Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Announcing the Top 100 Children’s Fictional Chapter Books Poll

Last year the Top 100 Picture Book Poll was such a rousing success that I’ve been inspired to go one step further.  Buckle down your britches, ladies and gentlemen, and hold onto your hats!

Announcing . . .

The Top 100 Children’s Fictional Chapter Books Poll

Here are the rules:

  • Vote for your top ten middle grade books of all time (not just this year or last year) by 11:59 Eastern on January 31, 2010.  This will NOT include young adult books (for kids 13 and up) or early readers (like Mr. Putter and Tabby or Frog and Toad Are Friends).  How do you determine if a book is middle grade?  Well, I’m very fond of Powell’s, so why don’t you use their site if you’re uncertain.  These are books for kids who can read full chapters on their own and who are under the age of 13.  You may, of course, write a justification for a book if you feel it really does belong on your list.  I have the final right of refusal, however.

  • List these books in your order of preference.  I cannot stress this enough.  Your #1 chapter book would be the one you feel is the most important, so I will give it 10 points.  Your #2 choice will be only 9 points.  And so on and such.  So be very careful how you order your books.  During the picture book poll people would just list their ten willy-nilly, but that haphazard order led to a more creative final result than some would have liked.

  • Submit these books to me at  Write "Chapter Book Poll" in the subject line.  I’d rather you didn’t leave your votes in my comment feature on this site since it’s finicky and difficult to use (plus I want everyone’s votes to be a surprise).

  • If you like, you can submit what you like about each title.  At the beginning of February I will tally up the totals and I will pull from the submitted pieces why one reader or another liked a particular book (naming the reader, of course).  That way we’ll be able to hear from a whole mess of people why they love one book or another.  I will then count down from 100 to 1 the top choices of what folks feel the best children’s chapter books of all time are.

  • In the event that a class of kids votes, I will count the votes and tally them.  However, for a classroom child’s vote to count (and I’m sorry to do this guys, but I can’t see any way around it) two adults must have voted for the same book for it to appear on the Top 100 poll.  Individual votes from kids will count as the same as adult votes.  The reason for this is that often teachers will make this poll an assignment in class and not all the kids want to participate.  To avoid vote swaying, we have had to institute this rule.

Unlike the Picture Book Poll, I have no idea where the final votes will lie.  It seemed pretty certain in the picture book polling that The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, and Goodnight Moon would grab the top slots.  It is not AT ALL clear what will shake out in this poll.

Finally, full credit to the Top 100 Comic Book Runs poll over at Comics Should Be Good for giving me the idea.  Vote early or late in the month, howsoever you choose.  Results will begin to appear in February.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Monica Edinger says

    Fiction and Non-Fiction?

  2. Nope. Fiction. Good catch. Just corrected the post.

  3. Sarah Miller says

    Is it ok to submit a list of *fewer* than 10 favorites?

  4. Sure. I think I can swing that. Just make sure you put them in order from most loved (#1) to least (#whatever).

  5. Jennifer Schultz says

    Yikes-a-rama! Looking forward to the results. This will be tough!

  6. So what are you doing with Potter? Allowing each individual title or going with Harry collectively?

  7. And, of course, there are many other series that people will be voting for.

    I can see that considering, revising, and re-revising my list is going to take pretty much all my spare time this month.

  8. Jennifer Schultz says

    It’s supposed to be very cold and windy this morning, so it’s very quiet here at work! I started my list, and I have 21 books already! I am wondering about series as well-what should we do?

  9. In terms of series, I first had the thought of considering them as one book, but that’s hardly fair. So if you love Harry Potter, you better figure out which one’s the best. Yeah. No easy answers with this little poll, are there? Talk about splitting a book’s vote.

  10. Melissa (Book Nut) says

    Fun. I’m glad you’re doing this Betsy. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out…

  11. I assume that the deadline is a typo and should by Jan 31 2010 not 2009.

  12. What fun! I’m worried about having the same problem as Jennifer…too many. Can’t wait to get started.

  13. Yeeesss!

    I can not stress how incredibly disappointed I was that the one week that I missed your blog (yes, I read it constantly) was the week everyone voted for picture books. I still loved the countdown, though. Like everyone, some of my favorites made it and some didn’t, and the entire presentation was unparalelled (congrats, fuse!).

