“…though I cannot promise to take you home,” said North Wind, as she sank nearer and nearer to the tops of the houses, “I can promise you it will be all right in the end. You will get home somehow.” ― George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind
One of my favorite fantastical children’s stories, Wind is the story of the little boy Diamond, and the night journeys he takes with the lovely and real North Wind. MacDonald, whom Lewis said was his “master,” imbued every story he wrote with his wonder in a God whose goodness will not leave us in the darkness. An exploration, through the adventures of a little boy, of suffering and pain and the promise of heaven, this classic tale is a fairy tale swift with the beauty of the marvelous North Wind woman, and rich with spiritual contemplation. One of my favorites.
Little House on the Prairie
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
Maybe the first book I remember reading, the long-beloved story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the little girl who grew up in homes across the prairie, as her Pa kept moving on, hungry for space. The books make clear what was necessary to survive in those hard days, the character required of the settlers, but they are also rich in their portrayal of family, of the hard-won comforts of home, the love like strong rope, weaving together the hearts of those who work, dare, suffer, and dream together.
Otto of the Silver Hand
This is Pyle’s medieval tale of the wise and faithful Otto, son of a German warlord, a boy with a strong conscience who is taken captive by his father’s enemy. Caught up in a world of revenge, war, and battle, Otto endures through it to become a man revered for his wisdom and peace and his silver hand. Great, classic drama with Pyle’s matchless illustrations.
By Sterling North
The charming story of an eleven-year-old boy and the raccoon who becomes his boon companion in escapades galore, but also in the hard work of learning to say goodbye when it is time. Based on the author’s own childhood in Wisconsin, this boyhood memoir offers readers a taste of what North himself called “a better era.”
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
By Kate Douglas Wiggin
This is a classic American children’s novel about the imaginative Rebecca Rowena Randall, sent to live with her two dour, but good-hearted aunts in Maine when her family falls on hard times. Fresh, sweet, true, this is a story that has lasted for generations.
The Black Arrow
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson’s historical adventure novel about a brave boy on his way to knighthood during the War of the Roses. When a black arrow flies through a castle window with a note promising an arrow for four more of the castle residents, including Dick’s uncle, a mystery begins in which Dick begins to question his father’s mysterious death. Forced to escape after a confrontation with his uncle, Dick eventually encounters “The Black Arrow,” a mysterious outlaw. Great historical drama, classic portrayals of nobility and courage. The Scribner’s edition has illustrations by the matchless N.C. Wyeth.
By J.R.R. Tolkien
This classic tale of Bilbo, a member of the the little-known race of garden loving, pipe-smoking, gentle-hearted Hobbits has the hominess of an English folktale combined with the high romance and epic drama that would mark Tolkien’s later work in The Lord of the Rings. An old fashioned fairy-tale centering on twelve dwarves intent on recovering their ancient home (and their gold, for dwarves are lovers of gold) from the awful dragon Smaug, this story of Bilbo, the “burglar” who comes along as a member of their party also examines the motives of the heart, the nature of greed, and the strength that comes in unexpected places.
Delightful, vivid, with sylvan elves and bear men and daughty warriors, no adventurous young reader should miss this story.
Further, in the words of the venerable C.S. Lewis:
For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. Alice is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown ups; The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbitmay well prove a classic.
-From a review published in the Times Literary Supplement (2 October 1937), 714.
The Prince and the Pauper
By: Mark Twain
Twain’s classic tale of two boys, one a prince, one a beggar, who switch roles for a day… or a few more as it happens. Told with Twain’s usual wit and vivacity, the story follows the growth of the two boys as their minds expand with the exploration of their new worlds, teaching them how to better live, and rule, within their own.
The Railway Children
By E. Nesbit
The Railway Children is Nesbit’s delightful story of an Edwardian family fallen on hard times. Forced to move to the country with their mother when their father encounters “trouble,” Roberta, Phil, and Peter set about the exploration of the English countryside and begin a series of adventures with the nearby railway at their heart. A favorite in our family for the knowing, chummy voice in which Nesbit manages to perfectly capture a child’s point of view, as well as the amusing (and realistic) portrayal of siblings, and the delightful way in which Nesbit portrays the unhindered possibility of childhood, this book is one for the family library.
So you see it was all right in the end. But if one does that sort of thing, one has to be careful to do it in the right way. For, as Mr. Perks said, when he had time to think it over, it’s not so much what you do, as what you mean.” ― E. Nesbit, The Railway Children