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It is completely normal for books to take on new meanings for us as we age. As we experience more things and our view of the world becomes our own and not just a reflection of our parents or guardians, we can find that even seemingly universal stories can strike us differently.
For me, I see this happening in three general categories: First, books that I couldn’t fully appreciate because I was too young to absorb the whole message. She was raised in a Catholic family, who may have been considered “strict” or “protected”, compared to others. There are many books out there that I re-experienced as an adult and got an “OH!” moment of realization.
Second, the books we loved when we were kids (or, to be fair, we were probably told to love) that now as an adult are cranky and manipulative. I’ve included an example in this list for a real one for me – but there must be more.
And third, books that are straightforward writing at any age and are worth choosing whether it’s a re-read or your first time. I mean, let’s be real. Books for all and all age groups. I hope this list includes some of the titles you read as a kid that you’d like to dive into again or the books you’re interested in no matter your age. Let’s dive in.
The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton
When Thomas and his family move into their new home, he can instantly tell that something is up. Perhaps the local legend is that it was a station on the Underground and that some terrible things happened to both runaway slaves and landlords, Matt Dreyer. When I first read this in fourth grade, it was the book my class took turns reading aloud in class. We’ve all focused on the “haunted house” aspect and not the Underground Railroad part. Re-reading only a few years later brought it back with a whole new perspective.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
no matter how old you are electrode articulation It is an atmospheric read that really puts you in the winter mood. The illustrations are great, and in my opinion, the book paints a much clearer picture than the movie. The message rings true for all ages. I hope we don’t all stop hearing the bells.
Bud, not a friend of Christopher Paul Curtis
During the Great Depression in Flint, Michigan, 10-year-old Budd Caldwell was in and out of orphanages and foster homes after his mother’s death. He has no idea who his father is, but thinks his mother left an idea: a flyer for Herman Calloway and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression. After the prospect of a new foster home becomes a reality, he decides to set out on his own in search of Hermann and possibly find his family. Bud is a fascinating character, and the realities of the Depression (and the Hoovervilles) are even more poignant today.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Growing up, most of us read this story through the lens of unconditional love. Now as adults, this book is worth re-reading (or multiple times) and viewing from a different angle. reading Giving Tree It made me think about the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Scream by Mildred D Taylor
Part of the Logans series (which Taylor based on her own experience), this installment is easily her best known, and it’s a piece of work that stays with you. As you get older, you more and more appreciate the tenacity and strength of the Logans as a powerful black family during Jim Crow. Our story focuses on 9-year-old Cassie, who begins to experience injustice and bullying from her peers and comes to perceive it as racist. After hearing local news of two black villagers being burned, she begins to fear for her family’s safety.
Bridge to Terabithia by Catherine Patterson
Jess and Leslie are good friends who spend most of their time in the land of Terabithia, a fantasy world they made for themselves. But one day, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess, and he’s forced to come to terms with what this means. When we read this book as a child, the themes of loss, grief, and friendship are sometimes hard to grasp, if only because we didn’t have enough life experience to really connect with them. (Although it’s worth recognizing that quite a few kids, unfortunately, experience it.)
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
When I re-read this book, I regretted not being able to fully appreciate this book when we first read it in elementary school. Also set in the Depression era, Esperanza and her family are forced to move from their home to California after a tragedy. With trying new things for the first time, including prejudice and financial struggles, Esperanza must find a way to overcome her difficult circumstances to be there for her family.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Langle
Full disclosure – This book scared me as a kid and I put off reading it for a long time. I re-read it in my late teens and fully understood the love many of my peers had for this book and the rest of the quintet. From Meg’s perspective, he told us, we learned her family was grieving after her father’s disappearance. One night, they are visited by three mysterious women and tell them that it is time to save their father.
Kiki delivery service from Eko Kaduno
Kiki is a half-witch, a rite of passage for young witches to spend a year in a new city and offer their magical services. Along with her cat, Gigi, Kiki sets their sights on the coastal village of Kuriko. Unfortunately, she finds that the villagers are suspicious and do not immediately welcome her into the barn. Despite their concerns, Kiki settles down and chooses to learn the delivery service trade – you guessed it. Prior to Studio Ghibli’s release, we had this book, and it’s worth reading whether you’re interested in anime or not.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When a stranded pilot awakens, he meets the little prince who begins to entertain him with tales of his many flights and the lessons he learned. Considered a classic by many, this book definitely fascinates us as children and then takes on different meanings as we get older.
Looking for more children’s books? Check out these other lists from the Book Riot squad: