25 January 2011


Long Time No Tenner

This Week's Topic:
Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid

This topic reminds me a little of the nursery rhyme that begins . . .

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If watches were turnips, I'd wear one by my side . . .

It's a bit of folk poetry I've been carrying around with me since childhood, when a cousin sent me a huge collection of nursery rhymes. So huge, in fact, that I became wonderfully familiar with more than the usual Humpty Dumpty or Little Bo Peep fare. Which would help me argue--should I choose to do so--that some texts in the "Children's Canon" really should be read when one is a child.

Then again, I've always been a big believer in reading the right book at the right time--and sometimes childhood isn't the right time for one to read a children's classic. I can think of a couple of novels that didn't land on my shelves until much later in life, but were all the more loved for it. (Perhaps I could come up with another Tenner someday!)

Yet there are also a few books that make me feel as if I'm just catching up--that, indeed, I might not catch up at all. To quote some more sophisticated literature now . . .

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune . . .

There are tides in the affairs of readers, too--and there are about ten I don't think I took when I should have.

A Tenner:
Books I Wish I Had Read in Childhood

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

I wish I had read this early enough to have let Cooper have a fair shot at the place Madeleine L'Engle has been holding in my heart.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

I wish I had read this when I was still enthralled by L'Engle and learned that this was her favourite novel in the world. (And well, I might have changed since then, but I haven't read this yet, so the wish still stands.)

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I wish I had read this back in the sixth grade, when a friend offered to lend me her yellowing, well-loved copy--and not in college, when virtually the only copies available had Elijah Wood's face on them.

Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

I wish I had read this (and all the Baby-sitters Club books, really) when I was still the same age as the characters and already missing the 80s--and not now that I have to worry about "updated" versions.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I wish this book had already been written when I was a child, because I just know it would have been my Harry Potter. (Impossible wishes are allowed, right?)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien

I wish I had read this when I first started my collection of Newbery Award winning novels. (To this day, I can't understand why I waited so long. Where was I all its life?!?!?!)

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

I wish I had known there was an actual source novel before I saw any of the movies based on it, because then I would have read it first.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster

I wish I knew this book, if you take my meaning . . . I wish I knew it the way I know all the songs in The Sound of Music and all the dialogue in Aliens . . . I wish I had been made wise and witty by it when I was made of more impressionable clay than I am now.

Redwall by Brian Jacques

I wish I had read this book and started collecting the entire series when my mother was still footing the bill for my bibliomania.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I wish I had read this before I fell so deeply in love with Sara of A Little Princess that I couldn't give other Burnett characters a fair shake until much, much later.

And if wishes were books, I'd be the best-read person on the planet. ;-)

Image Sources: a) The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, b) Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien


Avid Reader said...

I love your list. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Phantom Tollbooth, LOTR, A Secret Garden and the Babysitters Club were some of my favorite books in grade school.

I wish that I had read The Dark Is Rising series and the Percy Jackson series when I was a kid (not possible with Percy, I know). I didn't read those until recently and I'm sure they would have had a much deeper impact when I was younger.

Birdie said...

\o/ I wish I'd read Redwall too. I also wish i'd read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. i tried to read it in college and just couldn't get into it. I made it through the Hobbit, but I just could not do it.

I'll have to check out the Lightning Thief!

Enbrethiliel said...


Avid Reader: Lucky you for having read them in childhood!!! I wonder if there is someone who could go through my entire list and say the same . . .

Birdie: I couldn't get into The Lord of the Rings, either, that first time. I got as far as Bilbo's birthday party and then concluded that hobbits were just not for me. =P

Thankfully, I did see their appeal much later. I love Tolkien now and wish I had started loving him sooner!

artieismymuse said...

i remember discovering the book Martin the Warrior when i was little and then finding out it was part of a series, my mind was blown- i was thrilled. i'm sort of excoted to see the updated versions of The Babysitter's Club but i think that's only because i read the originals when i was young.

Glad to know Mrs. Frisby is going to be worth my time when i get to read it.

everybookandcranny said...

