Pack baby’s bookshelves

I’m standing in for Justin again today because his first child, Amarani Sedah Blazier, was born a couple of days ago. I thought that, as a way to welcome Baby Blazier, we could create a list of essential speculative fiction that Amarani must have on her bookshelves. Her parents can use our list as a wish list for birthdays and Christmas.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Here are the rules: You may add up to 5 books to each category of our list:

1. Preschool (ages 0-4)

2. Early Readers (ages 5-8)

3. Middle Grade (ages 9-12)

4. Young Adult (ages 13+)

Your additions do not need to be different from what other commenters have suggested. Duplicates are welcome — that will just indicate how essential that book is.

Please indicate which category your book choices go under and offer an explanation for each of the books you suggest. Is it a classic which any young SFF reader must read to be educated in SFF? Is it an award-winner? Is it the best book you remember reading when you were that age? Let us know why it’s on your list. After we’re finished, we should have a nice wish list for Justin!

As usual, one commenter will win a book from our stacks.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Melanie Goldmund /

    When my sons were younger, they really loved for me to read the DK Readers to them that featured Star Wars stories and characters. I’ve just been looking at to see what’s still available, because we’ve long since given our books away to other children. So for Preschool I would suggest something like DK Readers Level 1 Star Wars — What is a Wookiee, and Luke Skywalker’s Amazing Story. Depending on how long a child can sit still (mine couldn’t, which is why we used these as picture books and not for teaching them to read) you could also go up to Level 2 at this age, and I’ve found such titles as R2-D2 and Friends, or Join the Rebels. Anything to do with Star Wars is definitely essential (There are other sci fi and fantasy characters in the various learn-to-read books; my boys also enjoyed anything to do with Lego.)

    For Preschool, I would also recommend The Magic School Bus picture books. Those are also essential.

    For Early Readers I would again recommend the DK Readers, and then branch out to the Magic Treehouse books. I personally liked the first one, Dinosaurs Before Dark, and the one where the kids go to the moon, called Midnight on the Moon.

    While browsing through chapter books on amazon, trying to remember what sci fi and fantasy books my boys had, I came across a Doctor Who chapter book. Even though I haven’t read it myself, I would definitely recommend it because it’s Doctor Who! This one is called Sightseeing in Space. Doctor Who is cool. And essential.

    When I was that age, I remember reading some books about kids who were able to go back in time to the day of the dinosaurs by pulling a branch in the dinosaur exhibition at the museum. If only I could remember the author … yes, found it! Eve Bunting wrote The Day of the Dinosaurs, Death of A Dinosaur, The Dinosaur Trap, and Escape from Tyrannosaurus, but since they were published in 1975, I’m sure they’re no longer in print. Too sad! I loved those books, and would have considered them essential.

    For Middle Grade, the first two Harry Potter books, definitely. I love them as an adult, and I’m sure I would have loved them when I was younger, too. Same with Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz books.

    I’m not sure if the Skulduggery Pleasant books by Derek Landy are Middle Grade or Young Adult, but my younger son has loved them all, and I enjoyed the one that I read, too. Good strong female character in the lead — what could be more essential?

    Can’t think of anything else at the moment.

  2. I think my parents read that book in the picture to me when I was in pre-school..That’s why I am the way that I am

  3. 1. Good-Night, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown–comforting and lovely
    2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak–fun!
    3. The Beast Master by Andre Norton–every girl ought to read Norton
    Star Beast by Robert Heinlein just because it’s hilarious
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle–classic
    the Phantom Toll-Booth–ditto
    4. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien–classic
    LOTR by JRR Tolkien–ditto
    Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin–ditto
    Dreamsnake by Vonda MacIntyre–how to use imagery, strong female character, genuinely alien world
    Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor–because I’m recommending this to everyone right now.

  4. 1. just about anything by Sandra Boynton the favorites at our house were The Going to Bed Book and Moo, Baa, La La La and Fifteen Animals
    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    Edward the Emu

    2. Christina Katarina and the Box – it’s being re-released in paper next year, make sure you get the Doris Burns illustrations. (If you can find a copy of We Were Tired of Living in a House with Doris Burns illustrations that one is wonderful as well.)
    One Dragon’s Dream – best counting book ever.
    Miss Rumphius
    Ellen’s Lion by Crockett Johnson
    The Wind in the Willows – for reading to her.
    Just So Stories for reading out loud as well. There is nothing like hearing your father reading these stories out loud “oh my best beloved”.

    3 & 4 The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe,
    Dealing With Dragons,
    Tamora Pierce’s Circle series or Lioness Rampant,
    The Blue Sword and or Hero and the Crown.
    Any of L’engle’s YA

    I will stop now. I love childrens books. A lot of the ones I have recommended are not SF, but they do encourage the imagination, and that’s the best part of reading. In picture books, look for great illustrations and take time to talk about the pictures.

  5. Sir Read-a-Lot /

    1. Animals should definitely not wear clothing, by Judi Barrett. Basically what the title says. Very cute (and very true!)
    Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young, and Now We are Six, by A.A. Milne.
    Just So Stories by Kipling.
    June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner. You have no idea how hard it is to track down the author and title of this book when you can’t remember t he exact title. It has a similar premise to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but with more alliteration. And rutabagas.

    3. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
    Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

    4. Watership Down by Richard Adams
    The Princess Bride by William Goldman
    So You Want To Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

  6. When I was a child, my mother read to my sister and me every nap time (or so it seems in memory) from The Golden Book of Fairy Tales. I thought this book lost in the mists of memory — my mother couldn’t remember what had happened to it, and it was simply gone from our house, perhaps to an older cousin who had children while we were still young teenagers — until one day about 12 years ago when I saw it on a shelf in a bookstore and fell upon it with glad cries. The man I was then dating insisted on buying it for me, which is probably the reason I married him — and the fact that he would see and understand the importance of that book in my life is why we’re so happily married.

    Ahem. As I was saying. It’s The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, translated by Marie Ponsot and illustrated by Adrienne Segur. The illustrations will knock you off your feet. My favorite tale remains “Bluecrest,” and I can call up in my mind the picture of the imprisoned princess being visited by her prince, changed by a wicked witch into a bird, without even thinking about it too hard. It’s just a stunning book.

  7. Margaret /

    Preschool ~ Pat the Bunny; Good Night, Moon; Corduroy

    Early Readers ~ Winnie the Pooh; Frog and Toad; The Boxcar Children

    Middle Grade ~ Little House on the Prairie; The Chronicles of Narnia; Dear America; Charlotte’s Web; Nancy Drew Mysteries; Peter Pan; Carry on, Mr. Bowditch

    Young Adult ~ The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Anne of Green Gables; Gulliver’s Travels; David Copperfield; Jane Eyre

    I could go on and on, but I won’t. :-)

  8. Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Based solely off this article I joined a children’s book of the month club. I did take you up on some of your suggestions. I also have a few of my own favorites. Here is what I bought.

    Where the Wild Things Are
    The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Stories
    Goodnight Moon
    Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
    Belly Button Book
    Clifford the Big Red Dog-3 The Dog Who Cried “Woof!”/ Camping Out/ Clifford’s Loose Too
    Curious George

    I know that it will be a little while before she can comprehend the stories, but it makes a really good excuse for me to re-read these awesome books from my childhood. I have also a few generic brightly colored flashy go squeeky books that are complete nonsense, but she will likely go nuts for at this stage. Not to worry though, we’ll be reading Tolkien at bed time soon enough.

  9. Margaret, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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