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Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top 100 Children’s Novels (#40-36)

#40 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#7)(#8)(#10)(#10) – 107 points

A book that features one of the most memorable stories, with one of the most memorable casts of characters in children’s literature. The storytelling is pure genius, with timeless themes, detailed steeing, and fantstic whimsy. What can you say about a book that played a large part in the development of the whole field of "kid’s books"? It’s an icon. – Billy

I really, really wanted to be Dorothy. Though I loved some of the stories and characters later in the series better, this is the book that started it all. Baum really knew how to write for children and also push the boundaries — to let children know that is was okay to not be safe all of the time as long as you had a way to get back. – Kristen M. (We Be Reading)

This is the book (and series) that consumed my childhood, and still claims a significant portion of my adulthood. As a child, "Oz" represented everything that was magical in the world, everything hopeful, everything with promise. After all, all you need in life is a few good friends, a quest, and good directions. – Sharon Thackston

"Let me speak plainly. Baum is the Lewis Carroll and the Hans Christian Andersen of the United States. To have been so late in recognizing this now obvious fact is one of the major scandals of American letters." – Martin Gardner

Oz is too overwhelming for a single post.  Indeed, there are whole websites, blogs, and societies out there solely dedicated to its existence.  With that in mind, here is a quick overview of the title and its impact on America at this point. 

L. Frank Baum did not come to write the books of Oz until he was well into his middle age.  In American Writers for Children, 1900-1960, Michael Patrick Hearn writes that, "On 15 May 1900, Baum’s forty-fourth birthday, his most enduring work, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , was printed. The new book, a full-length fairy tale, again illustrated by Denslow, matched the great success of Father Goose, His Book . The immediate novelty of the book was its pictures; even today the first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an impressive piece of bookmaking. Again responsible for the cost of the plates, Baum and Denslow insured the inclusion of twenty-four color plates and countless textual decorations in an alternating color scheme, making it one of the most elaborately embellished children’s books in American publishing history."

According to Selma Lanes in Through the Looking Glass, "Despite The Wizard‘s immediate success, Baum gave no thought to sequels. He was ready to move on to other tales." So much for that plan. His fans insisted and four years later out came The Marvelous Land of Oz. This does explain why the first book is such a perfect little book, though. With no intentions of continuing the story, it is self-contained. Later there would come sequel after sequel.  And when a book had a lot of sequels, it was technically a series.  Fun Fact: Guess what libraries of the early 20th century loathed?  That’s right.  Series.

To be blunt, libraries weren’t always pleased with the books. Most notably, my very own children’s room. As Lanes tells it, "By 1930, the Children’s Room of the New York Public Library had removed the entire Oz series from its shelves, and other library and school systems followed suit."  It is true.  Look in our reference section today and you will find few Oz first editions.  Fortunately we carry the books on our shelves now.  And do they go out?  Oh yes they do.  Boys in particular love Oz, thereby trumping the old line that boys won’t read stories about girls.  The heck they won’t!

Men are some of the biggest fans too.  In Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. William C. DeVries offers a short but deeply felt note on the book. “In the book, the Wizard of Oz talks to the Tin Woodman about whether or not he really wants a heart. The Wizard believes that having a heart is not a good thing: ‘It makes most people unhappy.’ But the Tin Woodman says, ‘For my part, I will bear all the unhappiness without a murmur, if you will give me a heart.’ In my work, I have thought about those lines many, many times.”

I had a lot of fun looking over the various critical essays on this otherwise simple little story. Articles with names like "From Vanity Fair to Emerald City: Baum’s Debt to Bunyan" or " ‘Aunt Em: Hate You! Hate Kansas! Taking the Dog. Dorothy’: Conscious and Unconscious Desire in The Wizard of Oz" or even " ‘There lived in the Land of Oz two queerly made men’: Queer Utopianism and Antisocial Eroticism in L. Frank Baum’s Oz Series." Heavens! 

In Novels for Students, Jennifer Bussey has a particularly enjoyable critical essay of the book in which she pretty much summarizes all the discussions of the title. "Over the years, L. Frank Baum’s children’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been interpreted from virtually every angle. Feminists, populists, Marxists, historians, economists, political scientists, and Freudians and other psychologists have all interpreted the characters and events of the novel in terms of their particular points of view. The book has been looked at as a commentary on American life and as a statement about New World ways replacing Old World ways. Presidential scholars have considered the possibility that the Wizard of Oz represents Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, or a combination of the three. Still other scholars interpret the novel as a fable about substitutions: Dorothy lives with substitute parents; she returns to a substitute farmhouse; a common man has substituted the identity of the Wizard for his own; and the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion are all made happy with substitute charms."

