1.The Phantom Tollbooth–Norton Juster
This was my favorite book growing up and it still rates in my top 20 book list. It is hilarious, well-written, has a relatable main character, and has some great object lessons. The plot: Milo draws ink sketches and one day he creates a tollbooth and drives through. He lands on the island of Conclusions. Then he ends up embroiled in a war of words and numbers between brothers King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis. Milo is joined by the ticking watchdog Tock and an adult-size Humbug. Along the way Milo rescues the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and learns to embrace life. This is another book I would love see as a live action film. The animated one was alright.
2. Peter Pan–JM Barrie
Call me later; I am on my way to Neverland! I admit it; I really wanted to be a Lost Boy for a brief period in my childhood. Either that, or Peter himself. This is a classic tale about Peter Pan, the boy who won’t grow up; Captain Hook, the nefarious pirate; Tinker Bell, the fairy; and Wendy, John, and Michael, the Darling children tempted away by Peter. The Darling children and Peter then embark on a series of misadventures through Neverland. This is a story every child can relate with. Most children yearn for the freedom of never ending childhood at least once. The Disney animated film is a classic and follows the book pretty well. The 2003 live action film was great as well; it was also the first time Peter Pan was played by a boy on screen. For some reason Peter is traditionally portrayed by a female on screen.
3. Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH– Robert C. O’Brien
Another childhood classic, this one about talking rats. Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four small offspring and must move immediately or die by lawnmower. However, her youngest son is deathly ill with pneumonia and cannot be moved. Fortunately, she meets the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary group of highly intelligent creatures. Together they solve Mrs. Frisby’s dilemma and sweep her off into a rousing adventure. This is an imaginative and engrossing story. While rats are not my favorite rodent, they are painted in a good light in this story. The story deals with family, ethics, politics, and survival. I was not too keen on the sequels, they were not as well written. I highly recommend this book.
4. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory–Roald Dahl
The 1974 film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, is the only film adaption worth watching. Gene Wilder is a more believable Willy Wonka than Johnny Depp. Anyways, penniless Charlie Bucket lives with his impoverished family. Charlie is fascinated with the chocolatier Willy Wonka and his Grandpa Joe tells him stories about the mythical chocolate factory. One day Charlie finds a Golden Ticket and wins a trip to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory along with four other children. What follows is a magical adventure through the factory, with each child meeting different fates. This is an enjoyable read and teaches a lesson about the pitfalls of greed, gluttony, selfishness, and pettiness.
5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland–Lewis Carroll
This is probably the weirdest book on this list. Alice, a child from a Victorian family, falls through a rabbit hole. She lands in the mystical realm of Wonderland and end sup crossing paths with the evil Red Queen. Along the way, she stumbles through the forest with the unpredictable Chesire Cat as a guide. Alice is considered to be one of the best novels published in the literary nonsense genre. The narrative deals with twisted logic and bizarre philosophy, making it popular among adults and children. The story is a classic and everyone should read it at least once. The Disney movie is a childhood classic. If you crave a more bizarre adaption, Tim Burton’s 2010 adaption should fit the bill.