What children's book do you recommend for our summer list of good reading?

On Cross Country Checkup:
Do you remember reading under the covers with a flashlight? Perhaps you still do!
We want to hear about your favorite children's books for a special compilation of Checkup's summer list of good reading.

What books did you enjoy reading as a kid, and what ones do you read to your own children?
And what do you recommend - if you actually are a kid?

With guest host Susan McReynolds, Sunday on Cross Country Checkup.

The book list can be found here.


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It's that time of the year when Cross Country Checkup compiles one of our lists of good reading -- books you've enjoyed that you'd like to recommend to other listeners.

This summer we thought we'd focus on children's books: books read under the covers by flashlight, or books read aloud to us by parents, or books we read to our own children.

As a child growing up in Dublin, where we regularly tripped over memorials to one literary genius or another, it was impossible not to be aware of our glorious written culture. That didn't stop us firing Yeats and his classic Irish fairytales over our shoulder in our rush to buy up every word the Very British Enid Blyton had ever published.

It was what my entire generation grew up with.

The Famous Five, The Secret Seven -- school life well away from parents at St. Clare's and Malory Towers, where education was squeezed in between midnight feasts. It all sounded so great. English kids had it so much better than we did. When the Famous Five got trapped in a cave and chased by the baddies - all the while in a race against an incoming tide, someone always found a half-bar of chocolate in their pocket that they had forgotten about. It staved off the hunger and at the height of the drama, it was code for everything was going to be okay.

Irish kids admired that. A bar of chocolate was a rare treat - always demolished in one go. That lessened the risk of having to share it. The idea of forgetting you had it in the first place was alien. We had a sneaking regard for their cool approach.

And ginger beer. There was always buckets of that flowing. Regardless of the endless smugglers, thieves and haunted trains, the Five always found a bottle of ginger beer. Irish kids never knew what exactly it was. We certainly never tasted it. But it was part of what the Famous Five were all about, so we carried on like we never drank anything else.

The strange thing is that Enid Blyton had finished writing the last of the Famous Five before I was even born. Fast forward to today and two things have happened. Enid Blyton has come under heavy criticism for what some have called her dated, sexist and racist assumptions - all probably quite true when we scrutinize her under a modern lens. The other thing is that even today, her books remain as popular as ever. How do we account for that, when there are countless great writers who focus on the literary needs of children and teens?

And that is what we want to hear from you today. What stood out for you in your childhood reading and how do you put your finger on the reason why it has endured for you?

We live in a different literary landscape now with the runaway success of the likes of the Harry Potter series. It has defined what childhood reading is about for another generation. And it wasn't just the kids. Harry Potter has also managed to hook a real cross section of adults who found their own sacred space in Rowling's intricate fantasy world.

We want to hear from you, whether you are an adult or a child. What books, or what author defined your childhood? As an adult, do you still go back to them? Do you still have dusty copies on your shelves that you simply would not part with? And what do you read to your children? Did you manage to pass your tastes on or has having them opened another whole childhood world to you?

And kids, pick up that phone and let us know what you read, why you read it and we'll pass it on to our listeners. Your choice could be the next great read for someone on the other side of the country.

And what about audio books? Is there a favorite version of a story you've heard read aloud either by the author or by an actor?

Our question today: What is your favorite children's book to recommend for our summer list of good reading?"

I'm Susan McReynolds ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Alice Moore
    Children's librarian at the Bloor/Gladstone Branch of the Toronto Public Library

  • Polly Horvath
    Author of 13 books for the 8-12 year old age groups. Her book Everything on a Waffle was a Newbery Honor book. Her latest book, Mr. amd Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire was published in February 2012. And she has a new book, One Year in Coal Harbor expected out in September.

  • Kenneth Oppel
    Author of 16 books. He won the Governor General's Award for his book Airborn and his latest book, The Dark Endeavour, was published just last year is expected to be made into a motion picture.

  • Mélanie Watt
    Author and illustrator. She is best known for her Scaredy Squirrel series about a rather fretful squirrel who over prepares for everything in life. A cartoon has been made on the series and she will add to the series with her upcoming book, Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas, which is due out in October.



The Globe and Mail

The Guardian

The New York Times

The Toronto Public Library

The Canadian Children's Book Centre

Children's Books Guide

Reading Rockets - Award Winning Kids' Books


I have two children. One has just finished Grade Three and the other has just finished Grade One. I read to them, and they read to me, on a daily basis.