For me, I’ve always loved the Wizard of Oz gold standard conspiracy theories. You’ve heard of these, yes? I actually first read about this theory in my high school history textbook. Out of a vague sense of devil’s advocatism, I once asked Oz scholar Michael Patrick Hearn his opinion on the topic and he regaled me with the ridiculousness of it all. So I suppose it isn’t true, but it’s still fun to consider.

I have mentioned that there are two books on this Top 100 list that have been turned into amusement parks. This book almost became a third. In his lifetime, Baum would purchase Pedloe Island off the California coast in the hopes of turning it into a "real-life land of Oz." He was pre-Disney, this guy.

The New York Times said of it the book at the time that it was "ingenuously woven out of commonplace material" and that "It will be strange indeed if there be a normal child who will not enjoy the story."

  • Read the book here.

Here’s a small sample of some of the jackets for this book out there.

I love the original covers beneath the book jacket:

Growing up, my favorite Wizard of Oz version was the one illustrated by Michael Hague.  I will maintain to this day that he did the best Oz endpapers of any version of this story done to this date.

The videos you find regarding Oz are fascintating.  Really, the best thing I could find was the frighteningly low-budget and poorly shot 1971 Turkish Wizard of Oz. How cheap is it? Well when the best you can do Great and Terrible Oz-wise is a skull sitting on a table, you may wish to consider springing for a cardboard head or something. I did agree with the YouTube commentator who said that the Tin Man’s axe looked like something that could do serious bodily harm, though.

There was also this series of selections from the 1910 version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

I’ll spare you the various crazed television animated television shows. There was the Japanese anime version (though the French intro is undoubtedly the best), the American 80s one, and an odd little 60s series called Tales of the Wizard of Oz. Tales actually comes off looking the best of the lot. There’s also this, which sort of defies explanation.

High-budget commercials have apparently taken great advantage of the movie version over the years. There was this oddly Tinman-free Minolta commercial in the 80s and, more recently, this Fed Ex bit o’ weirdness.

No, when it all comes down to it, maybe the best thing I found was this simply charming Shirley Bassey rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

#39 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009)
(#3)(#3)(#3)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#6)(#7)(#7)(#8)(#8)(#9)(#9)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 107 points

A perfectly assembled puzzle of a story that allows the big picture to unfold naturally. – Amy Farrier

She’s just trying to figure out *everything*, from time travel to adult relationships to kid relationships to class, status, and dentists. And that’s just awesome. – Miriam Newman

So glad this this poll wasn’t done a year ago when this title would have missed out. I cannot get over how much I love this book! First read was sitting on the floor in the bookstore b/c I didn’t want to waste anytime driving home before starting. Read it six or seven times since that wonderful July 13 day (they got it a day early) and not only have I not found a single flaw, I think its gotten better with each read. – Eric Carpenter

I am enamored with this book because of its recent-ness, and really only time will tell how I feel about its impact on The Canon. But I want to give it a chance at classicdom.Gayle Forman

There is no way of knowing if When You Reach Me would be this high on the list if it hadn’t just won itself a shiny gold Newbery Medal.  When I redo this poll in ten years, there is a fairly good chance that the book will either disappear entirelly from this list, or crawl even higher in the estimation of folks as more and more people read it.  Whatever the case, little debate surrounds the fact that it was one of the best written titles of 2010, and charms most readers whether they be children or adults.

The summary from my original review reads, "It’s the late 70s and the unthinkable has occurred. While walking home, Miranda’s best friend Sal is punched in the stomach for no good reason. After that, he refuses to hang out with Miranda anymore. Forced to make other friends, Miranda befriends the class yukster and a girl who has also recently broken up with her best friend too. But strange things are afoot in the midst of all this. Miranda has started receiving tiny notes with mysterious messages. They say things like ‘I am coming to save your friend’s life and my own’ and ‘You will want proof. 3 p.m. today: Colin’s knapsack.’ Miranda doesn’t know who is writing these things or where they are coming from but it is infinitely clear that the notes know things that no one could know. Small personal things that seem to know what she’s thinking. Now Miranda’s helping her mom study for the $20,000 Pyramid show all the while being driven closer and closer to the moment when it all comes together. When you eliminate the possible all that remains, no matter how extraordinary, is the impossible."

