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My Favorite Children's Books

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Picture a chubby eight-year-old girl tucked up reading in the corner of a sturdy, comfortable sofa in a living room in Southport Connecticut in the later 40s and early 50s. That would be me. Reading was my hobby, my sport and my activity of choice. It was the prime pleasure of my days, an unfailing escape from whatever realities were distressing me, and the only source of pride I knew, other vanities lying beyond my grasp. I couldn't do anything else well, but I could do words.

Not that I wrote. I never thought of writing. All I wanted to do was read, to be told stories. Stories were full of excitement and emotions and characters that entertained and often inspired. Stories made sense. I read any stories that came my way, in any form--Sunday School mimeo sheeted Bible stories, folk and fairy tales, myths, Mrs. Piggy-Winkle, Brenda Starr and Mary Worth, Honey Bunch Morton--but never newspapers and magazines. Those weren't stories and, being real, were often scary, and things were scary enough for me already.

What I didn't realize at the time was how sparse was my supply of books, especially books for grade school readers, who could only wait to be old enough to be allowed to borrow books (vetted by mother and librarian, of course) chosen from the adult shelves. When, in the late 60s, I found myself the English teacher of second and fifth grade classes, I needed to return to the reading of books for children. Those were the days when English meant reading and writing and grammar and an introduction to the accumulated and varied cultural heritage of a citizen of the Western World, and I wanted to be more familiar than I was with what books were available to my students. So I went to the library and found there--to my amazement and delight--shelf after shelf filled with stories for kids, many of them excellently well done.

I started with "A." Picture an eager teacher, in the early years of her career, reaching up into the first of those shelves.

The books, in pretty much chronological order:

Cynthia Voigt is the author of the new book Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things.

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