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The First Time Again

Posted by Susan on August 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Classics
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Last week I asked this question: "What children's book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?"

The question struck more of a chord than I ever could have imagined. Between responses on Booklights, Facebook and Twitter, my question was answered over 600 times! Being a curious person, I had to find out which books were mentioned the most. The numbers listed next to the titles refer to how many times that book or series was mentioned.

The top ten children's books readers would most like to read again for the first time are:

Anne of Green Gables.jpg10. The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (7 times each). I'm a huge L.M. Montgomery fan, I'd love to read some of her books again for the first time. In the Anne of Green Gables series, the one I'd pick is Anne of the Island.

9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (8 times) At least half the respondents on this book said they prefered the French version.

8. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (10 times) The trilogy His Dark Materials was mentioned only once. Interestingly, the majority of the votes were specifically for The Golden Compass.

7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (11 times). I just found my old dog-eared copies of these terrific books. What wonderful memories!

Secret Garden.jpg6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (12 times). I actually just read this for the first time last year. I wish I had discovered it when I was a child.

We've reached the halfway point, and are starting to climb into the big numbers.

5. The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (19 times). Oh, the magic of discovering what's in that wardrobe! Who can forget that?

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (22 times). A perfectly written book. It's amazing what an effect Harper Lee has had on so many generations. I read this book in high school, although I recently had a mom (who hadn't read the book) try to convince me that it was appropriate for her third grader.

Wrinkle in Time.jpg3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (25 times). This book ranks high on every children's book poll I see such as: "What's your favorite book from childhood?" or "What's your favorite Newbery book?" The answer is always A Wrinkle in Time. Interesting side note: did you know that this book was rejected by over two dozen publishers before it was finally accepted?

The numbers jumped way up for the last two, both of which are series.

2. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (38 times) Great, great books. I remember my first time reading these very vividly. Frodo was climbing up Mount Doom and my mom came in and asked me to clean up my room. I recall telling her in a passionate voice that I had read hundreds and hundreds of pages just to get to that point and I couldn't stop. I had to know what happened next. Fortunately, she took pity on me.

And the books that were mentioned the most... (drum roll, please):

All Harry Potter books.jpg1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (41 times) As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I couldn't agree more, but I was surprised that Harry beat out Frodo.

I was on the edge of my seat for every single Harry Potter book. Whenever I thought I had figured it all out, Rowling took her story in another direction and surprised me every time. She made me gasp, cry and laugh in a way I never have while reading a book. It was an unforgettable ride.

But as much as I loved that thrilling, spine tingling first time, it was in the re-reading where I discovered the true magic. Rowling planned out all seven books before the first one was even accepted for publication. All the books are full of subtle, deftly hidden clues and wonderful misdirection that are a delight to discover. For more about the joy of reading a favorite book over and over, check out Jen's excellent post on the subject.

Now, on to the runner-ups. Although they didn't make the top ten list, here are the children's and young adult books that were mentioned multiple times. They're in alphabetical order by author.

-Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
-The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
-Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
-Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
-Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
-The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
-James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
-The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
-Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
-Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
-Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
-The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
-From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
-Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
-The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
-Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
-The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
-Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
-A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
-Heidi by Johanna Spyri
-Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
-The Polar Express by Chris vanAllsburg
-The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
-Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
-The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Several adult books were also mentioned, but they were far outdistanced by the votes for the children's books. If you're curious, here's the results:

-The hands-down winner was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
-Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Watership Down, The Princess Bride and Mists of Avalon tied for second place.
-1984, The Foundation Trilogy, Gone with The Wind, Interview with a Vampire and Of Mice and Men came in third place.

All in all, the answers to this question were absolutely fascinating. Here's a few of my favorite comments:

Charlotte's Web.jpg"My third grade teacher read it to us aloud, and every time I read it, I can still hear her sweet voice. I wonder if she has any idea how she affected us." (Charlotte's Web)

"I would love to read Goodnight Moon with my mom and dad again for the first time."

"I can actually vividly remember hiding under the covers when Lord Voldemort made his appearance." (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

"I've read A Wrinkle in Time and A Christmas Carol more times than I can count, but nothing compares to the moment I discovered those worlds. They were more real than reality to me."

"I remember one hot summer when I was about ten reading about life in the Alps. I was hooked." (Heidi)

Princess and the Goblin.jpg"To be a child again and reading on my father's lap." (The Princess and the Goblin)

"The first book that got me really excited about reading was at about ten years old: The Silver Crown by Robert O'Brien. Nothing compares to that first book you can't put down."

"I can't leave out the first book I remember checking out from the library: The Fuzzy Duckling.

"I'd like to return to fourth grade so I could hear my teacher Mr. Orr read The Thief of Always out loud again. That was an incredible experience for me."

"So if for one more time, I could be a riveted six-year old, I would like to go sit in my father's lap, and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone just once more."

Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful comments and experiences.

The best part is yet to come. That will happen when you find a book on this list you've never read before and try it for the very first time. Or better yet, when you read it to a child and watch them experience it for the first time.


jerome writes...

I love this list!! I think Lloyd Alexander's series should have made the top ten but I can not argue against any in this top ten!

I think #1 and #2 should be flip flopped though! Either way though LoTR and HP are both great great series!!

Wendy writes...

It's a good list. :) I've been able to rediscover a lot of old favorites while reading them to my children -- we're actually in the middle of 'The Secret Garden' right now!

Brandi writes...

What a GREAT list!

Pam writes...

Kudos on an amazing post - amazing two posts, really. I'm already planning my reading and rereading. Great idea!!!

Jon Bard writes...

I'm choosing two books from the runners-up: Charlotte's Web and The Phantom Tollbooth.

C writes...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card yet. The surprise twist is so very good the first time through!

SusanAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for the catch. I rechecked my spreadsheet... Ender's Game was on the runner-up list. I just edited the post to include it.

Abby writes...

Okay, I just have to throw this out there: I hate A WRINKLE IN TIME. I don't know why so many people love it! :)

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