Originally titled You Are Here (which may explain the image on the cover a bit better), author Rebecca Stead had only previously written the science fiction middle grade novel First Light, before penning this newest book.  In May of 2009 I, being no fool, interviewed Rebecca right quick so as to talk to her about the book.  I asked her where the ideas for the book came from.  She answered, "The ‘big idea’ behind the book was sparked by a newspaper article about a man who walked up to a policeman and said that he had no idea who he was or why he was there.  All he could remember was that his wife, Penny, and their two daughters had been in a terrible accident and needed help.  But the police could find no evidence of any kind of accident. They circulated his photo around the country and eventually he was claimed by Penny, who did exist, who was in perfect health, but who was his fiancée, not his wife.  No kids, no accident.   I thought to myself, what if he knows something we don’t?  That’s the kind of thing that gives me chills."

When I asked her if the continuity in the book caused havoc, she had a fascinating answer:

"My editor, Wendy Lamb, and I were trying to find new readers for every draft of the book because, having read a couple of drafts, and, of course, knowing the ending, we felt as if we couldn’t accurately measure its impact anymore.

And so these questions were trickling in: How could Miranda have known X?  But if that’s what happened, then wouldn’t Z logically follow? Why did Q?  What happened to F?

And one day I just lost my sense of the book’s internal logic.  I had this sudden horrible certainty that the whole thing could never stand up.  I remember being in my bedroom and experiencing a wave of nausea.  And I called my dad, who is the person who introduced me to science fiction when I was a kid, and watched lots of Star Trek with me, and who has this great way of enjoying speculative fiction and taking it very seriously at the same time.

I asked him to meet me.  In an hour, if possible.  I hadn’t told him anything at all about the book yet, so we sat in a restaurant and ordered breakfast and I laid out the whole story, all the pieces.  And when I got to the end he was making this very weird scrunched-up face.  I said, ‘What’s wrong?’  And he said, ‘Nothing’s wrong.  I’m trying not to cry.’

When he said that, I thought, okay, I have to make this story hold together somehow. So we just sat there and talked until I had a handle on it again.  And when I got that back, I knew immediately which parts of the book didn’t fit, and how to answer all the questions I’d gotten from our readers.   And continuity was never a problem after that."

Clearly.  After all, the book won itself a pretty little Newbery Medal in 2010, beating out Honor books Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (#81 on our list), and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

In the New York Times, Monica Edinger called it a "smart and mesmerizing book."

A starred review in Kirkus said, "[W]hen all the sidewalk characters from Miranda’s Manhattan world converge amid mind-blowing revelations and cunning details, teen readers will circle back to the beginning and say,’Wow … cool.’"

A starred review in Booklist said, "[T]he mental gymnastics required of readers are invigorating; and the characters, children, and adults are honest bits of humanity no matter in what place or time their souls rest."

A starred review, in The Horn Book Magazine said, "Closing revelations are startling and satisfying but quietly made, their reverberations giving plenty of impetus for the reader to go back to the beginning and catch what was missed."

A starred review in School Library Journal said, "This unusual, thought-provoking mystery will appeal to several types of readers."

And a starred review in Publishers Weekly said, "It’s easy to imagine readers studying Miranda’s story as many times as she’s read L’Engle’s, and spending hours pondering the provocative questions it raises."

The original American cover was created by artist Sophie Blackall.  On her blog, Ms. Blackall showed some alternate ideas she played with when creating this jacket.  Here are two of her sketches:

Here’s a little Q&A with Rebecca about the book.

#38 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (2003)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#7)(#8)(#9)(#9)(#9) – 109 points

Can I choose just one? I think my favorites were #3 and #5. If you have to only choose one, then put my vote on #5. I can still remember, though, reading the first one for the first time around 1999. I couldn’t go to bed until I finished it. It was the wee hours of the morning, and I was shocked by the ending. I loved the book, but had no idea it would change the landscape of Children’s Literature forever. – Kim Hall (aka klonghall)

Close on the heels of the Golden Compass debate about the YA-ness of certain series comes a book that could easily tip either way.  Should the later Harry Potter novels be considered teen?  I know that in my library system they’re all cataloged in the children’s sections (as well as the teen).  Should it even be here?  Even be allowed?  Seventeen people voted "yes".  And seventeen people are hard to argue with.  So it is that Harry Potter makes a second appearance on this Top 100 list (the first being Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at #86).

As Kliatt described the plot, "In this fifth volume [ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ] in the justly acclaimed fantasy saga, wizard-in-training Harry is now 15, with all the sullen anger and adolescent agonizing that time in life can entail. Of course, Harry has good reason to be furious, as he sees it. The tale begins with Harry miserably at home with his awful aunt, uncle, and cousin. Then ghastly, ghostly dementors attack him, and while he manages to bravely defend himself he is promptly whisked off to safety, though the wizards and witches who protect him–the Order of the Phoenix –frustratingly won’t give him any details about what’s going on. Harry ‘s mortal enemy, Voldemort, is back, and trying to take over Harry ‘s mind as one step in his plan to take over the whole magical universe. The government’s Ministry of Magic doesn’t believe that Voldemort has returned, though, and Harry is widely mocked. He longs for Hogwarts School, but life there is no better, as a horrid, fascistic new professor of the Dark Arts slowly gains control of the school. Harry ends up leading his own secret class in the Dark Arts, which comes in handy when Voldemort and his minions attack."

