MamaNYS’s 1990 Children’s Books
Top 15 Kids Books List from the ’90s!
I have recently found myself getting all nostalgic about 1990 children’s books with my son… Although some may beg to differ, I personally loved being a product of the 90’s! With 6-years spent in the 80’s, I guess you could say I was a decade jumper. The bulk of the childhood that I can actually remember (between ages 6 and 15) did occur during the 1990’s. Yes, I do wish I was born earlier (and later) so that I could have experienced other decades, but it is what it is! I am a product of half of the 80’s and mostly the 90’s!
There is a lot of history, nostalgia, and greatness to be remembered about the 90’s. Although I look back (and ahead) and feel like the other decades in history exhibited much more greatness, I guess the 90’s weren’t SO bad after all! We had toys like the authentic (original! I still love the original!) Polly Pocket, Tamagotchi, and who doesn’t remember POGS?!
I fell upon a picture of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which threw me head first into a look back in history. I read the same [new] books over and over to my son, but it’s rare that we pickup a copy of one of the childhood favorites that I used to enjoy as a kid during the 90’s. Therefore, I decided to put together a list of my favorite books growing up! I have picked up a copy of some books listed below to read with my son, but I can’t wait to complete this list and share the memories with my little boy!
Quite possibly my favorite book within my sons book collection, Love You Forever is a short book written by Robert Munsch and published in 1986. This adorable and loving book tells the story of an evolving relationship between a boy and his mother. As the story begins, a son has just been born. The story continues on through the life of the boy until he is a grown man. His mother continues to rock her son to sleep each night as she sings the same song:
"I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be."
Towards the end of the book, roles are reversed and the son holds his elderly mother and sings to her. . .
"I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be."
We have seen the mother raise her boy from baby to man, but we watch as she passes away at the end of the book. The next chapter in the sons life begins as he rocks his little girl to sleep; singing the same song that his mother used to sing to him.
Who didn’t own a copy of Where The Wild Things Are as a child? This 1963 children’s picture book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak was (and still is) a personal favorite, which I have shared time and time again with my son. The book had sold over 20 million copies worldwide, with 14+ million of those being in the United States.
One evening, Max decides to play around the house making "mischief" in a wolf costume. As punishment, his mother sends him to bed without supper. Suddenly, a mysterious, wild forest and sea grows out of his imagination inside of his bedroom, and Max sails to the land of the Wild Things. The Wild Things are fearsome-looking monsters, but Max proves to be the fiercest, conquering them by "staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once", and he is given the title: "the king of all wild things". Max finds himself lonely and homesick shortly thereafter. He returns home to his bedroom where he finds his supper waiting for him, still hot!
Amelia Bedelia is a fun story written by Peggy Parish 30 years ago, which has become a hilarious classic for children! The wild antics of this literal-minded but charming housekeeper was definitely one of my favorites during the 90’s! Her quirky terms and sayings such as "dust the furniture" and "dress a chicken" surely kept the pages turning while I was in elementary school! Features highly expressive illustrations featuring Amelia’s comical mishaps, which complement the light and humorous tone of each book!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children’s picture book originally pubished in 1969. It is designed, illustrated and written by Eric Carle. The book follows a caterpillar eating its way through a wide variety of food before pupating and emerging as a beautiful butterfly! This book has won many children’s literature awards and a major graphic design award.
The book starts with an egg on a leaf, in the light of the moon. Once the sun comes up, the tiny caterpillar emerges and begins to seek out food. As you flip through the pages, the caterpillar eats through a red apple, two green pears, three blue plums, four strawberries, and five oranges, which takes us from Monday to Friday.
Once Saturday rolls around, the caterpillar eats its way through many different foods: chocolate cake, ice-cream, a pickle, Swiss cheese, salami, a lollipop, cherry pie, a sausage, a cupcake, and a slice of watermelon. All of that food clearly gives the caterpillar a belly ache! He finally decides to eat through a single leaf, which makes him feel better on Sunday. He has transformed and grown into a large and lofty caterpillar as he forms a cocoon. The final pages of the book display a beautiful butterfly!
