Little women…

Tomorrow, Penny Dreadful enters the world. Hoorah!

To celebrate, I’ve been wanting to publish a book list.  A list of extra-awesome books for non-reluctant-readerly kids. The sort of kids who like Penny. The sort of kids like Penny.  I’d like to offer free skype visits to any group of five or more readers who gather to read five or more titles from this list (details on the PENNY DREADFUL BOOK CLUB  to come).

I hesitated  slightly in doing this, because–you know–when I say “kids” I mostly mean “girls.  And it sounds lame to say these aren‘t good books for boys. And I mean, I hope they are books for boys.  Certainly, I’ll introduce my boys to many of them.  But honestly, I don’t want to try and balance  this list.  It has dresses in it, yes, and flowers, and baking, and dancing, and fairies, and all manner of girlish things.  Because– those things are awesome.  Still, the girlishness of it made me nervy. In an age when we’re talking so much about how boys don’t read enough…

But then, yesterday, I read this awesome essay by Maureen Johnson, and decided to own this project, this list.  These are, for the most part, girlie books. I’m, for the most part, a girlie writer.  I admit it.  I think that’s a fine thing to be!

So here you go. The first draft of a work-in-progress. The Penny Dreadful Reading List! These are “Penny’s Picks” though  I hope you’ll leave comments below, help me add to the list.  They’re from all eras, and I’m trying to arrange them in some kind of vague order, so that the top books are the youngest books, and the bottom books are the oldest.

I should explain that I only selected one title from any individual author.  I want to believe that a kid will still, after reading a great book, go out and dig up everythng else by that author.  I certainly did that myself, and so does Penny.

I should also explain that I am only including books I’ve actually read. So if you really think I should add a specific title, let me know, but it may take me awhile to add it because I’ll need to read it first.

I assume you’ll all take issue with some of my choices. I welcome that. Go!  We can make this list as long as we want.


Matilda, Dahl

Hello, Mrs Piggle Wiggle, McDonald

Mary Poppins, Travers

The Penderwicks , Birdsall

Bedknob and Broomstick, Norton

The Bad Beginning, Snicket

Pippi Longstocking, Lindgren

Olivia Kidney, Potter

Seven Day Magic, Eager

Five Children and It, Nesbit

Because of Winn Dixie, DiCamillo

The Phantom Tollbooth, Juster

Gone Away Lake, Enright

Ballet Shoes, Streatfield

The Thirteen Clocks, Thurber

Coraline, Gaiman

The Anybodies, Bode

Savvy , Law

Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, Konigsberg

The Egypt Game, Snyder

The Girl Who Could Fly, Forrester

Island of the Aunts, Ibbotson

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, Rowling

My One Hundred Adventures, Horvath

Over Sea, Under Stone, Cooper

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis

Bridge to Terebithia, Patterson

Tuck Everlasting, Babbitt

Island of the Blue Dolphins, O’Dell

A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle

Emily of New Moon, Montgomery

Princess Academy, Hale

Dicey’s Song, Voight

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Speare

Little Women, Alcott

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, White

22 Responses to “Little women…”

  1. erin Says:

    THIS IS SUCH A FANTASTIC LIST. I’ve read *almost* all of the books here and can verify that this list contains brilliance and awesomeness to the nth degree.

  2. Wendy Says:

    I compared it to The Moffats by Eleanor Estes. I also recommend Katie John (Calhoun) and, of course, Betsy-Tacy. How about some Beverly Cleary? Anastasia Krupnik? Trixie Belden? All-of-Kind Family? I wish I had some more suggestions with characters who are people of color; I’ll have to think on that.

  3. Kate Messner Says:

    Have you read The Shadows, the first in the Books of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West? Methinks Penny would like that one, too.

  4. Kate Messner Says:

    Oh! And the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, too!

  5. Kaethe Says:

    Great List. Some titles for you to consider: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson; Wright 3 by Blue Balliett; Annie’s Adventures (Sisters Eight, #1) by Lauren Baratz-Logsted ; Lunch Walks Among Us by Jim Benton; Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume; Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach; The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, #1) by Michael Buckley; Moving Day (Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls, #1) by Meg Cabot; Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now (Hardcover) by Lauren Child; The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins; Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman; The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis; Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis;

    Okay, I’ll stop. But yes, I have two girls who love to read.