I think we all know the book pretty well.  Let’s just skip on past the criticism and look at the pretty pretty covers from around the world then!





Finland (note the upside down Snape)







Sweden (my favorite)


There may have been a movie as well.

#37 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)
(#1)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#6)(#6)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#8)(#8)(#9)(#9) – 109 points

Harsh realities, strong values, memorable characters. – Janice E. Bojda, Head of Children’s Services, Evanston Public Library

Simply the best fiction book I know of about racism and how it impacts people. – Nicole Roohi, Goldenview Middle School Librarian, Anchorage, AK

Roll Of Thunder wasn’t a cozy escapist book to reread many times, BUT it was a pivotal novel that briefly turned my brain inside out in fourth grade. I read all the sequels, of course. Cassie and her family haunt me to this day.Farida Dowler

As with all my polls, there is often a shocking derth of authors of color.  However, there was never any doubt in my mind that Mildred Taylor’s classic novel would make the list somewhere.  I was pleased as punch to see it crest the Top 50 to rest at #37.  This is certainly one of the best novels in the whole of children’s literature, as many a child and adult can attest.

The synopsis from B&N reads, "Set in a small town in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this powerful, moving novel deals with issues of prejudice, courage, and self-respect. It is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. It is also the story of Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to her family. The racial tension and harrowing events experienced by young Cassie, her family, and her neighbors cause Cassie to grow up and discover the reality of her environment."

In 100 Best Books for Children Anita Silvey tells of Taylor’s saga in this way: "Mildred Taylor had unsuccessfully tried to reconstruct her family history, and then she heard about a contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Booksl After attempting to write a piece using the voice of her father, she shifted the storytelling to a young girl, Cassie Logan, four days before the contest deadline. That shift and the resulting book, Song of the Trees, won the contest for Taylor. On the way home from the award ceremony, Taylor heard from her father and uncle the story of a black boy who had broken into a store and how he was saved from lynching. Taylor began to tell that saga, one that she thought might make an adult book. It turned out to be a book many children’s literature critics consider the most important historical novel in the latter half of the twentieth century."

Much of the book is based in reality. In fact, to keep her land, the land discussed so often in her books, Ms. Taylor eventually "sold the typewriter on which she had written Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry."

Silvey says too that "the novel has become the most popular children’s book written by a black writer, selling close to 3 million copies in paperback."

In Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children’s Book, author Ann Martin credits this book as the one that meant the most to her. She says, “I was exposed to, and distinctly remember, many classic picture books. But the most moving children’s book I’ve ever read was one I encountered as an adult, Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I read it for the first time around 1980, and then I was struck by the story itself, by its messages. Rereading it twenty-five years later, I was able to look at it with a writer’s eye, and I was struck anew.”

In the Slate article Great Kids’ Books About Financial Ruin, a passage is dedicated to this particular book.  In it, Slate argues that, "it wasn’t until the recession of the late 1970s that there was a strong resurgence in stories about economic woes," and, "The book’s message to kids of the ’70s was: If you think the Great Depression was just about a bunch of old white men losing their shirts in the stock market, think again."

It won the 1977 Newbery Medal, beating out Abel’s Island by William Steig and A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond.

Big covers, little covers, lots of covers abound for this particular title.

This is my favorite cover.  It may be my favorite Jerry Pinkney book jacket of a children’s novel too.

And there was a 1978 TV movie filmed of this book.  Morgan Freeman played Uncle Hammer in it.  Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any clips of it online.  Give it time.  It’ll show up one of these days.

#36 Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970)
(#1)(#1)(#1)(#1)(#3)(#4)(#4)(#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#7)(#8)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 111 points

Girls everywhere have Judy Blume to thank for answering some of life’s burning questions. – Amy (Media Macaroni)

Groundbreaking in its candor about God, religion, and puberty. And think of all the authors Judy Blume has inspired. She changed the children’s lit landscape forever. Brenda Ferber

My youth minister gave this too me when I turned 12. I’m sure she wanted me to really explore the religious questions raised. I was more obsessed with the puberty aspect. It was my first Blume and I have since read every book she’s written. My senior year English project was an author study of Judy Blume. I reread Margaret and man, she was annoying, because Blume captured that angst so perfectly. Today, I can’t tell you how often a parent (even in my super conservative community!) will come up to me and ask if we have this book in because ‘it’s time.’ And when I give them a copy, we’ll both start crying in the middle grade fiction stacks. That’s the power of this book. – Jennifer Rothschild

After all of these years, I still remember her birthday. (March 8) – Madelyn Rosenberg

In her June/July 1999 American Libraries article "Places I Never Meant to Be: A Personal View", Ms. Blume says of writing this story, "I wrote Are You There God ? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in 6th grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed."

