This is not a list post (part II)

Our last list (or non-list) focused on books for those who enjoy lots of pictures with their text, who are frequently found to be between the ages of very very small and about 8 or 9 (however, these age descriptions are pretty loose: we both enjoy lots of pictures with our text, and are both significantly outside that age bracket). In this post, we’re going to take a crack at some of our favourite novels. We say “some,” as naturally there’s no way we could ever make a complete list of our favourites (as I doubt anyone could–how would such a list be finished during one’s lifetime?), and even the titles we’ve compiled thus far are far too numerous to fit into one post–but it’s a starting place.

As before, we shall begin at the beginning, with some of the glorious novels we enjoyed as children:

  • Here Comes Charlie Moon – Shirley Hughes. We know, we know–Shirley Hughes again. But can you really blame us? What could be better than a seaside mystery, with sweets, disguises, eccentrics, a perilous waxworks, and a hall of mirrors; never precious or cloying, this is a glorious adventure story that bears endless rereading.
  • The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge. A shimmering wonder of a tale, it sparkles like moonlight on the sea, and glows as brightly as a hearth fire.
  • The Princess and the Goblin – George McDonald. Immerse yourself in the the world of courageous Irene, stalwart Curdie, and Irene’s mysterious and beautiful many times great grandmother.
  • The Secret of Platform 13 – Eva Ibbotson. Ever wonder where J.K. got the inspiration for her magical doorway? Look no further.
  • Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome. The book that launched a thousand log rafts…not to mention at least one summer of sleeping in the backyard every night. No childhood should be without it and its splendid companions.
  • Half Magic – Edward Eager. What would you do if you found a magic coin…but it only granted half wishes?
  • Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren. Naturally.
  • Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter – Astrid Lindgren. Ronia’s strength, courage and wisdom were an inspiration to both my daughters. A perfect book to read outside (if you happen to live near a forested glade or magic wood, so much the better). ~F
  • Jennifer Murdley’s Toad, by Bruce Coville. An unexpected treasure that has stayed with me to this day. ~M
  • Nicobobinus – Terry Jones. Land of dragons, pirate monks, and a boy who can do anything (just ask his friend Rosie)…Nicobobinus is a childhood treasure.
  • The Saga of Erik the Viking – Terry Jones. With little or nothing in common with the film of the same name, this book (and the one above) was a read-aloud staple in our house for years; an excellent introduction to Viking and Norse lore, it makes the mythical seem possible. ~F
  • And while we’re on the subject of melding history and magic…The House of Arden, by the inimitable E. Nesbit, does this to perfection. Elfrida and Edred Arden meet a magical Mouldiwarp, who takes them on a fantastic adventure through English history. ~F
  • The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster. My sister and I went through the tollbooth countless times during our childhood, and on every journey discovered something new and magical about the fantastical world of language and mathematics. (who knew math could be hilarious?) ~M
  • The Van Gogh Cafe – Cynthia Rylant. A perfect gem of a book, I still carry a copy in my bag, for those days when I need a little gentle wisdom, or to be reminded of the beauty and wonder in the everyday. ~M

To be continued…again (and again, and again.)


Filed under Lists

4 responses to “This is not a list post (part II)

  1. We are reading Ronia the Robber’s Daughter right now…such a great book. And worth looking closely at the cover on the and the wonderful art by Trina Schart Hyman (

    You don’t often come across a picture where the female protagonist is in the foreground looking all ready for action with her male counterpart coming up as part of the background. I wish this continued in cover art in YA and adult adventure novels, but sadly, it rarely does.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Justine,
    Thanks for commenting! You’re absolutely right about Ronia’s artwork–it’s great to see a girl active in the foreground. Sadly, you’re also right about the lack of female agency in cover designs for children and young adults: even when the book has a strong, independent female protagonist, there’s still an emphasis on sexualized and/or romanticised female figures on the front cover (Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet is a good example of this; over time, the covers have made a significant shift towards the “sexy”).
    If readers know of covers that don’t fall into this trope (or trap), we’d love to hear about them!


  3. This isn’t actually a children’s or YA book, but it nonetheless represents a step in the right direction (in my opinion):

    Max Gladstone’s book features not only a female protagonist, but she is non-white, fully clothed and has natural hair! … that is not something you see often either. It still features a sexy look, but it is sexy in a more appropriate way and, to be fair, this is an adult book, although I think even for YA the woman featured here sets a much better example of a strong female protagonist than some of the current YA covers on offer.


  4. Thanks for the picture!
    We did a little digging ourselves, and found some really nice examples of unusual or forward-thinking cover designs:
    There’s Jacqueline Wilson’s new memoir, “Brown Girl Dreaming,”
    Of course, the classic “Sabriel” by Garth Nix:
    This very tongue-in-cheek cover from Tony Cliff for his graphic novel “Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant,” which is clearly poking fun at the blatant sexism evident in so many comic cover designs:
    And then there are the covers for YS Lee’s Agency series, which get bonus points for having a non-white, feminist protagonist dealing with sexism and racism in Victorian London (while solving crimes, naturally):
    (Plus Lee’s Canadian and fantastic–I have a little bit of a soft spot for her. ~M)
    Finally, we found E. Lockhart’s “Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks,” which also features a strong feminist protagonist and tackles issues of misogyny head-on:
    Thanks for getting the ball rolling on this, Justine! 🙂
    ~The Bookwitches


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