From books I use for my children to read to me, I would particularly recommend the Usborne Young Reading series. There are three levels of increasing reading difficulty in this series. Many of the books in the series are adaptations of classics such as Dickens, Dumas and Shakespeare. There are also non-fiction books, on matters such as electricity and the history of ancient Rome. This potentially dry subject matter is dealt with in a manner that is appealing to children, including the use of colourful illustrations on every page. These books have been wonderful not only in providing reading practice for my children, but also in getting them interested in literature, history and science.

From books I read to my children, I would highly recommend The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. This series of books covers human history from ancient times until the end of the twentieth century in four volumes. It is appropriate for reading to children starting in about Grade Three and covers the material in a way that both engages and informs children.

Toronto, Ontario


My name is Jonathan Stranberg, and I am a Canadian, who is now living and teaching in Seoul, South Korea. There are several children's books which I love, and do use to teach my young elementary-school students. Both the students and myself love Where The Wild Things Are and Ferdinand the Bull.  Of these two, my favourite is Ferdinand the Bull written by Munro Leaf and brilliantly and accurately illustrated by Robert Lawson.

There are several reasons why I love this book and teaching it to students. The most important reason is the theme of accepting oneself for who one is. This story does teach the value of being true to oneself and one's values, and following one's heart. It also demonstrates the futility of trying to please others and meeting their unreasonable expectations.

Ferdinand displays the truth of doing what one believes in, and the peace and contentment which he enjoys by following his own heart. He finds peace and contentment by simply enjoying the scent of flowers while lying beneath a favourite cork tree.

Ferdinand, like all of us, reacts to difficult and painful situations in a manner which does not reflect our true nature. In times of great pain, we all react in unexpected ways. These reactions are not who we truly are, and need to be only regarded as reactions to pain. It could be compared to soldiers returning from combat suffering from PTSD, and a whole variety of other life experiences.

Finally, I think this book has something to teach the parents of the children reading it. Ferdinand's mother does worry about him behaving differently than the other bulls, however, she accepts the fact he is happy doing what he does, sniffing flowers. She accepts his behaviour rather than attempting to change it. This is a valuable lesson to all parents. Accept your children for who they are.

Love the program and bring back RCI! Best wishes and hope the weather is pleasant all over the country, especially for my parents, Claude and Magda, heading to the cottage today.

Jon Stranberg
Seoul, South Korea


Just wanted to say that I have enjoyed the recent shows of CCC. Don't think that I've heard the Harper Government mentioned once. What a joy!

Jim Hoover
Calgary, Alberta


When my son was young, we loved hearing my husband reading Canadian author Gordon Korman out loud while we did the dishes. The shenanigans of the children at camp and private schools were hilarious and I still giggle when I think about them today.

Cathy Janke
Sylvan lake, Alberta


It was interesting to hear you speak of Enid Blyton. She was my favourite author and as a child I had all her books as well as annuals of short stories which I have to this day! I did take out one of my Famous Five books the other day but thay no longer capture me as they did then. I was never a fan of fantasy fiction so the Famous Five were real to me and as a child I  wanted to be part of a gang and have those adventures. My father loved The Wind in the Willows but talking animals never appealed. My other favourites were about girls and their ponies and girls at boarding schools (all these books took place in England) I left there as a child but always wanted to be back.
I can't remember any particular books I read to my children or grandchildren, tastes were quite eclectic. However they always get a book from me for any occasion and sometimes for no reason in particular. The family joke is "We know we'll get a book from Nana"!

Montreal, Quebec


One of my favourites was The Secret World of Og, by Pierre Berton. It is a children's adventure fantasy, and I still have a 1961 print copy. Pierre Berton wrote this for his children. It has children characters, who have an imaginary adventure going to an adventure land through the trap door of their playhouse. I was lucky to live a few blocks from our local library where I was a regular visitor. We did accumulate a fairly substantial number of our books at home, as we often received books as gifts, and my father regularly purchased the small 'golden' books which were sold in the grocery stores during the 1960's. Thanks for bringing back these great memories.

Jennifer Meadows-Schachter
Blackfalds, Alberta

Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White and illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg. Humour, Lilliputians, orphans, English countryside... What could be better?

Doug Brown
New Westminster, British Columbia


We often forget how much reading and literature shape us as people. Even though I'm only 16, there's one series that has shaped my interests and passions more than any other. I started to read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prarie books when I was six, and it quickly grew into an obsession with pioneers and history and those who came before us. Without reading these incredible stories, I would be a very different person.