The synopsis from the publisher reads, "No one ever told Margaret Simon that eleven-going-on- twelve would be such a hard age. When her family moves to New Jersey, she has to adjust to life in the suburbs, a different school, and a whole new group of friends. Margaret knows she needs someone to talk to about growing up-and it’s not long before she’s found a solution. ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I can’t wait until two o’clock God. That’s when our dance starts. Do you think I’ll get Philip Leroy for a partner? It’s not so much that I like him as a person God, but as a boy he’s very handsome. And I’d love to dance with him… just once or twice. Thank you God.’ "

This was Ms. Blume’s third book (#1 was The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and #2 Iggie’s House), but her first big seller. It was a relative hit when it first came out, but according to Twentieth Century Young Adult Writers, "it was only when the book appeared in paperback in 1974 that the hundreds of letters became thousands, all of them from readers who saw themselves and their lives reflected perfectly in Margaret’s story."

It was probably also the earliest Blume title that has been routinely challenged and banned. American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction says that, "Attempts at censoring the book have continued throughout its lifetime; the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom reports that it has been charged with ‘denigrating religion and parental authority’ and being ‘sexually offensive and amoral’." Ms. Blume says of her first experiences with banning, ". . . one night the phone rang and a woman asked if I was the one who had written that book. When I replied that I was, she called me a communist and hung up. I never did figure out if she equated communism with breast development or religion."

And talk about divisive reviews!

Said Publishers Weekly, "With sensitivity and humor, Judy Blume has captured the joys, fears, and uncertainty that surround a young girl approaching adolescence."

But Book Window didn’t like it one bit, saying that the descriptions of Margaret’s period were "excessive, almost obsessive … when the author rhapsodizes about the wearing of a sanitary napkin, the effect is banal in the extreme … Suddenly a sensitive, amusing novel has been reduced to the level of some of advertising blurb in the ‘confidential’ section of a teenage magazine."

Education Digest loved its "exploration of previously untouched aspects of childhood and adolescent experience."

Whereas The Times Literary Supplement said that, "Margaret’s private talks with God are insufferably self-conscious and arch."

The New Statesman finally conceded that it was, "admittedly gripping stuff no doubt for those wrestling with–or curious about future–bodily changes…."

And who could forget comedian Will Arnett’s stirring reading of one particular passage?

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. Paige Y. says

    So glad the list is back — I’ve really missed it this week. I hope your move went well.

    There actually was a theme park called The Land of Oz in the North Carolina mountains. It was open in the 1970’s and I went there as a little girl. According to Wikipedia, it has been restored and is now open once a year in October.

  2. Yea, Kim Hall! Though I think I prefer #3. Aw, heck, it’s a series and it was meant to be a series so picking one over the other seems silly.

    Maybe we need a separate series list…

    Just kidding! I kid!

  3. klonghall says

    Yeah, you’re back! And, Whoo hoo! My blurb made the countdown! That’s at least 2 blurbs from our little suburb of Atlanta! (Jim, aka Teacherninja, had one for Gilly!) I love #3, too, but I so love the havoc that the Weasley twins create as they leave Hogwarts! That may be my favorite comedic scene in all the books. And, this is the first time we really get to know all the other kids. I grew to love Neville so much in this one. The movie did not do it justica AT ALL! (I showed my blurb to my husband. He says he’d throw all his HP vote to #1, because, that’s the one that started it all. I told him to stay tuned. I’m sure there are many who share his view.)

  4. rockinlibrarian says

    Yay! I knew the list would be back today because I kept dreaming about it last night. Of course, I was dreaming that it included a contest where people had to send in chocolate covered noodles and/or pictures of people with oversized toothbrushes, so I don’t know where that came from.

    And I can’t believe Order of the Phoenix made it up so high! I seem to spend so much time defending it as my favorite, and it’s so much more YA, that I was CONVINCED I’d be throwing my vote away with it and so went with Chamber of Secrets, which as everyone knows ended up much lower on the list! Whoo-hoo all you fans who are with me on this one!

