Were you ordering books from the mail-order Scholastic catalog in the 1990s? Were you constantly looking forward to your family’s weekly trip to the library? Was your favorite time at school DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read)? Well, even if these questions don’t apply to you, chances are you read a very high percentage of the books on this list. Because back in the vintage decade of the 1990s, these 10 classic literary adventures were the epic of awesome.
Photo credit: Carolyn Coles, Flickr
10 Berenstein Bears
Though the Berenstein Bears have been around since the 1960s, the majority of the books were published in the 1980s and 1990s. With over 300 titles available, it’s no surprise that every elementary school kid took frequent imaginary trips to Bear Country to hang out with the very literally titled Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Brother Bear and Sister Bear (curiously, the baby bear is named Honey Bear). Whether teaching lessons about eating too much junk food or how to deal with a bad dream, the Berenstein Bears told their stories in a fun and enriching way.
9 Where’s Waldo?
Okay, so the Where’s Waldo? book series isn’t so much read as it is looked at. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that every kid in the 1990s was flipping through the brightly colored pages of this incredibly successful book series. For some reason, that wandering Waldo always found himself lost in a sea of barber shop poles and similarly red-and-white striped scenery. And for some reason, we just couldn’t turn the page until we found him.
8 Encyclopedia Brown
Encyclopedia Brown is the king of children’s mystery books. This little egghead has been solving mysteries ever since 1963 – a fact that left plenty of whodunits to solve by the time the ’90s rolled around. Thanks in part to frequent re-printings of the books, Leroy Brown remained relevant for the Pokemon generation. And despite the considerable rise of inflation that has occurred to U.S. currency over that time, Encyclopedia still manages to charge, “25 cents a day, plus expenses.”
7 The Judy Blume Books
Though Judy Blume’s books tended to appeal more to the girls of the 1990s, there were a few books in her collection that no boy could live without – most notably, Freckle Juice, Blubber and Superfudge. Unlike other books on this list, many of Blume’s books dealt with controversial topics for kids (teen sex, masturbation, bullying, etc.).
6 Shel Silverstein
“Fleas – Adam Had ’em.” While poetry is often a hard subject to get kids interested in, Shel Silverstein had a knack for making prose fun and interesting. Given that Shel initially gained notoriety as a cartoonist for Playboy magazine, it seems a little odd that he would switch gears to create children’s poetry. But switch he did, and English teachers from New York City to San Francisco have him to thank for introducing us ’90s kids to the world of poetry.
5 Matt Christopher Sports
If you were a boy even mildly interested in sports, then chances are you’ve read The Kid Who Only Hit Homers. While this is Christopher’s most well-known book, he wrote over 100 other sports-themed children’s novels. Other favorite titles from the series include Catcher With a Glass Arm and The Fox Steals Home.
4 Hank the Cowdog
There are currently over 50 different Hank the Cowdog novels out there for today’s children to read. In case you grew up under a rock, the books revolved around a cowdog (named Hank!) that lived on a ranch in the Texas panhandle. Thanks in part to his narcissism and over-confidence, he often got himself into sticky situations. Despite these flaws, us kids lapped up every word of it.
3 Sideways Stories From Wayside School
Wayside School is by far one of the wonkiest places for a kid to attend school. For one, the 30-story school building purportedly doesn’t have a 19th floor. For two, most of the kids that go there are just plain crazy (one girl disguised herself as a rat so the teacher would throw her out of class early). Add it all up, and Wayside School proved remarkably more interesting than any school in the real world – a fact that made the books a welcome escape for any kid.
I can’t tell you how many nightmares I had courtesy of Night of the Living Dummy. For many kids, Goosebumps was their first introduction to the genre of horror. And while looking back the stories weren’t all that scary, they were pretty much terrifying to the mind of a fourth-grader. Given that the first of the book series was printed in 1992, Goosebumps is a true 1990s book series. Other popular titles in the series include Say Cheese and Die, The Haunted Mask and Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes.
1 Choose Your Own Adventure
A book that places the reader as the hero? Now that’s a recipe for success. Choose Your Own Adventure novels were by far the most unique children’s books available during the 1990s. Of course, while the main goal of each tale was to make the right choices in order to enjoy a happy ending, it was just as fun to see all the grisly ways you could die a horrible, bloody death. A few favorites from the series include Space Vampire, Secret of the Ninja, You Are a Monster and Alien, Go home!