Adrienne Tessier
Winnipeg, Manitoba 


This past school year, our family discovered the Airborne trilogy by Kenneth Oppel. It concerns a teenage boy, Matt Cruse, in an alternate past where international travel takes place by airship. Matt works on one of these ships and the series follows him on fantastic adventures.  Despite the fact that the protagonist is a boy, my ten-year-old daughter loved the stories and my husband and I found ourselves fighting over whose turn it was to read to her at bedtime.

Vanessa Seto
Ancaster, Ontario


I have always loved listening to books read aloud. With our current technology I have been able to take advantage of the audio books offered through my library. My two top picks, if not currently on your list, truly must be added.  The first is the Narnia series. It is so well done. The second is Louis A. Meyer's Bloody Jack's Adventures. Especially the audio version by Katherine Kellgren. Kellgren's talent is astounding as she provides voice for a plethora of colourful characters.

Heather Collar
Ft. MacLeod, Alberta


I still have the first cookbook I got when I was about eight years old. And I loved one of my brother's books, and when it was lost I bought a new copy a few years ago online (about 15 years after it disappeared). I have them both right here, I don't think the cookbook's title is too important but the book is Fire-Hunter by Jim Kjelgaard, who also wrote Big Red, which was made into a Disney movie.

Janice Packard
New Liskeard, Ontario


I have read both of these Canadian books to my Grade 7 and 8 classes and the students loved them. Borderline by Allan Stratton is set in upstate New York as well as the 1,000 Islands. The main character's father is a research scientist who escaped from Iran as a child. As an adult he is subjected to racial profiling. The main character does not accept that his father is a terrorists and sets off to prove his father's innocence. The second book is No Safe Place by Deborah Ellice. This book tells the tales of four illegal migrant teenagers fleeing across Europe as they try to reach England. In both cases, my students loved the human rights themes as well as the adventure and suspense. We had great class discussions about human rights and relationships.



I recommend Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor winning books. These are the best of American literature written for young people selected by the American Library Association in a given year. I have read many of these books and have enjoyed every one. They are mostly meant for tweens on up. Adults will also find them to be a great read (as I do). One bonus is that the books are usually shorter than most adult novels so they are good for people who have busy schedules. I often save them to read during the school year as I am a teacher and the school year is often very hectic. Just because they are written for younger readers does not in any way make them less sophisticated than adult novels, and many are highly emotional reads that leave me near tears at the end of the story. Some are also hilariously funny (Holes by Louis Sachar, for example).

I highly recommend Sharon Creech's Newbery-winning book Walk Two Moons, as well as her other novels (Absolutely Normal Chaos, Bloomability and Chasing Redbird). They are about relationships and personal struggles and growth.

I also recommend the Newbery-winning A Year Down Yonder, and the Newbery Honored sequel, A Long Way From Chicago, both by Richard Peck.

Randy Goldman
Mississauga, Ontario


I remember the first chapter book I ever read, it was These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I was in Grade three. I fell in love with this book and went on to read all the books in this series, and in fact saved all my allowance money to purchase the whole series which I read to my nine-year-old daughter last year. She loved them as much as I did. I have to say, the writing is fantastic and has really stood the test of time.

Sheril Gelmon
Vancouver, British Columbia


My favourite book series is Warriors by Erin Hunter. It's about four different clans of cats. Each clan has a different talent, which causes them to fight. The clans have to go through many obsticals in life, such as moving to a different home, or defending their camp from enemies. There are different cats in the clans. There are medicine cats ( who take care of the sick), queens, (cats who have kittens), the leader and apprentices ( warriors in training) and a deputy (the cat who becomes the leader if the former leader dies.) I like how this book is written from the point of view of a few different characters. It's a very exciting series, with 24 books in all. I started reading this series when I was nine years old. I am 12 years old now and I still love them.

Eve S.
Calgary, Alberta


If we're talking about pre-teens, just about anything by the marvelous Canadian children's author Ken Roberts is worth your child's time. Hiccup Champion of the World, Pop Bottles, Nothing Wright and Past Tense were all favourites around our household.

For those somewhat younger, the late Dayal Kaur Khalsa's books are full of whimsy, brightly-coloured illustrations and heart-warming remembrances of a child's view of the world. Not just fun things to read, all her books will be bonding experiences with your child.