    The presence of When You Reach Me this far up the list has convinced me that my number one vote may end up VERY high on this list, indeed…

    Roll of Thunder is famous in my life for making me sit on the couch bawling for hours after I finished it. But I’m one of those weird kids who never quite connected with Margaret, or any of Blume’s more YA-ish stuff. And yes, I know I’m weird, so I did fully expect the book to be here nonetheless!

  5. Hope this means the moving madness is passing. Glad to have you back.

    I, too, traveled to the Land of Oz in the 70s. I miss the balloons.

  6. I’ve only just finished When You Reach Me, and I loved it. Much as I enjoyed it, I’m not sure it bumps anything out of my top 10. Like no other book, though, it made me immediately reach for another. I’m now reading A Wrinkle in Time as its companion.

  7. Connie Rockman says

    Welcome back from the Land of Moving Horrors, Fuse!

    Great to see Oz so high on the list and I love Martin Gardner’s quote. Yes, Library Land missed the boat on that one back in the dimly remembered early 20th century – probably why I never encountered it in my childhood public library and had to depend on Judy Garland …

    Phoenix is my second-favorite HP (still hoping for Azkaban to be further up on the list) – It has so many brilliant parts that have already been mentioned, but most especially, it is a deliciously damning parody on the state of education today. And I think children of all ages can sense that satire on what ‘teaching to the test’ is putting them through. Harry’s subversive classes in the Room of Requirement – what could be more fun to read about when you are under the thumb of a stultifying school environment?

  8. The list is back! So glad to see Roll of Thunder, which didn’t make my list but probably should have. It’s a real eye-opener, and it deals with so many important issues without being preachy or condescending at all.

    I have to admit I’m a bit dismayed so see Order of the Phoenix up so high. It’s my least favorite Harry Potter (and I say that as an avid fan). Although Umbridge is deliciously evil, and I love Dumbledore’s Army, I really get annoyed with Harry’s “sullen anger and adolescent agonizing.” It’s very teenager-ly, sure, but it’s very tiring, too. I wonder if this means we’ll be seeing all five the the remaining books in the top 35?

  9. And my suspicion that all 7 HPs will make the list becomes even stronger.

    Also, I just got THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE from the library and I am Very Excited as I remember loving it as a kid but was never able to figure out what the book was until I read the description on this poll. ::bounces::

  10. Genevieve says

    Oh, Miriam, enjoy Wolves, and then go get the book that comes right after it, Black Hearts in Battersea! I loved that book with a passion. As a kid, it probably would’ve been on my top ten.

    Three cheers for Betsy’s being back and the list continuing!! Missed the morning read so much (and the kiddo will be so happy to see it when he gets home from school). What a great group of books today. I was one of the #3 votes for When You Reach Me and am delighted to see it in the top 40 – I’m betting it’ll be even higher in your ten-year-update, Betsy. It’s one of those books that works so beautifully on rereading and rereading (I want to read it again right now, but my son lent his around to all of his friends who he couldn’t get to buy it at the bookfair . . . ). So marvelously and ingeniously plotted, such good portrayals of the secondary characters. such a great exploration of a kid figuring out how to build relationships when the one she’s counted on has dropped her. (Hmm, it never occurred to me until this minute because I was older, but my best friend basically dumped me senior year of high school – suddenly changed schools and never talked to me again – and while we weren’t as intertwined as Sal-and-Miranda, Miranda-and-Sal, we were really close and I had to build new friend relationships very suddenly. Probably part of why this book speaks to me, though not a major part since it’s the time travel and the Wrinkle love and the characters and the mystery that really got me. And the game show, loved that (as a real game show buff in the 70s) and the chapter titles derived therefrom.

    I’m guessing that maybe HP #6 doesn’t make it on to the list. But 1 and 3 have to be there, and 4 and 7 probably are.

    So very glad to see Roll of Thunder here. Haven’t re-read it since I was a kid, must go get it now.

  11. I see we have lots of ties in this section. What made you decide which would take the higher spot Fuse? For example which would be #39 and which #40? Certainly right now in terms of staying power, Oz is doing better than When you reach me, naturally. But my gut says Oz will stay high on any list of this sort. I’m still not such a great fan of When. SIGH, note to self: reserve and reread When…

  12. Phew! So glad to see Oz make the list. It was my number one pick. I was beginning to think I was really out of touch! My father read the entire series to me as a child (including some of the Ruth Plumly Thompson titles). I have the Del Rey paperbacks and just seeing them makes me unspeakably happy! There’s only one more on my list that I really hope makes the cut!