Great list! The Babysitter's Club was huge when I was a kid as I was a child of the 80s so they were very new and all the rage.

After your comment and this post, I'm really looking forward to reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Red said...

Nice list! I loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and The Phantom Tollbooth. This top ten is making me want to find those books and read them again.

Enbrethiliel said...


artieismymuse: I haven't even got as far as Martin the Warrior yet--but I know I would have, had I only discovered the series earlier. (See what I mean? =P LOL!)

Mrs. Frisby is definitely going to be worth your time! I'm not even worried about hyping it up too much: my belief in its quality is so strong!

everybookandcranny: I'm a Child of the 80s, too (Owning it!)--but I was still too young for juvenile series when they started coming out.

I'm so glad to spreading the word about Mrs. Frisby! It has been one of my best rereads this year. =D

Enbrethiliel said...


Red: Thanks! =D

PS--I've been making the rounds and Mrs. Frisby and The Phantom Tollbooth are two of the most popular books on these lists. I think they'd show up a lot on "Favourite Rereads" lists, too. =)

Brenna said...

I LOVED the movie The Neverending Story when I was a kid, but never got around to reading the book. I must track it down for my niece :)

The1stdaughter said...

Love your choices! I'm right there with you on LOTR, NIMH and The Phantom Tollbooth. I also think I would have enjoyed the Lightening Thief more as a child as well.

Great list! Thanks so much for stopping by earlier!

Enbrethiliel said...


Brenna: What's intriguing is that the first movie only covers about half of what is the book!

1stdaughter: Thanks for coming by my blog, too. =) There are so many great books for teens and tweens being published these days, aren't there? Potential classics!

Sullivan McPig said...

I can't say I regret not having read certain books earlier in life. What I do regret is that some of my most loved children/teen books aren't available in English. There are a couple of wonderful books by Dutch authors that I would love to share with others, but can't as those people do not read Dutch.

Sarah said...

I absolutely devoured all the Baby-Sitter's Club books. I haven't tried the updated versions but I can't imagine that they're at all the same :/

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

I love this list, and especially your descriptions of why. :)

The Dark is Rising is on my to-read list. I should go put it on hold at the library.

I'm not sure I would have gotten through The Fellowship of the Ring in childhood, but I definitely wish I'd read the books before seeing any of the movies. :S

couchpotatocritic said...

I tried reading The Lord of the Rings right when the first movie came out, but I just couldn't get into it. I enjoyed The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, but could never get into the trilogy. Up until last year, I'd only ever read abridged versions of The Secret Garden, and I was pleasantly surprised to find all the complex thoughts than run through the novel. One could argue that the unabridged version isn't really a children's book at all. Great list, and thanks for stopping by my blog!

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: Now that does sound awful! I'm glad that a lot of Filipino authors write in English and don't need to wait to be translated, because then I can share their books with the rest of the world.

Sara: I browsed through a new copy of Mary Anne Saves the Day a while ago, checking for a specific scene: the one when Mary Anne sees all the videos in Dawn's house, and Dawn says that her mother tapes them all off the TV. That whole exchange was heavily edited, with Dawn just saying that her mother likes buying "movies." No specific markers like "video tape" or "DVD." =S It seems like such a little deal, I know, but it manages to suck so much sun out of the story, too.

Jenna: I read the Lord of the Rings books right before watching the movies, which is almost as bad. =P

couchpotatocritic: Interesting thoughts about The Secret Garden! A lot of the older children's classics have really sophisticated writing with complex ideas, which is probably why they have to be abridged for mass consumption these days. I know I wasn't able to appreciate The Wind in the Willows until I read it in uni--and I still wonder how younger children got through it when it was first published. But there was a time when children could pick these books up as they were and enjoy them, so I'd still hold on on them being children's classics. =)

Lesa said...

I spotted Mrs. Frisby at my Tuesday library recently-- Never heard of it but thought it looked worth reading.

I didn't read Secret Garden till I was an adult-- couldn't believe I had waited so long. You know I love little Cedric too-- you need to read his story!

