I loved Eloise, for everything she wasn't. She wasn't pretty, she wasn't the model child -- she was a little devil, and I envied her spunk. I grew up in a typical suburban home and wanted to live in the Plaza Hotel. After I brought my daughter Lily home from the hospital, Eloise was the first thing I bought her. She's 7 years old now, and she has all the Eloise books. One Christmas we even took the kids to the Plaza for the weekend.
I read all of Louisa May Alcott's books, starting with Little Women. I even walked around with a clothespin on my nose, trying to make it go straight instead of pointing up, just like the character Amy. When my husband, Steve, was growing up, he knew his favorite author pretty well -- his father. Between 1944 and 1948, Will Roberts wrote nine books under the pseudonym Jeffrey Victor, a combination of his sons' middle names. The books were mostly devoted to teaching kids how things worked: The Train Book, for example, was based on trips to the local station that Steve and his twin brother made with their dad. For many years these books were lost, so we could not read them to our own children. But thanks to the Internet and used-book sites, we've recently assembled a complete set, and we look forward to sharing them with our grandchildren.
I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I have very vivid memories of reading that book with my brother, Chad. The illustrations were outstanding. I just bought a hardcover copy for my boys: Matthew, who's 7, and John Owen, 5. Just sitting outside and reading is a great leisure-time activity for us.
I loved The Wizard of Oz growing up and introduced it to my daughter when she was really little. Reading in our house is different than in most: I both sign and read books to Sarah Rose, who's 5. It makes her fall asleep when I "turn off" my voice. It's just like a ballet when I use my hands only. Sometimes I make up stories just between the two of us.
I loved Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. My mother died when I was in the fifth grade, so I didn't have a mother to talk to about girl things. I would read that book over and over. I'll probably introduce it to my children: Parker, 5, Chelsea Belle and Mia, both 3, and Blake, 2.
I loved all the Madeline books when I was growing up -- I read them over and over. So now I read them to my girls: Madelyn, 9, and Zoey, 6. Madeline and the Gypsies is our favorite.
When I was about 8 years old, my favorite was a book by Elizabeth Goudge called The Little White Horse. It is a very magical book. There's a lot in it about the heroine's dresses, which I really enjoyed, but I would imagine most boys would not.
Lassie Come Home was a favorite of mine. When my sisters and I were in grade school, my father was away (he was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war). Every night, we would all climb up onto my big sister's bed, and my mom would read us a chapter. We rooted for Lassie through all her trials and tribulations as she tried to get home to the family she loved. In the end, she made it. So did my dad.
Originally published in the March 2001 issue of Child magazine.