Where’s Waldo? is the title of the first of many in the Waldo book series, which released in 1987. The books continue to be a success with until this day, which were the result of more than two-years of detailed work by illustrator Martin Handford.
Where’s Waldo? introduces readers to Waldo, a man distinctively dressed in red and white stripes from top to bottom, as he sets off on "a world-wide hike". Waldo travels to everyday places – such as the beach, ski slopes and the zoo. The first book, Where’s Waldo, features 12 detailed 2-page illustrated spreads of the different locations. Waldo is ‘hidden’ somewhere in the crowd and readers are asked to scour the illustrations to locate the lost traveler. Each scene also features a postcard to the reader from Waldo, who introduces the scene and comments on his travels.
The Indian in the Cupboard is a children’s book by British author Lynne Reid Banks, and illustrated by Brock Cole. The book was first published in 1980 and has received numerous awards, as well as being made into a film in 1995!
A young boy, Omri, receives a cupboard from his brother, Gillon, for his birthday. He discovers a "magical" key that he uses to open the cupboard, which belonged to his great-grandmother. Once Omri turns the key, a plastic Native American figurine comes to life with the cupboard. The now-living Indian reveals his name as Little Bear. He is an Iroquois who lived in the 18th century.
Omri’s best friend, Patrick, finds out about the magic cupboard and decided to bring to life a cowboy, Boone. Despite the fights and rivalries between the two men, Patrick refuses to send them back until it is too late! Little Bear winds up hurting Boone with an arrow while they are watching an old western movie on the television.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is illustrated by Felicia Bond and written by Laura Numeroff. It is the tenth and best-known book written by Nomeroff. Its plot deals with a boy named Estuardo who gives a cookie to a mouse. After eating a cookie, the mouse has some milk. Then he decides to clean his face. This starts simply enough, but the mouse keeps getting distracted and is constantly moving on to other projects, leaving unfinished ones behind. In the end, this leads back around to the mouse wanting another cookie and Estuardo being so exhausted that he falls asleep on his desk. The book features two characters, a mouse and Estuardo. Neither character speaks, but their dialogue is reported indirectly by a narrator.
*The main character of this story, Mouse, appears in three others: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, If You Take a Mouse to School, and The Best Mouse Cookie.
Animalia is an illustrated children’s book by Graeme Base. It was published in 1986. Animalia is an alliterative alphabet book and contains twenty-six illustrations, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each illustration features an animal from the animal kingdom (A is for alligator, B is for butterfly, etc.) along with a short poem utilizing the letter of the page for many of the words.
The illustrations contain many other objects beginning with that letter that the reader can try to identify. As an additional challenge, the author has hidden a picture of himself as a child in every picture. In 1987, Animalia won the title of Honour Book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book. In 1996, a tenth anniversary edition was released.
A television series was also created, based on the book, which airs in the United States, Australia, Canada, the UK, Norway and Venezuela. It also airs on Minimax for the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The Berenstain Bears is a popular children’s book series created by Stan and Jan Berenstain. The books feature a family of bears who generally learn a moral or lesson in the course of each story. The Berensteins’ have published well over 300 titles since their 1962 debut of the first Berenstain Bears book, The Big Honey Hunt.
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junkfood was published in 1985. Mama Bear notices that her cub’s are eating too much junk food and their bad habits have caught up with them. Papa Bear has also fallen into the bad snacking habit as well!. Mama Bear decides to put all the sweets and junk food in the freezer, and start her family on a healthy diet. At the grocery store, The Bear family runs into their family doctor, Dr. Grizzly, who suggests they drop by her office.
Sarah, Plain and Tall is a children’s book written by Patricia MacLachlan, and winner of the 1986 Newbery Medal and 1986 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The novel is set in the western United States during the late 19th century. Jacob Witting is a widowed farmer who is still saddened by the death of his wife during childbirth several years earlier. He finds that the task of taking care of his farm and two children, Anna and Caleb, is too difficult to handle alone. Jacob writes an ad in the newspaper looking for a mail-order bride. Sarah, from Maine, answers his ad and travels out to become his wife!
