Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up

General Editor, Julia Eccleshare.  Over 70 contributors, plus special reviews by more than 30 well-known authors

This amazing volume is a compilation of 1001 half-page (some whole-page) summaries of great children's books, from the earliest picture books through the middle grades and up.  It has been the source of a number of books I've read and reviewed this winter, as I've been perusing the suggestions for the 8 and up age ranges.  Whatever I can among  the books I missed in my own youth, I order from the library.

Because the book was first published in England (and the authors/editors/compilers are English), the selection of books is more international than it might be if produced in the U.S.  Though all books are available (with some hunting) in English, many were first written in other languages, and more come from Australia and New Zealand than I was ever aware existed (why did I never think about people in other countries writing books for kids?  Probably because you didn't find many of them in our libraries and bookstores).  If nothing else, this book showed up my typical American upbringing.  Though I read a great many British children's books (Famous Five, anyone?  not to mention Narnia and Tolkien), and have known for decades what a torch, jumper, and rug are, and where you will find them if they are in the back of a lorry, I have read almost none of the recommended books from anywhere but the U.S and the British Isles.  Not all can be easily found, but I suspect nearly all would be worth the search.

Many of the mini-reviews (just a little more than summaries) are accompanied by the original cover art, and some by illustrations from the book interiors.  Some of the art is stunning, some is fascinating just for being so dated, and some is still in use even after many decades while other covers have been redesigned and updated many times.

The book is divided into five sections, for kids from ages 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+.  I spent less time in the first three sections, as these were primarily picture books, baby books, and easy readers, though of course my well-beloved Dr. Seuss shows up in all three, and some where books I would say would belong more accurately in the 8+ category.  A quick look showed many favorites as well as many that I never saw (and some that I discovered only when my own kids were little and hadn't realized had been around since I wasn't much older than 5!).  Some of the books in the 8+ and 12+ sections I would definitely say are for the older end of those age ranges--the final section goes right on up to Young Adult novels, but some in the 8+ section are difficult to read due to either style or content.  Some parental judgement may be needed when selecting books for children; fortunately, the story summaries and reviews give you most of what you need to know.

Are all the books listed truly must-reads?  Frankly, no.  I don't think I'll suffer in the least if I grow up (or grow old and die) without having read Twilight.   Others are just not that interesting to me.  But most of these books will amply repay the time spent finding--and reading them, and many are books we'd never know about without this great resource.

Don't forget to grab your copy of Love Middle Grade, Actually, while it's free and enter for your chance to win a Kindle, a gift card, or a free e-book!


  1. Hi Rebecca
    What a fabulous book, thank you for bringing it to our attention. Now I want to read it to find out which books feature from my beloved homeland of Australia and our cousins from New Zealand.
    Thanks for taking the time to link it into the kidlit blog hop and I am very excited for our Love MG Actually promo. Been great getting to know a little more about you, cheers Julie

  2. It's a great resource, even if you have to decide for yourself about grade level sometimes. A 3rd-grade teacher in our district tipped me off to it. Kind of cool for us just to look at the evolution of book covers!

  3. 1001 books? That's a lot of reading! But, since it's kid lit, should go quickly.

    I still love kid books. Maybe it's because I'm just not smart enough to understand anything more grown-up than Dr. Seuss. :o)

    P.S. I've been meaning to get over here for like - ever! Sorry it's taken me so long.

  4. I don't see me reading all of them! Some just don't interest me. But anytime I want a kids' book, now I know where to go for ideas!

  5. Wow! Can you imagine the work put into THAT compilation!? Holey Moley! Thanks so much for sharing this - I'm really curious to see what's on the list and to see how many I've read. Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. New follower via GFC - do you have an email option? Hope the Love Middle Grade Actually event is going well.

  6. Renee, I think that the "subscribe to posts" link at the bottom of the page allows you to subscribe via email. I hope so. . . otherwise I have no idea how to make that work! One of these days I'm switching to Wordpress. . .

    1. Oh I missed that the first time! Thanks - I'm on it now! :D

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