I keep finding out about Montgomery books I've missed--apparently I haven't even finished the Anne series like I thought I had!!! :o/

Bibliophile said...

"I wish this book had already been written when I was a child".

Yes indeed. There are a number of such books on my list. The Phantom Tollbooth, Where the Wild things Are, and A Little Princess are some of the ones I would have liked to have discovered as a child.

I count myself lucky to have read The Neverending Story as a teenager. I do think that if Inkheart had been published when I was younger and I had read it then, it would have become fully as much a favourite as The Neverending Story.

Enbrethiliel said...


Lesa: Little Lord Faunterloy almost got an honourable mention here. After the struggle to like Mary, I'm a little worried about how I might receive Cedric. =P

When you do read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, let me know what you think!!! =D

Bibliophile: Oooh, Inkheart! I've been hearing such good things about the series, but have tried not too listen too closely, for fear of spoilers! =P But I'd still definitely shelve it in the same place as the equally unread The Neverending Story, just for the incredibly imaginative fantasy.

Thanks for stopping by, Bibliophile! =)

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

I still have to read the Dark is Rising! its still on my shelf :S. Great list! and btw thanx for dropping by my blog! :D

Rabiah @ Confessions of a Readaholic

TwoBibliomaniacs said...

Nice commentary! I totally agree with you on the importance of right book at the right time. There are several “children” books that I recently read and loved that I doubt I would have had the capacity to finish as a child.

Enbrethiliel said...


Rabiah: Thanks for stopping by as well. =) If it's snowy at all where you live, The Dark is Rising will be a great read.

Evan/Erin: Oh, I've got a list of those, too! The Wind in the Willows was just impossible when I tried it in my childhood. Many years later, it became one of my favourite books!

Syrin said...

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was one of my favorite books as a kid. I saw the movie first, and when I noticed the book in our school library I grabbed it immediately. It's one of the few I can say I definitely read multiple times.

I didn't discover The Neverending Story until later, but I agree that it would have been fantastic to read as a child. Even as an adult, it was so exciting and refreshing, the way it really made you feel like part of the book.

Emily J. said...

The Babysitter's Club? I was too snobby to read them as a kid, and it's never crossed my mind to go back to them - but I LOVED the Emily books. And I loved watching my older boys live out the Redwall series. Since I read Felix Salten's Fifteen Rabbits at least 15 times, I think I would've liked them as a kid. Definitely put the Inkheart books on your list!

One I think I would've liked if I read it at the right age: Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

Enbrethiliel said...


Syrin: That's great to hear about The Neverending Story!

Emily: Your boys are so lucky to have lived the Redwall books!!! Were they all mice or did they mix up the species a bit? ;-)

I was supposed to read The Graveyard Book with one of my tutees, but then I lost him to the exclusive after-school programme that was his mother's first choice for boosting his grades. =P I'll get around to it someday, of course.

Emily J. said...

E, you should definitely make time for The Graveyard Book, especially since you're a tutor - good tutors come out at night! Just make sure you have a solid couple of hours because you might not want to put it down.

The boys were definitely different species, and their play was helped by the fact that we had a friends of the same age who were equally entranced and engaged. My middle son liked to be a rat - and for a short time we had a rat named Cluny, but he got smashed in the door in a bout of sibling rivalry (accidentally - he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.) Rosemary the rabbit fared better and outlived the Redwall fixation until she succumbed to a tooth infection.

Enbrethiliel said...


Well, that's a pitch I'll find hard to resist! I'll definitely try to squeeze The Graveyard Book into my budget, then. =)

A whole Redwall play group??? With pets, too?! =D It sounds wonderful! Thanks for letting me have a peek into your family's life.

the booklady said...

Great list! The books I know, I would agree with; the ones I don't I think I must check out! Belated wishes for a Happy New Year! ☺

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Booklady! =) It's nice to see you again. I hope you do check out the unfamiliar books on the list, because (with the exception of the two I still haven't read yet) I do recommend them all.