There are five books in this series about the Witting family: Sarah, Plain and Tall; Skylark; Caleb’s Story; More Perfect Than the Moon; and Grandfather’s Dance. The first three books were actually the basis for three television movies titled Sarah, Plain and Tall; Skylark; Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End. The screenplay for each movie was written by MacLachlan.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Fairly Stupid Tales is a children’s book by Jon Scieszka, which was originally published in 1992. This book features a collection of twisted, humorous parodies of famous children’s stories and fairy tales, such as "Little Red Riding Hood", "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Gingerbread Man". Illustrated by Lane Smith, the book won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book award, was a Caldecott Honor book, and has also won numerous other awards in various countries.
The star of the book is Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, who narrates each of the stories and deals with the rest of the cast. There’s a very annoying Little Red Hen, which is a parody of the fairy tale of the same name – who complains about no one helping her make her bread. She also makes sure to whine because she doesn’t have a story in this book!
Chicken Licken believes that the sky is falling, but it is the table of contents tumbling on her head. The Stinky Cheese Man, a counterpart of The Gingerbread Man, is afraid to be near anyone because he thinks they will eat him . . . though they are really trying to get away from his horrid smell… A smell of dank cabbage!
The Way Things Work is a book by David Macaulay, which is intended to serve as a fairly entertaining introduction to everyday machines for children. The book discusses everything from levers and gears on the simpler side, but surely gains momentum as complicated machines, such as radio telescopes and automatic transmissions are explained.
I remember the most fascinating part of this book being the illustrations, which would easily captivate any child! Each page consists primarily of one or more large diagrams, which describe the operation of the relevant machine. These informative yet playful illustration mostly feature the internal workings of the machines being operated by woolly mammoths.
The book’s concept was later developed into a short-lived animated TV show (produced by Millimages and distributed by Schlessinger Media), a Dorling Kindersley interactive CD-ROM, and a board game. A family "ride" involving animatronics and a 3-D film based on the book was one of the original attractions at the San Francisco Metreon, but closed in 2001.
Although I think that all of Judy Blume’s books deserve a spot on this list, I will keep it short a pick out one that particularly stands out: Just as Long as We’re Together. Why? I won’t (and don’t want to) get into the details, but this book meant a lot to my 12-13 year old self as I stood awkwardly in the hallways at my Catholic elementary school knowing that my life as a kid was about to end.
Just as Long as We’re Together is a young adult novel written by Judy Blume and published in 1987. It is narrated by Stephanie ‘Steph’ Hirsch, who is going through several changes in her life happening at the same time. As if puberty isn’t scary enough, 13-year-old Stephanie has just moved to a new town. She is starting middle school in a new town, her parents are separating, she gains ten pounds over the holidays, she starts menstruating and becoming interested in boys, and her lifelong friendship with the overachieving Rachel Robinson (later featured in Blume’s Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson). Can you say all of that 10x fast? Talk about a pile of problems all at once, sheesh!
Every young girl loves to read about the awkwardness of a character within the pages of a book, which may feel the same as they do during those strange and peculiar days of Middle School. Matilda is a novel written by Roald Dahl in 1988, which revolves around the world of Matilda Wormwood. Matilda is a remarkably intelligent girl who obtains psychic powers, which she uses to get revenge on the bullying adults in her life: her neglectful parents and her formidable headmistress, Miss Trunchbull!
Matilda’s parents have no interest in her, and tell her that she should be watching television instead of sticking her head in between the pages of books (which are advanced beyond her grade level). While her mother ventures off to play Bingo and her father works as a used car salesman (scam artist!), Matilda sneaks off to the library and reads dozens and dozens of books each day!
While our children may know Ramona as a character in the "Ramona & Beezus" movie, I remember a different girl featured on the pages of several Beverly Clearly books while I was a little girl. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is the sixth book in the popular Ramona series, which was printed during the early-1980’s, but remained in high popularity throughout the 90’s and continues to be a success for young girls until this day! Ramona Quimby, Age 8 was named a Newbery Honor book in 1982.