Your Desert Island Children’s Books — With a Grand Prize

Elizabeth Bluemle -- November 7th, 2017

We’ve all played the desert island game, haven’t we? The game where you name three books (or movies, or foods, etc.) that you would bring to a desert island if that’s all you had for the rest of your life. When the category is books, I always try to cheat and count my Riverside Shakespeare as one book, even though it’s a two-volume boxed set and isn’t fair because it contains ALL OF SHAKESPEARE. Sometimes, I get away with it, but now that I’m the judge, and there’s a big prize, that won’t fly. Want to know what you’ll win? Autographed first editions of three fabulous 2017 titles: Katherine Paterson’s My Brigadista Year, M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand, and Alison McGhee’s Pablo and Birdy.

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Here are the rules:

For this game, you get to choose your three desert island children’s books.

Choose one picture book, one MG and one YA title. Any genre (nonfiction, fiction, poetry) is fine as long as each age is represented.

Books are standalone titles or single volumes in a series; you can’t choose omnibus books that package an entire series into a single volume.

Books do not have to be currently in print. This is a desert island with a great used and rare supplier (who is under a spell and can only grant you three books for the duration of your stay).

There must be at least 10 contestants for the drawing to happen, so loop your friends into the contest if you want a chance to win those autographed gems!

This challenge is trickier than it seems. Which books that you love reward repeated readings and continue to delight the mind and nourish the soul time and time again?

Post your titles (you can also wax rhapsodic about your choices, if you like) in the Comments. The deadline is Monday, November 13. One entry per person. All entrants will be entered in a drawing to win the big prize. I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, November 14 and send out the prize.

49 thoughts on “Your Desert Island Children’s Books — With a Grand Prize

  1. Laura Harrison

    pb: The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLachlan. It always makes me smile.
    mg: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am absolutely transported when I read this title.
    ya: Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene. An amazing work. Every page is interesting and thoughtful.

  2. LeeAnn Rizzuti

    Flotsam by David Wiesner
    From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
    Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

  3. Elizabeth

    Picture Book- Maple By Lori Nichols
    Middle Grades- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
    Young Adult- Code Bane Verit by Elizabeth Wein

  4. Daniel Fergus Tamulonis

    What a great idea; if only to gain insight and inspiration from other dedicated and thoughtful readers. Thank you!
    picture book: The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant. I read this every year to my first graders in the Bronx and every page, every picture, sparks such curiosity, questions, delight, and discussion.
    middle grade: The Mouse and His Child: so much is said and unsaid in this masterwork. I think about it’s tough gentle, wisdom almost daily.
    ya: The Sword in the Stone: a masterpiece of the simplicity, in all its complicated wonder, of growing up.

  5. Anne

    PB: Staying Home Alone on a Rainy Day by Chihiro Iwasaki
    MG: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
    YA: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

    I love each one for so many reasons. They pull on my heart, no matter what.

  6. Michelle

    My choices:
    Picture book: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    Middle Grade: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    Young Adult: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

  7. Samantha

    picture book- Where the Wild Things are
    MG- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    YA title- Blood and Chocolate

    These books were important to my childhood and I reread them once a year. They are necessary to my existence.

  8. Sandra Roy

    My picture book choice would be Stevenson’s A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES, illustrated either by Tasha Tudor, or Brian Wildsmith. What a wide world in which to lose myself. I might learn all the poems by heart, and even start to draw.
    My middle grade choice is THE LOST CONSPIRACY by Frances Hardinge. This is the most unexpected and surprising story, filled with unknown mythologies and landscapes, featuring the bravest child hero in literature, bizarre death rituals, secret societies, a daring rescue, sisterly love and resentment, and ultimately, a revolution. The book has a shell-like intricacy, with whorls and hollows and undiscovered spirals, smooth, creamy, with the sharp bite of unseen edges. A masterpiece.
    Finally, for YA, I choose what for me is THE perfect book, Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I can read and reread this book dozens of times, and never grow fatigued or dulled. The magnificence and splendor of the language leaves me breathless, and the settings, ideas, philosophies, and characters thrill and delight me. I might have to smuggle Milton’s PARADISE LOST to read alongside, but I’ll keep that secret. When Iorek Byrnison’s blood splashes on Lyra’s coat, during a fight to the death, she presses her hand against it like a love token. Vivid, passionate, lyrical, epic, daring and filled with a million varieties of love.

  9. Sally Steinheider

    My favorite picture book that I could read over and over is Where the Wild Things are by Sendak, my M.G. book would be The Doll Garden, by Hahn, and my favorite Y.A. title is Behind the Bedroom Wall, by Williams .

  10. David LaRochelle

    Like others, my three choices might change in an hour, but at the moment they would be:

    Picture book: RATTLETRAP CAR by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jill Barton

    Middle Grade: DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary

    Young Adult: NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Avi

  11. Heather Bauman

    Celilo’s picks
    Picture Book: A Birthday For Frances, by Russell Hoban
    Middle Grades: How to Catch a Bogle, by Catherine Jinks
    YA: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

    Rowan’s picks
    Picture Book: How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, by Russell Hoban & Quinten Blake tied with The Red Bird, by Astrid Lindgren
    Middle Grades: Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren tied with Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
    YA: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank tied with Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    Heather’s picks
    Picture Book: A Chair for my Mother, by Vera Williams
    Middle Grade: The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren
    YA: Son, by Lois Lowry

    The girls and I are hoping that we can be on the same island, so we can share books… cause this is too hard!!

  12. Vicki Palmquist

    All Ears, All Eyes (Richard Jackson and Katherine Tillotson)
    The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)
    The Thief (Megan Whalen Turner)

  13. Rebekah M.

    PB: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
    MG: The Phantom Tollbooth
    YA: City of Bones

    If I actually was going to a desert island, I would bargain for at least 5 picture books!

