Children's Books 1980-1989
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Published by Annick Press in 1980, this story turns the traditional ‘happily-ever-after’ fairy tale on its head. After a dragon burns up Princess Elizabeth’s castle, along with all her pretty clothes, the princess goes after the dragon, who has stolen her prince, wearing only a paper bag dress. She outsmarts the fire-breathing foe and rescues her love, only to have the ungrateful prince tell her to come back when she’s dressed better. Princess Elizabeth calls the Prince a bum, and the story ends with “and they didn’t get married after all.” The Paper Bag Princess only sold around 3,000 copies in the first year, but since then it has sold more than 3 million copies and received numerous awards and endorsements for its empowering storyline, including that of the National Organization for Women. This book can be read to all children ages 3 and up.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Beverly Cleary had been writing and publishing books for three decades when Ramona Quimby, Age 8, was published by William Morrow and Company in 1981. Cleary’s first book, Henry Huggins, was published in 1950. The character of Ramona developed as the little sister of Henry’s neighbor Beezus. Ramona was first featured as a title character in Beezus and Ramona in 1955, continued to grow in Cleary’s books through the decades. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is best for readers ages 8-10.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Published in 1982 by Greenwillow Books, A Chair for My Mother tells the story of a little girl named Rosa, who is saving up her money for a chair she can enjoy with her mother and grandmother. After their home was destroyed by a fire, neighbors helped get the family the items they needed, but Rosa looks forward to something beautiful and comfortable they can buy with their hard-earned money. This was an ALA notable book, a Caldecott Honor Book as well as a Reading Rainbow Pick, great for children ages 4-8.
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Big Friendly Giant, or The BFG, is yet another Roald Dahl collectible children's book on our children's literature by the year list. Illustrated by Quentin Blake, this tale is a deeper take on a short story from Danny, Champion of the World. Dahl dedicated this book to his daughter, Olivia, who died of measles encephalitis at seven years old in 1962. The first edition, published by Johnathan Cape in London, is highly sought after and it has been reprinted many times, remaining a beloved tale to people around the world.
So You Want to Be a Wizard? by Diane Duane
Published by Harcourt in 1983, So You Want to Be A Wizard? is the first book in the Young Wizards Series. The series, which to date includes eleven books, stars two young Wizards, Nita and Kit, and takes place in Manhattan. The latest book, Games Wizards Play, was published in 2016. A New Millenium Edition of So You Want to Be A Wizard? was released in 2012 to fix timeline inconsistencies. The new editions place the first book in the year 2008, and through re-releases of the other 9 published books, other inaccuracies and confusions are fixed. This series is good for readers 10 years and up.
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches tells the story of the "real" witches, their great hatred for kids, and their plot to destroy all of the children of the world! This is a great tale for older kids or one to read to younger children who are brave. It is eerie and strange in parts, poignant in others, and yet maintains an optimistic perspective from the hero; a young boy is turned into a mouse by a witch and he must plot to save the other children of the world.
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
Published in 1984 by Little Brown & Company in Boston, Saint George and the Dragon was written by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Margaret Hodges was a professor of library science in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She volunteered as a storyteller at the Carnegie Library and also starred in the Tell Me A Story segment of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Hodges published over 40 children’s books in her lifetime, starting with One Little Drum, published in 1958 by Follett Publishing Company. The text for Saint George and the Dragon was adapted from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene, which was first published in the 1590s. Saint George and the Dragon was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1985. This illustrated book is best for older children, ages 8-10, but can be read to younger children with longer attention spans who will enjoy the gorgeous illustrations.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Now considered a Christmas classic, The Polar Express was first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1985. Chris Van Allsburg was awarded his second Caldecott Medal in 1986 for The Polar Express, after receiving the Medal in 1981 for Jumanji. By 1989 The Polar Express had sold a million copies. In 2004 a computer-animated film featuring Tom Hanks was released to great box-office success. This story about a boy catching a nighttime train to the North Pole and being given a special gift by Santa Claus is a great picture book for ages 4 and up.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Published by Harper & Row in 1985, Sarah, Plain and Tall was a children’s novel written by Patricia MacLachlan. It was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1986 as well as the Golden Kite Award and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The story, about a mail-order bride, is like a wholesome 90-day Fiance set in the late 19th century. Sarah leaves her home in Maine for the midwest in response to an ad placed by a widower with two children looking for a wife. A 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame made-for-tv film stars Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. The heart of this story is the children’s wish for a mom to love them. The book is good for readers age 9 and up.
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
Published by Greenwillow Books in 1986, The Whipping Boy was written by Sid Fleischman, and the first edition was illustrated by Peter Sis. Tensions between rich and poor are illustrated in this brief novel when a bratty Prince is given an orphaned boy to be whipped in his stead when he misbehaves. After the Prince decides to run away, and take his whipping boy with him as his slave, the two head on a dangerous adventure where they have to work together after being kidnapped by highwaymen. A good read for ages 7-11, The Whipping Boy was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1987.
The Jolly Postman by Janet & Allen Ahlberg
This interactive book took the authors Janet and Allan Ahlberg five years to complete before publication by Heineman in 1986. It includes letters, cards, games, and a tiny book. The reader follows an unnamed postman as he delivered envelopes to famous fairytale characters like The Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella, and the Three Bears. Other books have been published following the success of this, including The Jolly Christmas Postman (1991), and The Jolly Pocket Postman (1995). Children ages 2 - 6 years old best enjoy this book.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Published by Bradbury Press in 1987, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen was the first of five novels in the Hatchet series. After his parent’s divorce, thirteen-year-old Brian Roberson is flying to see his father when the pilot suffers a heart attack and the plane crashes. Brian then survives the summer in the wilderness with only a hatchet, a gift from his mother who Brian is holding a secret about. Gary Paulsen has written over 200 books for young people, many with outdoor and survivalist themes. Hatchet was awarded a Newbery Honor. This book deals with adultery, divorce, and death, so some experts rate it for readers ages eleven and up, as always depending on the individual.
The Way Things Work by David Macauley
Published in 1988 by Houghton Mifflin, this technical book for children on The Way Things Work has been updated in 1998 (The New Way Things Work) and 2016 (The Way Things Work Now). The updates integrate new technology like computers and take out information on things like pocket calculators and parking meters. The book is illustrated by David Macaulay, whose work Cathedral (1973) showed the construction of a great building in pictures, and was a Caldecott Honor Book. Macauley’s book Black and White (1990) was awarded the Caldecott Medal. Neil Ardley, a jazz pianist and composer, wrote the technical text for the book. Ardley, wrote over a hundred books on science, technology, and music during his career, which included working as an editor at World Book Encyclopedia. This book is great for kids ages 12 and up, offering a captivating look at the technologies and scientific advances that power our world.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Published by Jonathan Cape in London in 1988, Dahl's book Matilda quickly became a popular title and one that has persisted through shifting multimedia, becoming a movie, a radio program, as well as a musical.
The story is about a neglected young girl who finds a deep love of books and reading, as well as other amazing talents! Matilda finally finds where she belongs in this beloved book.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault
Published by Simon & Schuster in 1989, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault, and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Anthropomorphized letters climb a coconut tree - will there be enough room? This bright fun rhythmic alphabet book is good for even the youngest readers and listeners, but it is available in shorter versions and board book format as well. The audiobook version is narrated by Ray Charles.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars is a work of historical fiction about the Holocaust during World War II by Newbery Award-winning author Lois Lowry. The central character is ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen from Copenhagen, Denmark, who gets caught up in the events surrounding the rescue of the Danish Jews in 1943.
Sign up for our newsletter and receive coupons via email.
Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.