  6. laurel Says:

    Thanks, guys!

    I’ll make a reading list for myself. Can you believe I’ve never really read The Moffats?

    Kate– I used up my Konigsberg spot on Jennifer!

    Kaethe, in my head Collins is older. Penny is a dreamy-eyed ten year old. Is she ready for Hunger Games? I haven’t read it yet.

    Erin, some day we’ll have a big bookchat, methinks!

  7. Wendy Says:

    I vote no on The Hunger Games–Penny is in no hurry to grow up. (And I would, myself, leave off A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for that reason.)

    Another book this reminded me of, even before the part with the–well, avoiding spoilers, even before the climactic scenes, is an obscure one called The Secret of the Strawbridge Place. If you can get your hands on that, Laurel, you’ll love it.

    How about Project: Mulberry by Linda Sue Park and Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor? Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson?

    I’m just starting to realize how alive Penny is in my head. I feel like I know exactly what books she likes best now, and exactly what books she’s going to like in a couple of years. And it isn’t just projection–her preferences are different from mine.

  8. laurel Says:

    Wendy,I think you’re right. About ATGIB. I think I added it because I just loved it. But Penny’s not ready for it.


    Your comment makes me happy!

  9. Amie Kaufman Says:

    Oh, what a fantastic list — I love the books on this that I’ve read, so now the rest are going to join the To Be Read pile. I would add The Railway Children, but you’ve got Nesbit covered, so I’ll suggest Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, my favourite childhood book. It’s about a group of kids who spend their holidays being explorers, pirates, scientists, novelists, prospectors and more, set in the Lakes Country. I read them, then spent my own summers being all those things too.

  10. SarahT Says:

    I love this list, and see quite a few titles on it that I need to get acquainted with. I agree with above commenters about Hunger Games being for an older reader than Penny, but please do consider Gregor the Overlander by the same author. It’s a terrific start to a rip-roaring series that also happens to be boy-friendly. I would also suggest LionBoy by Zizou Corder. And (going back to my own childhood) how about some Joan Aiken (Wolves of Willoughby Chase) and Lloyd Alexander (Book of Three)? The book club is a neat idea, and I’m sharing it with the new children’s librarian at MPOW.

  11. Penny Dreadful– Giveaway and Interview! | From the Mixed-Up Files... Says:

    [...] In fact, I’m making a booklist right now, for kids who want to read along with Penny! The book is full of literary references.  It’s littered with titles and mentions of moments [...]

  12. laurel Says:

    Aiken, yes!

    And Swallows and Amazons, yes!

    You guys are so smart…

  13. Lev Grossman Says:

    Great list, Laurel. So great.

  14. Kaethe Says:

    I’m loving the list so far.

  15. Frume Sarah Says:

    “Caddie Woodlawn” would definitely make Penny’s list. Well, I don’t actually know Penny yet…but based on the other titles, I am confidant that she would find the protagonist a kindred soul.

    Given the fame of “Anne of Green Gables,” and deservedly so, I am tickled to see one of the “Emily” titles be named to the list ;)

  16. Ann Says:

    What a fantastic list! I echo other additions, but most especially the Betsy-Tacy series.

  17. laurel Says:

    Oops! That one’s just an error. Betsy-Tacy is actually in the book. Penny wishes for a “Betsy to her Tacy.” That’s on the list for sure.

  18. Kerry Says:

    Harriet the Spy?

  19. laurel Says:

    On the fence about that one, Kerry. One of my all time favorites, but I think it’s more a “Luella” book than a “Penny” book. Same for Dicey’s Song, actually. I might make two lists.

    Luella reads nonfiction, and more “realistic” books. Less into magic and girlie stuff. She’d also like Gilly Hopkins, I think.

    But her list is harder for me to write. Hmmm…

  20. Kerry Says:

    Looking forward to the book, Laurel. Congratulations. And oh, Gilly Hopkins! I think I read her to pieces.

  21. Terry Doherty Says:

    Yeah! I will connect this list to our website review! Thanks Laurel.

  22. erin Says:

    I thought of another last night which I can’t believe I’d forgotten as I called it my favorite book (alongside The Scarlet Pimpernel) for quite a few years: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

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