Mark Hammer
Ottawa, Ontario


I have been surrounded by books for as long as I can remember. One of my favourite books as a child was Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This book holds so many memories both bitter and sweet. My Mum and I read it to Dad when he lay in a coma having undergone an abdominal, aortic aneurysm. The nurses passing by would listen to us, and we told Dad there would be a quiz later when he woke up. He did recover, and we had him for almost 20 years after this. Three months before he died, I read it to my Mum who also was in ICU in a medically-induced coma. She did not recover.

I cherish this copy of Wind in the Willows, and while I have a hard time reading it now, it is so intrinsically linked to my parents and all the love of books that they instilled in me, that I will treasure it before passing it on to my niece or nephew eventually.

Thanks for evoking some strong memories.

Jacquie Fisher
Hamilton, Ontario


I would like to recommend Irish Chain by Barbara Harworth Attard. As a mother of three very different boys I was surprised to watch as all three of them read and enjoyed this book. It is a story of Rose, a girl growing up in Halifax in the early 20th Century. She suffers from dyslexia and has been held back twice in school. She derives some sense of self by her connection to the family stories that are linked to each piece of fabric in a family quilt. When the Halifax explosion occurs her life is radically changed and she finds her own way to survive and thrive in the midst of a disaster both personal and societal. A lovely read.

Thanks for this!

Jane Sly
Ottawa, Ontario


When I was a kid we had age-appropriate summer reading lists (elementary and secondary) where we were expected to read a minimum of ten of them during summer holidays. Parents gave regular reminders to ensure we kept up the pace. We were expected to provide an index card book report, including title, author, publisher and a few lines of text to capture the plot, setting and how well we may have enjoyed the book. I still recall struggling through The Cain Mutiny. Let's just say it was a right of passage. Summer reading kept me out of trouble too, but that is another story.

John Grogan
Robson Valley East, British Columbia


I have read and loved many books both as a child and as an adult. I especially enjoy young adult books. I'm not sure if someone else has already discussed it but there is a series by L.A. Meyer called Bloody Jack and it tells the story of an adventurous orphan girl from 19th Century London who roams the high seas. It is one of the best audio book series I've ever heard as the actor has a unique voice for each character. An excellent set of books for young adults!

Kathy Feebick
Edmonton, Alberta


I am ten years old and I love to read by myself and with my family. I love the Dear Canada series, which is a historical series about Canadian girls or girls who are becoming Canadians. Some of the books are very sad, but really well written. One is even about my hometown (Days of Toil and Tears, by Sarah Ellis). I also enjoyed the Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi. 

My favourite audio book is Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. The reader is really, really good and he does all the voices, even better than my Mum. My parents like to read us fantastic adventure stories, like The Sea of Trolls, Sean Cullen's Prince of Neither Here nor There, A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup and Bully Boys, about the War of 1812, by Eric Walters.

Isla W.
Clayton, Ontario


I would like to recommend the children's book The Last of the Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. This is a fantastical book about the search for the Whangdoodle, which has nearly become extinct because people have stopped believing in it. Three children, along with their professor, enter a magical land where they meet mystical figures, fight battles and ultimately... well, you'll have to read it to find out how it ends. My son, who was nine when I read it, loved it. Our reading sessions always ended with "can you read one more chapter?"

Kim Thiessen
Winnipeg, Manitoba


I'm Tess and I'm seven years old. I recommend Tuck Everlasting. It's about a family that drinks from a spring and gets everlasting life. They don't want other people to know about the spring because there's a cycle of life.  Everyone has to die - if they don't, there won't be any new people in the world.

I also like Judy Blume and her books about Fudge because they're funny and very interesting. Those are my recommendations.


Tess B. (typed with the help of her mother)
Brampton, Ontario


I would like to recommend most highly The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea. I read it to my children when they were about seven and ten and they absolutely loved it, as did I. It's about a young brother and sister on a magical quest to stop the evil Morrigan from destroying the world. This book is highly imaginative and hilariously funny, not to mention hair-raisingly scary as the children are pursued across Ireland by the vicious hounds. I hope you will put this on your list. It's quite something!

Elisabeth Maclaren


A book that I have just loved is Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.  This book was written in 1952 and yet it still holds a child's interest. I know this because I have read this aloud to my Grade 4 or 5 classes for the past few years. Every time that it was read the students claimed it was the best book ever. It is exciting as it features a young girl's survival story.

Irene Williams
Smithers, British Columbia