Over the past three years, I have been I have been reading or re-reading every book on the "Top 100 Children's Novels" list. I find it critical to my profession to know as many children's books as possible. Here's my progress:
01 - Charlotte's Web While most teachers have at least seen one of the many versions of this movie, you have to take a moment to read it! It is a quick, straightforward read great for any gender. The book is even more lovable than the movies!
02 - Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone I'm definitely a Potterhead. This is my favorite series of all time. I always enjoyed reading and knew books could be for pleasure, but these books are the first that I ever LOVED. I typically read this aloud to my class mid-year, so then students have enough background knowledge to continue the series on their own the rest of the year.
03 - A Wrinkle in Time Just to be honest, this book didn't initially hook me, but after the first few chapters, I was fully engaged. I loved the overall theme of this book and the imagination of the author. It also has a series that students could continue.
04 - The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe Again, many people have seen this movie but not necessarily read the book. The book is fairly short and to the point, which makes it easier for kids to stick with. I also love reading The Magician's Nephew (technically book 1) after reading this book.
05 - The Phantom Tollbooth I understand why this book is well-appreciated. It is one entire play on words. I will say it was not my favorite read so far. There weren't enough action and plot twists for my liking, but I have some friends who say it's their favorite book of all-time. It is made for English majors.
06 - Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Are you starting to notice that the greatest books are also all great movies? Of course they are! But please, oh please, read the books. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors of all time.
07 - Holes I am quite guilty on this book. I saw the movie years ago and never read the book (I know, I know, I feel awful). When I did sit down to read it over Christmas Break, I read the entire book in just 24 hours! It is my favorite read of the year so far because of the author's style.
08 - The Giver This book comes in as a close second for my favorite book of the year. I read this aloud to my fourth graders, and they were also enraptured. I can't wait to finish this 100 Book Challenge because my next books will be the rest of this series!
09 - From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler This is another book I struggled to get into during the first two chapters, but again, it got really good as soon as the kids actually ran away (no spoiler, I promise). I never found this book predictable like many books can be.
10 - The Secret Garden In the end, this is a beautifully stunning book. But to be honest, it was a slow start and difficult read. The book is full of older English terms and different dialects that slow the overall reading speed. I wouldn't suggest this book for any student under sixth grade even your best readers, but for older readers, it is a great book for teaching empathy, respect, depression, and love.
11 - The Hobbit I absolutely love how action-packed this book is. I read it aloud to my class. It was a difficult read-aloud pronunciation-wise, but the kids were hooked because of all the action. Also, none of my kids knew the story beforehand, which is hard to find by fourth grade.
13 - Anne of Green Gables A good middle-school or high-school level book with a strong female lead. You fall in love with Anne and root for her the entire way. With a surprising ending, you are sure to want to keep reading the follow-up books.
14 - The Mysterious Benedict Society This book is full of puzzles and mystery. Gifted children try to solve a major scheme to destroy the world thru a series of clues. It's definitely a harder read than some on this list, but it's an enjoyable read. It's also not predictable, which I appreciate. I don't know much about the rest of the series, though.
15 - The Tale of Despereaux I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would. It follows a brave mouse and a rat who goes against his cultural. There are some great themes in this book, but there wasn't enough action for my liking. You could use this for strong character trait and theme lessons, though.
16 - The Velveteen Rabbit This is one of those incredibly sweet, well-loved early childhood books. It's a very short, quick read with a heartwarming story. A great option as an early chapter book or primary age read aloud/bedtime story. It will make you hug your stuffed animals just a little bit tighter.
17 - Hatchet This is one of my favorite adventure books of all time. It's not just a boy book either. All my students love this book, and I'm even using it with second graders all the way up to middle schoolers. I love the follow up books just as much. It's impressive how engaged you stay even with just one character the entire book. You root for Brian all the way!
18 - The Little Prince This was another incredibly fast read, but oh so worth it! The main character is such a sweet innocent little guy. It isn't until about halfway through the book that you realize this is really meant for adults. Kids will love the action and journey of it all, but the deeper underlining message by the end will sucker punch you in the best way possible!
19 - Because of Winn Dixie This is one of my all-time favorites now. I kick myself for not reading it sooner! It is so endearing but also not at all predictable. I love all the character development and that it portrays life in an honest fashion that is still kid-friendly. I think this is a great option for intermediate ages especially kids who have been through trauma and need to see characters like them represented in books.
21 - Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire This is my favorite Harry Potter book of all seven! There is so much action, and I really love the world JK paints in the first 100 pages during the Quidditch World Cup. I definitely didn't see the end twist coming. This book does turn dark at the very end with our first death of a student, so consider keeping this in about third or fourth grade and above.
27 - Winnie-the-Pooh A classic that everyone should read at least once. This would make a good read-aloud at the primary ages. I also like how the book is made up of several short stories. You could definitely use it as a writing mentor text, too. Furthermore, you could do strong character lessons with this because it has so many clearly differentiated characters.
31 - The Golden Compass What a powerful, thought-provoking, challenging read! I would recommend this book for strong, thoughtful readers fourth grade and up. This book has fantastical elements like talking polar bears, but also very real-life lessons like trust and love and responsibility. The book also towards the end discusses the power of religion and how some individuals can abuse that power. This is also part of a series, and I definitely plan to complete the series!
45 - Matilda Matilda is one of my favorite female characters of all time. She is so strong and confident even in the face of adversity. This was a wonderful read aloud for my class. (I even named my daughter after her!)
47 - Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows What an ending! So complex with a full world so beautifully developed. If you've made it through books 1-6, of course, you'll finish this one without barely setting it down.
55 - Stone Fox This is another one of my all-time favorites as well as a super quick, easy read. This is a great read-aloud option for students new to chapter books. I've even done this in book clubs with new readers, and it works great. There is plenty of action to keep them interested, and it has the most powerful last two pages of any book I've ever read!
60 - The Westing Game This is the best kid-friendly murder mystery I have ever read. Most early chapter book mysteries are ideas like "the stolen necklace" or "the lost puppy." This is a full-fledged murder mystery during a snow storm where every character is a suspect. It completely reminded me of Agatha Christie, but it is never too scary or serious for intermediate grade readers. It'll keep you guessing until the end, too.
62 - Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban Please, oh please, don't ever read Harry Potter out of order. Promise me you'll read them in order. If you've read the first two books, then, of course, you'll want to move on to book three. This book is so high in the top 100 because of all the beautifully deep connections and details. It's the first time you really see how deep JK's world goes.
73 - Sarah, Plain & Tall I read this in middle school but also re-read it aloud to my class as a social studies mentor text for historical fiction about the Dust Bowl era. Since then, I have used the four other follow-up books in the series for book clubs with some of the lower-ability level readers in my classroom.
81 - The Witches Now this one can get a bit scary, but it's also ridiculously funny at certain parts. This book is based on witches still living in the English countryside, and they absolutely hate children. In fact, they turn children into mice. The only part my son found scary were the descriptions and sketches of the actual witches. Otherwise, he found it very fun to see how one little boy tried to battle the group of witches.
85 - The City of Ember This is my beginning-of-the-year read aloud every single year. I love Lena's character. I love the mystery of their science fiction world. If you have never read this, you'll be blown away by the last few chapters. I also have students continue the series after hearing this book.
97 - Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets Some people say this is their favorite Harry Potter book, but I'm kind of indifferent to it. Of course, I always love being submersed in the HP universe, but I love book one, three, four, six, and seven so much more. It is a good mystery to try and solve, though, and I like that Ginny joins the books.