The list has a rough, rather higgledy-piggledy organization with realistic and "low fantasy" books toward the top, mythic and fairy tale material midway, fantastical work toward the bottom, and many of the additional comments from others at the bottom (sometimes elsewhere, if more suited to the sort of books elsewhere.) Maybe some day I'll go alphabetical, after comments quit appearing. Or maybe I'll just leave it as a joyful hodgepodge.
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Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped. I still love Stevenson and reread Kidnapped not long ago. The flight in the heather is wonderful. Treasure Island.
I have not read these but was looking for books that would please a fantasy reader whose parents wished he would attempt something else occasionally. I read a lot of the author's fantasy as a child and later. with my own children Check out Lloyd Alexander's Holly Vesper adventures? A Victorian girl, age 16, ranges the world with her guardian Brinnie, or Professor Brinton Garrett. "She’s Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes (minus the violin playing, the bees, and the cocaine), and Nancy Drew and Richie Rich." --Mari Ness
E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan.
Writer and photographer John O' Grady had a suggestion: "The only book I'd add is Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. (I'd probably also throw in his Wolf and Gray Dawn.)"
My blog-friend George left some titles in the comments that I am passing on here with a bit more information--I think these are interesting choices, though I think the first may be more appropriate as a read-aloud with a parent for a younger child who may have questions. My target age of around 8 is awfully young! Commander Edward L. Beach, Jr., Run Silent, Run Deep. That one's definitely heroic, as submarine Commander Edward J. Richardson tells the events that led to his receiving the Medal of Honor. Includes a figure whose character is wayward (bit wild and risky in his actions, unfaithful to his wife) but changes in the course of the book. Jean Lee Latham, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. Biography of sailor-mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch. Newbury medal winner. The true story of a boy's rise from chandler's apprentice to captain and Harvard grad. An American dream saga. Great choice. Mark Twain, Roughing It. I thought about this one but was not sure--but why not give it a try? And here's another one I thought about but wasn't sure, recommended by George: Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Two Years Before the Mast. I don't think I read that until my early twenties, but if sea books take, it might work!
A smattering of the legendary and mythic: I liked Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and Arthur stories, but they may seem a little more dated now. Kevin Crossley-Holland (UK) has an Arthurian trilogy that has won awards, and I think he has a Norse myths book as well. I've only read one of his books and that was long ago, but I think it would be a safe choice. Neil Gaiman also has a new Norse legends book which I've read and would add. Leon Garfield's The God Beneath the Sea won Carnegie and Greenaway medals but I've not read it--according to what I have read, it is more adult than his other work, and he was concerned about that, which seems sweet of him, given that anything goes now in y. a. I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's retellings of myths early on.
Folk and fairy: Alan Garner has folk tale collections from his native Cheshire. I was a re-reader of the Grimms' tales in childhood. In addition, I'd recommend the Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell translations in a two-volume set wonderfully illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales (with illustrations by Adrienne Segur and some translations by Marie Ponsot) Also: The Fairy Tale Book (with illustrations by Adrienne Segur.) I pored over my copy of TFTB many, many times. Has a version of E. T. A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker story, "The Snow Queen," lots more. I know so many women writers who were entranced by one or both books when they were girls, but there's plenty to like for boys as well. Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, etc. Oh, and Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale collections, of course.
Wilmington Star reviewer Ben Steelman says, "Robert Heinlein's juveniles may be getting a tad dated, but they're still fun. A sentimental favorite for me is 'Citizen of the Galaxy.'"
Writer, poet, and secret singer Roderick Robinson added some specific E. Nesbit recommendations--"the adventures of the Bastable family (The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods, The New Treasure Seekers"--and you can see his remarks in the comments.
Claire Youmans, my no-doubt very distant cousin of some sort, all Youmanses in this country being descended from four brothers who came over before the Revolution, reminded me of her The Toki Girl and the Sparrow Boy series which "keeps growing up as the children do. It's historical fantasy-adventure, fun and sophisticated, suitable for 8 year olds, and with a following among college students and adults."
Lloyd Alexander, The Chronicles of Prydain, Time Cat, the Westmark books, etc.
Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men and A Hatful of Sky. A strong-minded young witch. Somebody in the house loved The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. If a boy gets addicted to Pratchett, he'll stay busy a long time.
Lewis Carroll's Alice books. I can't say how much those meant to me. Alice for all, girls and boys!
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, LOTR. LOTR is terrifically sad for an adult, but I think it tends to be less so for younger readers.
Via writer Susan Henderson aka @LitPark on twitter: "When my boys were that age, they loved The Mysterious Benedict Society." And another: "Oh, and Terry Pratchett's Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Not long after, they got into Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series." [I read one of the Benedict books in the year that I read 316 children's books for the NBA-YPL. And I liked it. Author: Trenton Lee Stewart.] Henderson is also in the comments below.
Writer Kim Beall put in a vote for Tolkien's LOTR in the comments, and I think what she says reflects what I said above: it's a different narrative for a child than for an adult. One of Ellen Kushner's Sound and Spirit episodes muses on that thought as well. LOTR pops up here and there in her series. And there is a show on music inspired by LOTR (episode 5048.)
Peter in Wales: "Some violence in [Hergé's] Tintin, of an adventurous kind, but certainly NO sex. YA wasn't definite genre in my day, but other read-them-all favourites at 8+ were Arthur Ransome, Hugh Lofting, Asterix, Tove Jannson. And I know Clive would add Alan Garner. Too young for Pullman?" [I would suppose so, at least for the third volume of the trilogy.] "The trilogy's the thing with Pullman. [Note: One of my children read the trilogy and liked the first two books but not the third. The complaint was that the third should have been two books and that it had too much anti-Christian axe-grinding.] Lofting wrote Dr Dolittle, a very different person than either of the film versions. A rarer favourite were 2 children's books by Eric Linklater - Pirates in the Deep Green Sea and Wind on the Moon. None yet re-read with modern sensitivities."
Writer and book reviewer Nancy G. Pate: Great list with many of my favorites. My [Untermeyer's] Golden Poetry, like yours, is falling apart. Smiled at that pic. I’d add Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Still reread it.
I thought about Susan Cooper and dithered about whether The Dark is Rising books were the right age. (She was on our 2012 NBA-YPL judging board, and I liked her very much and reread the whole TDIR series after we met.) Maybe that's because I was older when I read them. I guess that's one where I would think about my child, and whether they might enjoy them more at a slightly older age.
Writer and professor Jessica Hooten Wilson: "I was glad to see Roald Dahl—I’ve been reading his books aloud to my 3 and 4 yr olds."