  14. Glenda H

    My desert island books would be…

    PB: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It’s the first book I remember reading over and over.
    MG: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I can look at the pictures and read the story over and over.
    YA: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. This story touches my heart.

  15. Shaunterria Owens

    PB – Room on the Broom: I just love the cadence of rhyming in this story, and the adorable ending. I have read it too many times to count, and I am still not tired of it.
    MG – Matilda: I guess I have a thing for strong female protagonists or something, who would’ve thought? Anyhow, this book is another that I’ve read time and time again and it still makes me laugh and cheer like it’s the first time.
    YA – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: I know this is not an original choice, but I really don’t care. I remember the first time I read it, and feeling like I’d gotten my own letter to Hogwarts. Immensely re-readable, no matter where I was stranded I would be in good company with this book.

  16. Heidi Rabinowitz

    OK, I’ll have a go.

    PB- Where’s Wallace? by Hilary Knight (the much better predecessor of Where’s Waldo; the pictures can keep you busy for hours)
    MG- The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
    YA- Watership Down by Richard Adams

  17. Cindy Erle

    Picture Book: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Middle Grade: The Tale of Despereau by Kate DiCamillo
    YA: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

  18. Katharine Kan

    PB – Horton Hears a Who – first book I read all by myself in 1st grade, and I do read it at least once a year
    MG – Howl’s Moving Castle
    YA – Shadows by Robin McKinley

    All of these are books I reread and love every single time.
    As someone else said, ask me tomorrow, I’ll have different books.

    1. Marla Scherber

      Picture Book: The Little Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by DuBose Hayward–the pictures make me happy.
      Middle Grade: The Black Stallion–It’s a classic horse story for the classic horse-crazed kid.
      YA–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s a no-brainer. It’s the one that started them all.

  19. Sue Fendrick

    Picture: Giraffes Can’t Dance.
    Middle-Grade: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler.
    Young Adult: Johnny Tremain.

  20. Debbie Vilardi

    Because I’ll need to be reminded of other times and places and let my imagination fly:

    Picture book: The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole
    Middle Grade: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
    Young Adult: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

  21. Donna Gephart

    1. PB — Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, because I’ll need to laugh
    2. MG — Bridge to Terabithia, because I’ll need to cry
    3. YA — The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, because I read it ten years ago and still can’t stop thinking about it.

  22. Vicki J

    Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn
    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

    Wait another hour, and I’ll change my mind…

  23. Elizabeth Doyle Carey

    Picture Book– Richard Scarry’ Busy Town. (Relaxing and nostalgic to read and lots to look at.)
    MG–The Secret Island by Enid Blyton (not only my favorite MG book but also a primer on how to survive on an island)
    YA– The Revolution of Marina M (forthcoming so I have not read it, and it just got great reviews and it is massive so will keep me occupied until I get saved)

  24. Alli Brydon

    YAY! This is fun:

    PB: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, because I could read that aloud over and over again and never get bored
    MG: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, because it’s the first book I read as a kid that really exercised my imagination
    YA: Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith, because it makes you laugh out loud and kinda feel OK about the end of the world, which is what I imagine you’d need on a desert island.

  25. Lynn Becker

    PB–Tar Beach, by Faith Ringgold, MG–Howl’s Moving Castle, by Dianna Wynne-Jones, YA–Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater.
    You’re tough–when I play this game, I allow myself ten books!

  26. Lonnie Elliott

    Here are my choices:
    The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

  27. Amy

    Oh, oh, oh. This is so hard.

    PB: Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
    MG: My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
    YA: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  28. Julie Robichaux

    I’ll play!

    Picture book: TRACTION MAN IS HERE, by Mini Grey. My kids outgrew it long ago, but I think I never will.

    Middle-grade book: HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, by J.K. Rowling. I love it as much for what it represents — a new renaissance in reading! — as I love it for itself.

    Young adult book: Have to represent for my man Holden: THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, by J.D. Salinger. There’s just so much in it. Some of it I explicitly understood at my first reading; some of it I’m still putting together.

    Fun idea for a contest. Thanks!

  29. Lauren Barrett

    Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendack – Rambuctious kid, friendly hungry scary monsters, happy ending.

    Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell – My first, and still one of my favorite, scary story anthologies. The illustrations make this title.

    Acorna, by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball – Three space miners and an alien baby who grows into a young woman and battles corrupt politicians who use child labor in their space mines. Shelved in adult sci-fi, but I think qualifies as young adult.

  30. Hunter

    While on an island… I’d reread…
    Charlotte in the Quiet Place by Deb Sosin
    The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle by David Elliot
    The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation On Trial Susan Goodman

  31. Tessa M

    Picture book – Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
    Middle Grade – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
    YA – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  32. Charlotte

    I’m in! thanks!

    For my picture book-Archie and the Pirates, by Marc Rosenthal–desert island inspiration, plus this was my son’s favorite, so it will bring warm fuzzies
    Middle grade–Sally’s Family, by Gwendoline Courtney. Long out of print story of a family making a home for themselves after WW II. Pity I already know it by heart
    YA –Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner. Not my favorite of the series, but I haven’t memorized it yet and ,it will help me remember the earlier books

  33. Anna Tamis

    Fortunately by Remy Charlip
    The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
    A Wrinkle In Time- Madeleine L’Engle

    Each of these books tells story through words, and also illustrations or in the case of A Wrinkle in Time, form fully in your imagination. The act of turning each page (or reading through a description) and seeing the story appear in detailed illustrations keep the stories fresh each and every time they are read.

  34. Giselle

    My board book would be my son’s favorite “The Pout Pout Fish”; MG book – Wonder, & YA book- “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret , Judy Blume (my favorite).

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