    So, I of course will vote in this poll. And I of course will have an incredibly hard time choosing my faves.

    Most of mine are probably classics, but some aren’t and I some are long-shot “gems” so to speak. The only way to make this truly fair would be to do a top 20 or 25, but hey…

    Can’t wait!

  14. MotherReader says

    I see the Harry Potter series things as being a big issue. It could be for other series as well, but I think in many of those cases picking the first book would do because they are so similar. Like a Nancy Drew fan could easily pick the first book in the series, but it’s not as obvious with HP.

  15. rockinlibrarian says

    Oh wow! I am a) so excited about this, and b) overwhelmed by the prospect of picking just 10 books and ranking them! Number ONE I’m sure about, but beyond that….

    Thank you for giving us a specific reference (ie Powells) for determining middle-grade-ness– I love so many in-between books, I feared rejecting one as YA only to see it make the list (or just miss making the list) much lower than it would have with my vote– I feared this quite powerfully for something that really has no effect on the fate of humanity– so I really appreciate having a Final Authority to go to on the matter.

    That series question is difficult: I have a favorite Harry Potter, but it’s one lots of other people specifically hate, so am I wrecking the count? Oh dear.

  16. Pam, I think that just makes it more interesting–practically forcing people to choose which Harry Potter (or Dark is Rising or Laura Ingalls Wilder or whatever) is their favorite. My guess is that Betsy won’t see many votes for books in series where each book is a lot alike.

    It’s tempting, but I hope people won’t strategize their votes too much and really just vote for what they personally think is best…

  17. Yippy, yippy, yippy!

    I am cranking out my list as soon as possible.

    Thanks for giving the obsessed an outlet, this side of therapy.

  18. Do you want non-USian readers to vote, which may include books that are little-known or never published in the US? Or would you prefer this to stay a more national poll? (I don’t imagine there would be many non-USians likely to vote, so it may just unnecessarily throw out your intended results.)

  19. says

    What a fun challenge. think I will enlist the help of all my communication and reading teachers in this one and see what kind a list we can come up with.

  20. Non-USians are free to vote as well. And what the heck. Sure, vote for stuff never published in the US. Such books may not make it onto the final list, but when I tally the full results it might be nice to have a wider swath of suggestions than just the usual American fare.

  21. As a reader, I feel like the later Harry Potter Books feel more YA, even though they are technically all MG, I suppose. But the list is about our favs and ideas, so I put in the first book, and left out the rest.

  22. Is a book like “Around the World in Eighty Days” counted? It is found in every children’s section but wasn’t specifically written for children, being such an oldie-but-goodie. Some of my favorites are classics that I have this problem with (not whether I think they’re eligible, but wheter others will think of them). It would be nice to know for sure before I vote. What’s your stance, Fuse?

  23. Fantastic! Last spring’s picture book poll kept my 4th grade students engaged in conversations and passionate about what makes great writing for quite awhile. Toward the end they were begging me to log-on in the morning during math to see that day’s result, rather than waiting until afternoon when it is reading time in our classroom.

    I can just imagine the great conversations we’ll have about this year’s poll. Of course I will have them weigh in on my picks, but I am sure they will have to create their own lists in their reader’s notebooks, as well.

    I also can’t wait to discover new titles. I don’t know what I ever did without Scaredy Squirrel and The Big Orange Splot! Thank you!

  24. I am pro-Oldie But Goodie. Someone asked me about Watership Down today and I let it stand. So while it’s not technical, classics will count as children’s fare since they have historically been read by kids before we started designating things “middle grade” and “teen”.

  25. Wonderful! The hardest part will be keeping it down to ten, but the consolation will be knowing that others may list my runners up. It will be hard, hard to rank them!

  26. Argh! So far I’ve narrowed it down to 245 choices. This is gonna be hard.

  27. Frustrating! For one edition of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Powell’s says it is for 12 and up. For another edition, Powell’s says 9 to 12 (Middle Grade). With its beautiful romance, I think of it as more YA, so I will probably not include it, but I would hate to have it not get deserved recognition. Enchantress from the Stars lists both categories, and would definitely be on my top ten list for YA.

    I guess bottom line, we should use our own judgment if we think of the book for middle grade or for young adult. Most of them, Powells is not so ambiguous — I’m assuming if it’s listed as 12 and up, it should not be included.

