12 children’s books I should have read as a kid.

Wasn’t sure what book-related topic to post this week, but you guys voted on Twitter that I talk about Classic Children’s Literature. So today I’m talking about books that I should have read as a kid, which are not all actually classics (I had a character limit, okay?). Some of these I’ve read as an adult, and some of these I still haven’t read because I completely missed the target age.

Also note: by “children’s” literature, I’m talking about ages around 8-12, not picture-book age children’s literature.

I had a very…stunted reading experience as a kid. I don’t remember reading very much until 3rd grade, but things really didn’t take off until 4th grade (about age 9). I did try to read some classic children’s literature, like The Black Stallion and Little House in the Big Woods, but didn’t really care for those too much. I did read Tuck Everlasting and Peter Pan and loved them, but I was pretty afraid to branch out to more “classic” children’s literature because of my AR reading level.

I’m not sure if this was the same in other schools, but all throughout my elementary and middle school years, we took tests that determined our reading level. Each book was marked with a certain color on the spine that corresponded to your reading level, and you weren’t supposed to go too far above or below your color. I mean, you could…but it was kind of daunting. I was always in the middle of the reading levels, so I felt very intimated whenever I saw a book marked with black, which was highest level. So I never read a lot of books that looked interesting to me because I thought they were too advanced. But now that I’m older, I realize that I totally could have and should have read them when I was a kid, because now I’ve missed the target audience.

Image result for ar levels color chart

(above is an example of the color chart, but I think the colors vary by school)

I hope this system isn’t still a thing. I guess it’s helpful to give children a starting point, but for me, it was too constraining. (I might be remembering it wrong, though. Maybe it was just ME who kept myself back, not necessarily my teachers. But either way, it made me feel like an inferior reader to my friends who were reading the books with the black labels.)

Anyway, here are 12 books that I think little Emily would have enjoyed but for one reason or another, she never got around to reading.

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A Wrinkle in Time // Madeleine L’Engle
In 4th grade, I always picked this up. Something about it just made my fingers pick it up. The copy that my teacher had was really old and seemed really thick and scary to me at the time (it was the version pictured above), and it was marked in black on the AR reading level (at least, that’s how I remember it…it might have been marked incorrectly because online it says 4.7), so I was always too intimidated to check it out. I always put it back on the shelf, and now I still have never read it.

The Hobbit // J. R. R. Tolkien
My deskmate in 4th grade read this (he probably read the most of the kids in that class), and I always thought he must be super smart to read such a big, high-fantasy book because it was marked with black. Little did I know that The Hobbit is aimed more for kids than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I didn’t actually know this until I read The Hobbit after graduating high school. I felt a little cheated then, and I didn’t love it nearly as much as I would have at a young age. (still haven’t read LotR, though…)


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The Borrowers // Mary Norton
Man, I loved this movie as a kid. I loved seeing the way they repurposed things. But the book always looked really long, so I never got around to reading it.

Charlotte’s Web // E. B. White
E. B. White is one of those authors that I claim to love but haven’t really read. I think I would have really liked this since I’ve always had a fondness for animals.


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The Chronicles of Narnia // C. S. Lewis
So before school started when I was in 3rd grade, my class had a 5th grader come and read parts of this book to us. I don’t think I knew what it was, though, and she never finished it. It didn’t go on my radar until I was in middle school, and for whatever reason it seemed outside my comfort zone (I think I saw someone reading a collected edition, so I thought it was much bigger than the individual books actually are.) I didn’t end up reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until I was in college, and by then it was too childish for me to enjoy.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians // Rick Riordan
Kind of along the same lines, these books just weren’t on my radar until I saw the trailer for the first movie, and by then I had kind of missed my window. I read the first two a few summers ago and enjoyed them, but they would have been better as a kid. (I think I had just been too obsessed with Harry Potter to notice this series.)


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Artemis Fowl // Eoin Colfer
These books were all the rage while I was in middle school, but I always just brushed them off without a thought. But now, I feel left out. The main character an antihero? Criminal masterminds and fairies? It sounds great…but I know I wouldn’t like it if I read it now.

The Boxcar Children // Gertrude Chandler Warner
Okay, I did start reading this one…but I don’t know if it was at the end of the year, or if my class just decided to switch to a different book (see Where the Red Fern Grows), but I never finished it and never read the rest of the series. And now people reference it and I’m clueless


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Where The Red Fern Grows // Wilson Rawls

You’ve probably heard my rant about this before but I will never get over it.
Okay, so my 5th grade class started reading this one together. We got about halfway through. I was really intrigued. But then one day, conversation came up that everyone knew what happened already (either because they saw the movie or read it before? IDK), so the teacher decided to switch to a new book. Even though I had not read it and did not know what happened  (though it later became apparent) and still have never finished it.

The Tale of Despereaux // Kate DiCamillo
I think I missed this one because it had just come out in 2003 (I was in 5th grade) and by the time it became popular, I had already kind of graduated from mice main characters (though I definitely had a mouse phase in 4th grade). It looks really cute, though.


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Watership Down // Richard Adams
Okay, to be fair to my younger self, I had never heard of this until I was an adult. And it might be fine to read as an adult. I don’t know. I just know that Rainbow Rowell lists it as a book she read a lot as a kid, and it has bunnies, and I think little Emily would have liked it.

Little Women // Louisa May Alcott
This is another case of it-was-so-big-I-thought-it-was-for-adults. My family watches the 1993 movie every Christmas Eve. It’s one of my favorites. But I still have not read the book. I tried once…but it just seemed so below my age range. IDK. I will try it again someday, though.


Which book do you wish you had read as a kid?
Were you ever intimidated to pick up something, or did you read whatever you wanted?


  1. Katie
    August 4, 2017

    Oh AR, sometimes I forget about the system completely, or how I constantly defied it, taking the suggestion and disapproval of the librarian as a challenge haha.
    I had to branch out into larger books if I wanted to meet our schools requirements for the “100 Point Club” because most kids used the Harry Potter books and my parents thought they were “Of the devil” *Insert eye roll. But I was homeschooled during middle school when a lot of the classics were covered so I’ve always been conflicted about whether I want to read them or not.

    1. Emily @ Mixed Margins
      August 5, 2017

      I was lucky to have been able to read Harry Potter so young. It did wonders for getting me to enjoy reading. I wish I had defied the AR system more, though. I hate that I let myself be intimidated.

  2. Anna
    August 5, 2017

    Good choices. I read all the Percy Jackson books kind of late. I mean I felt embarrassed to go to the children’s section to pick up the latest Rick Riordan book when I was 15, but still, I enjoyed them. I was really intimidated by classics as a child, and still kind of am to be honest! So I should definitely read some more.

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    1. Emily @ Mixed Margins
      August 5, 2017

      Yeah I’m lucky my husband owns Percy Jackson because it would be awkward to go to the kids section as a 24-year-old without a kid. Maybe I could just start borrowing kids? 😂


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