The Winner Is In for Desert Island Books

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 14, 2017

Last week, I challenged readers to narrow down their ‘desert island’ choices for picture book, middle grade, and young adult titles, just one book per category. In case you missed it, the guidelines for the contest—and more importantly, the responses—are here. All participants were entered into a drawing for a grand prize, where the winner receives autographed first editions of M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand, Alison McGhee’s Pablo & Birdy, and Katherine Paterson’s My Brigadista Year. And the winner is:

Ha! Not so fast. First, I want to thank everyone who played the game. It’s a tough one; so many favorite, worthy books, and yet, which ones would hold up to a lifetime of re-reading? Your responses were fabulous! Peppered among the classics were unusual titles, new titles, books from living authors both young and old, and others from authors long gone before us. One reader was clever enough to name a book she hasn’t read yet — I didn’t think of that permutation, and admire that brio and leap of faith. I especially loved reading the comments from those of you who added notes about why the books you chose were your favorites. Thank you, thank you all!
Now, since there is no possible way to award the prize based on merit, we did a drawing. Below is the video unveiling of the winner, followed by a list of all of the books people chose. You’ll notice that MG and YA are rather fluid categories; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and A Wrinkle in Time were found in both categories. (It would have been silly to disqualify anyone from the contest simply for applying a different age label than I would have, so everyone who sent in entries was in the drawing.) And now, the winner….

Here’s the list of the books people chose as their desert-island favorites. Titles mentioned more than once have numbers in parentheses to show how many people listed them as favorites. Happy reading!
All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson and Katherine Tillotson
Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn
Archie and the Pirates by Marc Rosenthal
A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Charlotte and the Quiet Place by Deborah Sosin, illustrated by Sara Woolley
Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin and John Archambault, illus. by Lois Ehlert
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (illustrated either by Tasha Tudor or Brian Wildsmith)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett
The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward, illustrated by Marjorie Flack
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Flotsam by David Wiesner (2)
Fortunately by Remy Charlip
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, illustrated by Ruth Krauss
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg
The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole
 by Lori Nichols
Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jill Barton
The Red Bird by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Marit Trnqvist
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Stephen Gammell 
Richard Scarry’s Busy Town

Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine by Evaline Ness
Staying Home Alone on a Rainy Day by Chihiro Iwasaki
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold,
Tea with Milk by Allen Say
Traction Man Is Here! by Mini Grey
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (6)
Where’s Wallace? by Hilary Knight
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams (2)
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (2)
Dear Mr. Henshaw
by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn
Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (2)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (8)
How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks
Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne-Jones (2)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2)
Journey to the River Sea
by Eva Ibbotson
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
by Roald Dahl
The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban originally; recently re-illustrated by David Small 
My Father’s Dragon
 by Ruth Stiles Gannett
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren
Sally’s Family
by Gwendoline Courtney
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 
retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
The Secret Island
by Enid Blyton
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle by David Elliot
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (7)
DESERT ISLAND YOUNG ADULT BOOKS (Note: some books chosen by contestants as YA are considered MG in the trade)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball
Alanna: The First Adventure
by Tamora Pierce
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
by Judy Blume
Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura E. Williams .
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2)
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell (3)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Going Bovine
 by Libba Bray
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Grasshopper Jungle
by Andrew Smith
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (8 total nominations)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Jacob Have I Loved
by Katherine Paterson
Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Nothing but the Truth by Avi
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (2)
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
by Daphne du Maurier
The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch
The Scorpio Races
 by Maggie Stiefvater
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
by Robin McKinley
Son by Lois Lowry
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner
Watership Down by Richard Adams
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (7 total nominations)

3 thoughts on “The Winner Is In for Desert Island Books

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      I did notice that, too, Monica. I suspect it’s because many people who responded are around my age (that is, middle) and are drawing from beloved childhood books from decades ago that fed their souls, and the list of diverse titles was soooooo much narrower then. Whenever you ask someone to name a favorite book, it’s often one from childhood. When the kids of today grow up and name their desert island books four decades from now, the list will be pretty different (though some will remain)!

  1. Carol B. Chittenden

    Aack! How did I miss the contest? (oh, never mind…) I would have to insist on including Leo Lionni’s Frederick. Such an elegant explanation of why stories and poetry are important when it’s hardest to survive.


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