One Hundred Books, One Hundred Bucks

Posted on by jen

My ten-year-old is a voracious reader. It’s somewhat ironic, because when he was a Bear, his brethren were ahead of him and I was *freaking out* that he wasn’t smart enough to be considered one of the “smart kids.” His fancy-pants friends Koby and Samantha, who he’d been with since diapers in the Bug and Bee rooms, were notably ahead of him in pre-literacy skills. As a mom, I was nervous, and probably a little jealous. (Of course, little miss Sammy could recite her ABCs while she was still in Toddlerland. Who can compete with that?)

Fast-forward through Kindergarten and first grade: he still wasn’t showing signs of any particular literacy talent, and now I had testing metrics to confirm his relative averageness. And our aforementioned EC3 friends had those same metrics showing that, sure enough, they were deserving of an extra gold star. I was still freaking out, and still probably jealous.

Then in second grade it all changed. Reading clicked. He caught on in a way then felt very much like a switch turning to the “on” position. And I haven’t had to be concerned with his reading talents since.

Now, he’s ten and I’m screwed. The darn kid can eat 100 pages in a day, no sweat. He’s blown through every Harry Potter, Hardy Boys, Ranger’s Apprentice, et al., that a kid his age should be reading. He wrapped reading “The Lord of the Rings” triology at, let’s see, 9 years old? Now I spend my spare time trying to figure out what to give him to read that challenges his reading level (adult) but not his sensibilities (he’s ten, he still thinks farts are funny). I’m often out of good ideas and fresh material.

His fifth grade teacher suggested checking the all-powerful internet for lists of books all children should read. Brilliant! Many of the books on the list are not ones which jive with his tastes—he wouldn’t willingly pick up anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder, for example. But a lot of these have historical or cultural value which will help him round out his intake nicely.

So I made the Best. Deal. Ever. One hundred books, one hundred bucks. I compared many lists of good reads, and crafted a list of 100 for him. I told him when he’s read them all, I’ll give him $100. He thinks this is awesome—I think this is a bargain. Classics from the library are certainly cheaper than the latest Rick Riordan adventure freshly released in hardback. Further, from my point of view, it encourages him to pick up books which are important, but he might assume are boring or beneath him; from his point of view, he just suckered his mom into paying him for his favorite hobby. Aren’t we both clever.

Our list is very tailored to the kid at hand. While there are definitely some “girl books” as he would call them, there are lots of entries in the scifi and fantasy categories that he gravitates to. And, there are some which are really beneath his reading level—true children’s books. But I wanted to illustrate that good literature and clever writing can happen in 15 pages as well as 500. He’s already read quite a few over the course of his career, so we’re off to a good start. What I’m most excited about, though, are the ones which will challenge his language and his critical thinking about the world and human nature. I’m fairly certain I’ll be re-reading Animal Farm right along with him.

Our list is below.

What do you think? Anything we missed? What are your all-time favorite books for children?

1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
2. Watership Down, Richard Adams
3. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
4. Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
5. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
7. Beowulf, Michael Morpurgo
8. Bull Run, Paul Fleischman
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
10. Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
11. The Rattle Bag, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes
12. Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
13. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot
14. The Iron Man, Ted Hughes
15. Shiloh, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
16. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
18. The Wave, Morton Rhue
19. The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
20. Erik the Viking, Terry Jones
21. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K LeGuin
22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
23. The Chronicles of Narnia Box Set, CS Lewis
24. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
25. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
26. Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks
27. James and the Giant Peach: A Children’s Story, Roald Dahl
28. The Road of Bones, Anne Fine
29. Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein, Shel Silverstein
30. The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
31. The Silver Sword, Ian Serrallier
32. The Chocolate War: A Novel, Robert Cormier
33. Peter Pan, JM Barrie
34. Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold!, Terry Brooks
35. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
36. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Jon Scieszka
37. Love You Forever, Robert N. Munsch
38. House of Stairs, William Sleator
39. Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey
40. Dragonsinger, Anne McCaffrey
41. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Robert C. O’Brien
42. The Trumpet of the Swan, E. B. White
43. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
44. The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner
45. Just William, Richmal Crompton
46. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
47. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
48. War Horse, Michael Morpurgo
49. Treasure Island, R.L. Stevenson
50. The Lord of the Rings Triology, J.R.R. Tolkien
51. Tomorrow, When the War Began, John Marsden
52. Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
53. Stone Fox, John Reynolds Gardiner
54. Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
55. The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
56. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume
57. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
58. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
59. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
60. Call of the Wild, Jack London
61. Jennings Goes to School, Anthony Buckeridge
62. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
63. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
64. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
65. Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, Mildred D Taylor
66. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
67. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, Nancy Farmer
68. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
69. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
70. Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White
71. The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
72. Long Walk, Richard Bachman
73. The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
74. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman
75. The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman
76. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
77. Holes, Louis Sachar
78. Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C Wrede
79. The Sword in the Stone, TH White
80. A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein
81. The Lantern Bearers, Rosemary Sutcliffe
82. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, Art Spiegelman
83. Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began, Art Spiegelman
84. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
85. The Red Pony, John Steinbeck
86. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle
87. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
89. Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
90. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne
91. The Black Stallion, Walter Farley
92. The Necklace of Stones, Philip J. Carraher
93. Summer of the Monkeys, Wilson Rawls
94. The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann D. Wyss
95. The Giver, Lois Lowry
96. Animal Farm, George Orwell
97. The Time Machine, H. G. Wells
98. Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
99. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
100. The Merlin Conspiracy, Diana Wynne Jones

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