exciting children’s book where perhaps many of the terms don’t make any sense, but it doesn’t matter in the least. As I follow the children’s adventures on their sailboats on a lake, I’m right there, even if I don’t know starboard from — what is the opposite? The adventures, and the well developed characters of the children and others is so entrancing, that details don’t really get in the way…

Published 1955
Theme: Imagination
Best for: Under 11

The series of five children’s books by Norton, beginning with The Borrowers, and continuing with the Borrowers Afield, Aloft, Afloat, Avenged…, are in a group by themselves. The imagination that Norton brings to the tales of these little people that live in houses, off the the lost items of humans, is so creative, that it seems like it must be true…

by E. B. White, published 1970. What could be more fantastical than a swan who can’t make his trumpeting sounds and so carries a trumpet. This wonderful image seems to real because E. B. White makes it so. The wonderful descriptions of nature, the lovely relationship between the boy Sam and the swan, and the feeling of life in the wild all create such a vivid experience that one forgets that perhaps a swan carrying a trumpet is make-believe..

by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published 1905. “Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it.” A Little Princess is one the best children’s books I’ve read so far. It turns out I’m not alone in my assessment, as it continually rates in the top 100 lists among teachers, education associations, and others. Illustrating through example the power of kindness and good thoughts, this book is a masterpiece…

by Arthur Ransome, first published 1931. No author of children’s books gives children’s imagination the place of honor in the same way that Arthur Ransome does. Throughout the entire book, we live within the imaginative world that the four children (and their two friends) have created for themselves…

by E. Nesbit, first published 1906. “Very wonderful and beautiful things do happen, don’t they? And we live most of our lives in the hope of them.” While the brilliant author Edith Nesbit may be best known for her liberal use of magic and fantasy, not all her books include magic. In this very likeable book, The Railway Children, we discover something even more important than magic…We discover that even in difficult situations, there is magic to be found right in daily life, if we only have eyes to see it…

Published: 1973
Theme: The Value of Time
Best for: ages 10 to adult

“There’s a place like the one you visited in every living soul, but only those who let me take them there can see it, nor can it be seen with ordinary eyes.” If there was only one children’s book I could put on the list of must-read, yet hardly known, children’s books, it would have to be Momo. I fell in love with the book, despite the fact that when I first went to read it…