  13. Yay, Oz! Not quite high enough for my taste, but I can’t be too picky. Oz was my life when I was seven: I was Dorothy for Halloween every year, I drew chalk yellow brick roads in my driveway, I lectured anyone who would listen that Dorothy’s shoes should actually be silver! Even now I still have a corner of my bookshelves dedicated to my Oz collection (it shares the space with my Potter collection), and recently I did Halloween as the Patchwork Girl. I just love Oz. Love, love, love.

    In other news, I’m a little shocked to see “Margaret” so low. I would have thought it would be top ten material, but I guess it has some gender exclusivity against it.

    Glad to have you back!

  14. Nell Colburn says

    We are just getting to work out here in Oregon—and we are SO glad you are back! Office book talk is a fabulous way to start the day!

  15. Joan: when two titles have the same points total the tie breaker is number of votes, which is why WYRM is 39 and Oz is 40.

    I am simply elated When You Reach Me make the top 40!

  16. KHazelrigg says

    Emily, I too was dismayed to see OotP as the first HP book to make the list, for just the same reason. Harry was so incredibly, annoyingly FIFTEEN in that book. I have to give Rowling credit, because she absolutely NAILED the attitude of a 15-year-old, but for me, Harry was almost unlikeable in Phoenix.

  17. KHazelrigg says

    Correction: Oops. OotP was not “first” on the list, as I stated. I meant to say “above other HP books”.

  18. Thanks for clarifying for Joan, Eric. Also, if two books tie in points and one is a sequel, I tended to place the non-sequel higher.

    Thus far OotP is the second HP to make the list with Chamber of Secrets at #86. Loving these predictions too.

    Thanks for the kind words, folks. It’s good to be back. I still don’t have my WiFi set up, so the kind resident husband lets me take up his blogging them with my own. Hopefully that’ll change soon.

  19. Genevieve says

    Must agree with those who found Harry’s teenage angst really annoying – though for me, the movie actually helped with this, as I could see him getting angry and annoyed and it felt more realistic and understandable somehow – I guess Radcliffe did a good job conveying it. Then when I went back to re-read, that part didn’t lessen my enjoyment as much, so I could fully enjoy the DADA lessons, the horribleness of Umbridge, Luna’s sheer nuttiness combined with sense, and Neville really growing into a heroic role.

  20. Thanks Eric and Fuse for the explanations on tie breakers. And welome back Fuse! I have been quite disgruntled without my fix of Top 100 Children’s novels. I agree that Harry is a brat in Phoenix, but to me, it was almost refreshing since he was such a determindly GOOD kid (ok one who broke rules of the boarding school but that is almost expected after all in the genre). This made him more 3 dimensional. He still was a good kid but one with attitude!

  21. I found HP5 least *enjoyable* because of Harry’s angst and spending half the book YELLING IN CAPITAL LETTERS, but that also made it one of the most realistic and honest. Including in the way that the adults are well-meaning and just don’t have a clue how much they’re messing with his head every time they brush him off.

    Thanks, Genevieve—I’m still kind of amazed that I finally know what the book is!

  22. Yay! The lists returns. Impressive to see WYRM on the list. Recentness (word?) is powerful! I almost think it is equally powerful the other way – I feel like I (subconsciously) avoided <5 year old books... But I love WYRM, so happy to see it listed! I wonder how many people - like me - read this list and go "DUH - never thought about THAT one!"
    Anyway, thanks again - this is such fun reading!

  23. kbookwoman says

    Thank you so much for all the research you are doing. I find this annotated list fascinating to read. Will you develop this into a book. I for one would buy it.

  24. There are image rights’ issues to contend with, but the thought has occurred . . . Thanks for reading!

  25. Dang, the one day I was banned from the computer the list comes back. Life is good.

    My favorite HP, although I voted for #1. I did spend most of OofP wanting the slap Harry for his whining, but so loved the DA. It is the book where so much was finally explained, wich made it an easier wait for #6.

    I know I should have my ovaries ripped out, but I have never read Are you there God its me Margaret. I will right the wrong at some point.

  26. I’ve never read the “Wizzard of Oz”, but it’s hard to see it getting thumped by “When You Reach Me” and “Are You There God”. I guess it’s probably the cultural significance of the OZ movie more than the book per se that accounts for it popularity. Who hasn’t seen that movie dozens of times?

    35 spots to go…
    Correction 35 – 5 HP’s = 30 spots to go…

    (It’s a good thing Twilight is inelligible(i.e. YA)…or, for my sanity, I’d have to stop reading this blog.)

  27. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    The list returns – yippee!

    I must have read The Wonderful Wizard at some point, ‘cos I’m familiar with the story and I know I’ve never seen the movie. I liked The Marvelous Land of Oz better, though.