    The problem is that a lot of the truly great books span 9 to 12 and 12 and up as well. It will be interesting to see how the list comes out!

  28. It would be really interesting to also post a top 100 list by author. (Would have been interesting for Picture Books, too, though there you’d also want illustrator.) Score it the same as the individual book list, but that way authors won’t split their own vote. It would be interesting to see if that list was much different from the other. (I wonder how much better Dr. Seuss would have done? But Mo Willems would still have cleaned up.)

  29. KHazelrigg says

    Oh, come on, let us give our top 15! Pleasepleaseplease? There’s no way I can whittle my list down to just 10 titles!

    Darn it….

  30. Re: The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Use your own judgment as well. I figure that if anybody has considered it middle grade at some point, then it is. Powell’s is just a guiding hand, but go with your gut. I’ll always email to let you know if I think something is too old anyway. See what you can get away with.

    Re: 15 – Nopers. Murder your darlings.

  31. About Witch of Blackbird Pond and Enchantress from the Stars: No, I want you to tell me that they are too old for this list — because I need some way to get my list down to ten! I think my personal votes will go to books I think of as primarily for a middle grade audience. Though if Powell’s only talks about it as middle grade, I’ll bow to their judgment. I hope most of us think alike in that!

    For my own satisfaction, I will probably make a list of what are my top ten YA books. Then, if those books show up on the middle grade list, I will know that I voted for it in spirit!

  32. This may lead me to therapy! ONLY TEN??? And how am I to juggle my reading? I’m still reading through the top 100 picture books! I can’t wait to get home and start drawing up lists!!! (YIPPPEEEEE!)

  33. Chrisin NY says

    I was trying to think why this was so much easier than the picture book poll for me (although I did have to leave off Harry Potter and my beloved, The Wicked Enchantment. Hmm, maybe I could convince someone else to add the latter book high on their list to trade for a high vote on my recs for one of their darlings. Oh no Betsy, there is no plotting going on here. Look over there, something shiny….)
    Hmm back to my point, I think these titles were easier to pick because I could very clearly remember what spoke to me as a middle reader and continues to touch me to this day. I didn’t care so much as what was “good” in a classic sense, mostly what deeply resonated with me. For the picture books, I had no real memories (other than Madeleine) so it was more academic or based on reading to my child.

  34. Karen Wang says

    I’m so excited to participate in this! But I have one question of clarification: Are we putting down our personal favorite 10 books of all time, or what we consider to be “the best” books of all time? You refer to the books being “important,” so I wanted to double check. My personal favorites are not always what I would consider to be the greatest literature or most seminal titles. Looking forward to putting together my list!

  35. David Ziegler says

    I assume chapter books means no poetry, right? And Hurrah for you doing this!

  36. The poetry will wait for the top poetry list. Verse novels, however, will be considered middle grade fiction.

    And in terms of what kinds of books to put down, it’s entirely up to you. I feel that the best lists are a mix of the books you loved as a child, the books children love today, and “the classics”. But it’s entirely up to you. Whatever you consider the top of the top.

  37. My (fourth-grader) son and I had so much fun with this tonight, and expect to continue . . . He’s drawing up a list of his favorites, and a list of his predictions for the top ten. I’m working on my favorites list to vote for, thinking through the books I still remember best from my childhood reading, the best I’ve read recently, and where the classics fit into that list, and what gets booted off it.

  38. Fantastic idea. I can’t wait to see what books make the final cut!

  39. Great idea, but the name made me laugh. You don’t actually want lists of “fictional” books, do you? You want real books, right?

  40. *sigh* Yeah. Someone pointed out that I had to come up with a term that clarified that I wouldn’t take non-fiction so that’s what I came up with. It still never felt right, though. Alternative names are highly sought after at this point.

  41. Zoe@Playing by the book says

    I’ve just enjoyed reading through your top 100 picture books and now this post (found via the comment challenge). I wondered if it might be interesting to note where voters come from (ie country) and see if there is any change in what makes the top 10 depending on background. This occurred to me as the top 10 picture books (whilst all great) include quite a few that are clearly big hits in the US but are barely known in the UK (the snowy day, make way for ducklings,millions of cats) – well, book lovers will know them, but the average mum/dad/reader of picture books on the street won’t have heard of them, I’m pretty sure. I think these polls are great, but I’m sure some interesting geographical differences would surface too if there were some way of capturing that info

  42. True enough. The picture book poll was specifically designed to include only books published in America, which is probably why the results skewed in the way that they did. I’ve placed no such restrictions on this one.

