10 Children's Classics from the 1980s
The Whipping Boy. (1987) The great thing about The Whipping Boy is that it is a Newbery winner which is very accessible for kids reading early chapter books. In this amusing and fast-paced adventure, Jemmy serves as the palace whipping boy, receiving the punishments meant for a spoiled, bratty prince. When Prince Brat decides to run away, Jemmy follows and the two are captured by villains who are fooled into thinking Jemmy is the real prince. In their attempt to escape the villains, both both boys learn much about each other.
The Castle in the Attic. (1985) The idea of a miniature castle coming to life was irresistible to me when I was a kid. I confess that even as an adult I find minatures fascinating. William’s housekeeper, Mrs. Phillips gives him a model castle set but things go awry when Mrs. Phillips is shrunk down to the size of the castle and William must shrink himself down to rescue her. Dragons, wizards, magic forests and knights make this a wonderful fantasy quest kids will love.
The Agony of Alice. (1985) This is the first book in the lengthy Alice series (one of the most challenged book series by prudish parents) and is a wonderful book for tween girls learning to navigate the treacherous waters that lead to adulthood. Motherless Alice is surrounded by males at home and wants a female role model. She hopes a glamorous teacher will fill the position. What she learns instead is that people are much more than their surface appearances. In this first book Alice is a sixth grader but she grows up during the course of the series (more than 20 books); the most recent book was published this year. A terrific choice for tween girls. You may recognize Naylor as the author of Shiloh.
Bill's New Frock (1989). I confess I am a sucker for books that get kids thinking about gender roles and Bill's New Frock by British Children’s Laureate, Anne Fine, does just that. Bill wakes up one morning to find he has turned into a girl. Being a young boy he is naturally horrified! Bill starts to notice that others treat him much differently now that he is a girl. This early chapter book will get kids thinking as well as make them laugh out loud.
War Horse. (1982) I never knew War Horse was a children’s book until I saw the absolutely marvelous stage production (during which I bawled almost the entire time - I haven’t seen the movie). For kids ages 8 and up who like historical fiction this is a really interesting and moving book about a boy named Albert whose horse, Joey, is taken into service during World War I. While Joey experiences the horrors of war, Albert enlists in order to find his beloved horse. In case you haven’t figured it out, this book has a strong anti-war message. I think it would make a great family read aloud.
Are any of these books new to you? Which ones have you read? What books are on your 1980s must read list?
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