    Roll of Thunder is one of my favourite Newbery winners. (I’m still hoping to see Dicey’s Song and Mrs Basil E Frankweiler make the list.)

    The Ukrainian cover is my favourite for OotP. I’m waiting to see where my favourite HP, Azkaban, places.

    I suspect WYRM (nice acronym!) placed so high because of the timing of the poll. I think it will still be on the list next time round, though I’m expecting it to be a little further down. Incidentally, Betsy, I love that you said “when” you do the next poll, not “if”!

    And I’ve never read anything by Judy Blume.

  28. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    Another thing I’m looking at is the list of authors we havem’t seen yet. I’ve given up on Jim Kjelgaard; Big Red is probably his best contender, and I wouldn’t expect it to be in the top 50. Ditto Robert Lawson. But we still haven’t had anything from C S Lewis, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Johann Wyss, Lewis Carroll, Louisa May Alcott, E Nesbit….

  29. Welcome back, Betsy!

    Personally, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” isn’t one of my favorite books. I read it when I was younger like everyone else and found it alternatingly shocking and dull. I already knew racism was a bad thing, I guess I felt annoyed having it so clearly demonstrated. Perhaps it was just my reaction, because everyone else I know loves it. I still don’t think it would come anywhere close to my favorites list though.

    I recently (of course) read “When You Reach Me”. I fould it facsinating and brilliantly conceptualized and plotted. However, I do think its ranking is a little high and probably a product of timing. But this is the kind of book that could have staying power, so you never know.

    My moment of sheer happiness today came with the inclusion of “The wonderful Wizard of Oz”. And on top of that, my comment was included! Of course, I kind of wish that and was understandably expecting it to be higher, but just its presence on the list is enough to make me happy. I too spent a good portion of my early life devoted to Oz, and collected and loved the whole series, but nothing and no one can beat the sheer timelessness of the original classic.

  30. Genevieve says

    Betsy, I forgot to thank you for the Will Arnett video – I had never heard of it and lord, it was fun.

  31. Genevieve says

    Just saw these amazing Wizard of Oz pictures at the blog Curious Pages:

  32. Carl in Charlotte says

    Betsy, I’m so glad you’re back with your list! I’m also glad you said that boys will indeed read books with girl characters. I know because I got a very favorable review from a boy on Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and once saw a boy curled up in our library with a Nancy Drew graphic novel! Boys like any book with a strong story line. And to RM1(SS)–I bet those authors will appear in this poll yet!

  33. I admit, I’ve been avidly refreshing the list like the fangirl I am, hoping for more Novels posts. *blush*

    Good lord, I completely forgot about Oz when I wrote my 10. Really fun worldbuilding. I loved the whole series.

    I love Judy Blume even more since reading Everything I Needed To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume – hilarious essays by lots of YA authors.

  34. RM1, re Jim Kjelgaard, animal books on the whole don’t seem to have received a lot of love in this poll. Also among the missing (at least so far) are Eric Knight’s Lassie, Jack London’s White Fang, Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind, Phyllis Reynold Naylor’s Shiloh….really, you could go on and on.

    I wonder if we’re just in an “off” period for animal books….right now fantasy is the in thing. Hopefully the case, as it would be sad to see them vanish altogether from children’s literature.

  35. That’s very true about the animal books –Misty of Chincoteague was a favourite for years, though I wouldn’t have voted for it in a top ten list now. I wonder if the books with staying power for adults to re-read them are more likely to make the list than those without.
    For instance, I still enjoy Watership Down…

  36. re: animal books…i think that Because of Winn-Dixie has a slightly better shot than the “animal books” mentioned above. Expanding out to anthropomorphized animals and i’d bet Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a top 25 title and both Stuart Little and Despereaux have a chance, maybe even Mouse and Motorcycle though I wouldn’t expect Ralph to finish better than Ramona so this one is less likely.

    As much as it pains me to even think it, it now appears that neither Abel’s Island nor Dominic will have enough votes to make it this far down the list. Once again the criminal neglect of Steig’s brilliance is difficult for me to understand.

  37. My Boaz''s Ruth says

    I hope to see Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NiMH still!

  38. I’ve been enjoying this list. I’m surprised at how many of the books I read as a child. I may have to pick up the one that one the Newbery Award recently since it sounds intriguing. I also strongly disliked “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” when I was a kid. It was boring and seemed pretty heavy-handed. And, while I read “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?” I remember finding it and Blume’s other books a little too explicit and her religious questioning shocking. It probably had a lot to do with the difference in background between my rural, church-going upbringing and the fairly secular Margaret who dared to question whether Jesus Christ existed or its importance. New Jersey was literally another universe to me at that age.


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