    It’s probably too late to ask my readers to submit their geographical location along with their answers, which is a pity now that you mention it. The results would be fascinating. If I were to harbor a guess I’d say that 95% of respondents are North America-based with only 5% coming from overseas. But that’s just a rough guess on my part.

    Now I’m going to sit and comprehend the fact that Make Way for Ducklings and The Snowy Day aren’t well known in the U.K. Wow.

  43. I didn’t see this issue raised: what about graphic novels intended for this age group? Should we include them, or will they get a separate shot later?

  44. Oh, they are entirely different. They’ll get their shot later, if I am able.

  45. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    The important question: How many times can we change our minds and submit revised lists? 8)

    (Oh, BTW – I’m in Connecticut)

  46. Arrgh!
    Favorite series = 5 books.
    Other favorite series = 3 books.

    That only leaves two spaces!!!

  47. I think that my favorite books tend to be the ones that I have both enjoyed and thought were “the best”.

    By the way, I hate to make anyone’s life more difficult (my lidst is agony, too, but I’m doing it anyway), but I think “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” is definitely middle grade. Just because a book has older characters and maybe a romance doesn’t automatically make it “older”, in my opinion. It all depends on how the style is handled and whether it is made intersesing and/or enjoyable to a particular audience, which I believe “The Witch of Blackbird Pond”, for instance, does.

  48. And for the record, I am definitely including “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” so feel free to include it in your list of submissions.

  49. aquafortis says

    This is going to be WAY too hard!! I could easily come up with a hundred favorites. Don’t worry; I won’t SEND the hundred. 🙂 I’m already excited about the final list, though.

  50. what about percy jackson?

  51. Sondy at Sonderbooks says

    Urghh! I’d decided to put Witch of Blackbird Pond on the list for teens and not on this list. Same with some other favorites. I wonder how much that will dilute them on both lists. The overlap will be interesting, anyway.

  52. I was all psyched to try this, but then I read the part about ranking them one through ten. Yowzers, it’s hard enough picking just ten! Ranking them will be absolute torture! (Deep breath) It’s OK, though. I’m still going to try. 🙂

  53. Yes. I am asking you to rank what you love. An exceedingly hard practice, don’t I know it.

  54. My Boaz's Ruth says

    Aigh! IS Cheaper by the Dozen considered fiction?

  55. Well… not really. I mean, it’s always shelved in the biography section. The stories are supposedly true. I love that book to death but alas, if I can’t allow Boy by Roald Dahl or The Endless Steppe, then no Cheaper by the Dozen either.

  56. My Boaz's Ruth says

    Great. That helps

  57. My Boaz's Ruth says

    Aigh. Where are the Little House books shelved? they are true too.

    I’d hate to have a precious slot taken up by a book that turns out to be not eligible!

  58. Actually, Little House stories are considered pretty fictional. That’s more a case where Rose Wilder took some stories then ran with them. So they completely count.

  59. are you taking time off work to do the compiling? Thanks for doing this and I don’t envy the work ahead! (you could farm off some of the titles to people and have them come up with things to say)

  60. No, I did a lot of compiling on the bus to and from ALA. Now I do it in the evenings. Sometimes I can do it while watching TV. But I have to keep a sharp eye on my math then.

    No farming needed. I enjoy it in a weird library cataloging kind of way.

  61. Laurie (Six Boxes of Books) says

    “That’s more a case where Rose Wilder took some stories then ran with them.” Betsy, have you ever read anything written by Rose? Not impressive. Laura definitely had a magic touch. (And they are, as you said, fiction.)

  62. Which, in turn, brings up the question of whether or not Laura wrote her own books. But that’s a tale for another day.

  63. ‘Finally got my list together today. I noticed that I’ve been much more moved by books published in the past 20 years than older books. Hmmm… I did have a few older titles, but not many. Not to mean any disrespect, but I really think the middle grade novel has become SO much better in the past 2 decades. I think of some of the books I read as a middle schooler, esp., and they were so lame by today’s standards. I’ve tried reading some of those with kids today, and they just don’t hold up. I get frustrated with teachers who ignore newer fiction books and continue to read some of the old, tedious books in the classroom thus continuing to turn off kids from the love of reading.

