There is something truly entertaining about re-reading favorite books from your younger days. Books for children and young adults are full of exciting adventures, aspirational characters, and witty humor. These ten books include classics, and one or two you might have missed, that are well worth re-reading. While nostalgia is almost guaranteed, you may also be surprised by new discoveries. These books may have been initially written for children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy them as well.
A 1994 Newbery Medal winner, this book revived the dystopian genre and brought it into the children’s book world. Twelve-year-old Jonah lives in a calm, peaceful, but tedious world. Strong emotions are suppressed and individual wants are discouraged. When he receives his work assignment to become the Receiver of Memory, his whole life and outlook change as he learns tragic truths about the society he lives in and what came before. With political warnings, philosophical quandaries, and emotionally-charged imagery, this book is perfect for adults to re-read.
This timeless story about Meg Murray trying to find her father is worth a re-read. With strange and whimsical science fiction elements, Meg, along with her little brother Charles Wallace and their neighbor Calvin, get pulled into a universal battle of good versus evil. It begins with a visit from the fantastical Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, who set them on the course to travel through space and time to rescue Meg’s father and save the world from unknown dark forces.
Return to the world of rabbits with this adventure story about a group of bunnies who leave their home in search of safety and distance from humans. This story imaginatively puts you purely into the rabbit viewpoint, facing the relationship drama and danger involved in their expedition. Thematically, the book also explores the negative impacts humans have on the environment and other creatures. At times doom-filled and terrifying, Watership Down is a thrilling story with a richly developed world.
Coming back to the whimsical world of Wonderland as an adult is a great idea. From complex poems to satirical humor, the Alice books have lots of elements that you may have missed as a child. With silly characters like Tweedledee and Tweedledum to political intrigue with the Red Queen, the journey of the young Alice through this imaginary land is both entertaining and multifaceted.
When eleven-year-old Fannie reads the line, “Hope is a thing with feathers” in an Emily Dickinson poem for class, she begins looking for things to hope for. She’s a Black girl growing up in a 1970s segregated New York neighborhood who is worried about her deaf brother, her exhausted mother, the class bully, and changing social dynamics at school. Frannie learns she wants to cling to hope, even as good and bad surprises unfold.
Equal parts horror and humor, this book series tells the story of the Baudelaire orphans moving from one perilous situation to another after the death of their parents. First, they end up with Count Olaf, the cruel and morally corrupt distant cousin who will stop at nothing to steal their inheritance. Escaping from him leads them from bad to worse in what the title promises: a series of unfortunate events for the siblings to encounter. With old-fashioned writing and sharp jokes, the good news about re-reading the first book is that if you enjoy it, there are a dozen more in the series.
This is another sibling story with a speculative twist. In the middle of a dreadfully dull summer, Jane finds a coin on the sidewalk and wishes for something exciting to occur. And her wish comes true … kind of. The coin only grants half wishes. Jane and her siblings try to make the coin work by wishing for twice as much. But their guesses on how to wish for twice as much lead to some very trouble-filled situations.
In the 1960s Operation Pedro Pan, over 14,000 children were moved from Cuba to the United States without their parents. Their parents wanted them to live a safer life away from Fidel Castro’s revolution. Lucía Álvarez is just fourteen when she leaves behind her parents and the only life she knows in Cuba. Now, she lives in a random Nebraska town with strangers. As she struggles to fit into her new life, Lucía wonders about her future and if she will ever be able to return home or see her parents again.
Re-reading this middle-grade story is pure wish fulfillment for art and history fans. Claudia and her younger brother Jamie run away from their suburban town to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. For a week, they frolic around the museum sleeping in a royal bed, bathing in the cafeteria fountain, and learning from the wonders around them. When a new statue arrives at the museum, Claudia is sure it was made by Michelangelo and wants to prove it before returning home. This leads her to the mysterious Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum.
A prototype for strong, female characters, Alanna is a girl who dreams of becoming a knight. The problem is that in this fantasy-world women are not allowed to become warriors. Determined to fulfill her goal, Alanna disguises herself as her twin brother Thom and begins her training as a page. It’s harder than she ever imagined, but Alanna refuses to give up on her destiny of becoming a legendary fighter.
About the Author: Alison Doherty
Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.