  64. Hmm…I agree and disagree.

    I agree that in the past 20 years children’s publishing as a whole has indeed made a remarkable increase in not only quantity but also quality. Indeed, you might find the average miidle grade book published today better (or at least by today’s standards, less “lame) than an average middle grade book published 20, 30, etc. years ago. But, quite frankly, the greatest books of the past 20 years ore no better and in many (most?) cases not as good as the best books of 20 years ago.

    In my opinion, any random middle-grade novel on this year’s Notables list will probably be better (or less “lame”) than a corresponding book from 30 years ago. But compare the very best from the ’90s and ’00s. Some of my favorites are, for instance, “Shiloh”, “Walk Two Moons”, “A Long Way From Chicago”, “Bud, Not Buddy”, “Beacuse of Winn-Dixie”, “Pictures of Hollis Woods”, etc. Now take some from before that. Think about the ’80s: “Number the Stars”; ’70s: “The Westing Game”, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”; ’60s: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach”, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”, “Island of the Blue Dolphins”; ’50s: “The Witch of Blackbird Pond”, “Miracles on Maple Hill”, “Charolotte’s Web”; ’40s: “King of the Wind”, “The Twenty-One Balloons”, “Strawberry Girl”, “Call It Courage”; ’30s: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”. (Sorry, but I can’t assume how long ago everyone was in middle school.) I guess everyone gets my point. All of these books speak to different audiences and all are exciting books of their kind even today. And I’m postive I just forgot many greats, these are just personal faves off the top of my head.

    Then there are undisputed classics that are much, much older that everyone still loves, too numerous and probably obvious to mention here, that the books of today just can’t touch. Books that are timeless, that still speak to and inspire a love of reading. So, yes I agree that most books published in general in the past 20 years are better than most before. But most the best children’s books of all time, to me, are still spread out over many time periods.

  65. Hey, let’s take a vote:

    Which books would cause the most people to boycott (or at least seriously lose respect for) the list?

    On the picture books people threatened about “Love You Forever”, but thankfully, that didn’t come about. (I’m on the serious dislike spectrum, but I wouldn’t have boycotted, personally.) What are some really love-hate chapter books?

    Hmmm…If your miidle-schollers choose Twilight, that’ll be it for me. Although that is not technichally eligible, right? If Harry Potter is close to the top over a classic I’ll be incensed, but I now better than to expect people to shut something like that out entirely. I personally hate “Tuck Everlasting”, which seems to be popular. “M.C. Higgins, the Great”, “Julie of the Wolves”, “Out of the Dust”, etc…I’d better stop before I get too controversial or outraged!

    But seriously, what would be a controversial “Love You Forever” type inclusion? Or…a really controversial exclusion? Intersting to think.

  66. Alternate list name suggestion:

    How about just calling the list “The Top 100 Children’s Novels List”? When you think about it, that’s really what we’re voting for (Fiction Chapter Books), right? Just a thought.

  67. Aw, shoot. You’re absolutely right. That title makes so much more sense. Billy, I am hereby stealing your idea for when I start posting the results.

    I cannot say what they are, but there are several books on the list right now that cause my very skin to crawl. Other people adore them. I know of one book that really is the Love You Forever of the chapter book world, but I won’t say what it is until all the votes are in. Who knows. It could see an upsurge in votes (eek!).

  68. My Boaz's Ruth says

    I am very afraid.

    Too many modern books would really sour my feel for the list. I’d figured the 1/3 of the entrants that did not have the perspective of time on the whole thing had made it not as useful a list as the picture book if the list turns out to be overwhelmingly modern.

    Things I’m not expecting to see (only mentioning books I’ve read):
    Junie B Jones
    Percy Jackson series

    Of course, from the time when I was growing up, I’d have put Ramona on this list and I see it on others top children books lists already.

    As for exclusions: I fear series are going to be hurt maybe to the point of being excluded because of “splitting votes” — some picture book authors had this problems when they had too many good books and it just gets worse with the number

  69. Just wanted to say that this is one of the best sites for kids of all ages. Keep up the good work!