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Throwback: Books That Take Me Back to Childhood

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
I know I say that the Harry Potter series defined my childhood, but I'd be lying if I said it was the only book series or books to do so. My entire childhood (which happened in the 90's and early 2000's. I know. I'm old) has been influenced by literature, either classic or current and I am forever grateful. Reading opened up my imagination, kept me occupied and entertained, and transported me to different times and places (and made me envy their exciting lives, adventures, and at times, they're superpowers, if they had any). Not only did they do all that, but they also influenced my life as it is today. The lessons I learned, the jokes I laughed at, and the moments I cried at, or jumped in terror all shaped me to the weird person I am right now (thanks, books! And you're welcome, world).

So in honor of those certain books that had a profound effect on me, and all books, for that matter, I have drawn up a list of my favorite books that just thinking about them transports me to my book-filled childhood. Making this list was incredibly fun and nostalgic for me, I had such a wonderful time writing it and remembering the stories and memories attached to these books. It makes me want to check out all of these books from the library again and just spend an entire summer afternoon reading them while I sip a Hi-C juice box and eat some snack only produced during the mid to late 90's (Dunkaroos, maybe? Or Fruit Gushers? Or those crackers where you spread the cheese on them yourself with that little red stick! Do they still make those? I need them all!).

Anyway, enjoy my list and don't be too surprised that the overall theme is very 90's/2000's (so enjoy it, you 90's kids!) and that a lot of the books included are ghost stories! (Of course they are! It wouldn't be a That Weird Girl Life blog post if I didn't mention something paranormal at least once!)

Baby-Sitters Little Sister by Ann M. Martin

Oh, Baby-Sitters Little Sister's Karen. You were the more accessible part of the Baby-Sitters universe. The characters of the Baby-Sitters Club were much too grown up for me (they were 12 and liked boys! I couldn't relate at such a young age!), but Karen was just right. I followed/lived vicariously through her on her countless adventures (new glasses, fights with friends, bullies, a trip to New York City, divorced parents, etc.). I'm pretty sure I read every single book in the series (I think there were over 100!) and I loved every single minute of its late 80's/early 90's coolness. Leggings and roller blades forever!

Amelia's Notebook series by Marissa Moss

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
If only my childhood notebooks/journals/diaries could have been HALF as cool as Amelia's Notebook. In this series, you read Amelia's many notebooks, all detailing her life as she moves to a new town with her mom and sister and her other experiences in her life (in one book, she gets to go to space camp. SPACE CAMP! How cool is that??). I was incredibly jealous of Amelia's superb drawing skills, as she decorates her numerous notebook and illustrates her life in fun and creative ways. As a tween in the late 90's/early 2000's, I had an Amelia's Notebook CD-rom game where you could write down your thoughts and use Amelia-style cartoon images (with animations and sounds!) to decorate your "notebook." I thought it was (and still do) think it was the coolest thing ever, and kinda wish I still had it. Do you think a Windows 98 era CD-rom would still run on a Windows 10 laptop?

Sweet Valley Twins by Francine Pascal (but really by a bunch of ghostwriters, tbh)

Like Baby-Sitters Little Sister, this was another series from the late 80's/early 90's that I literally devoured. Jessica and Elizabeth were twins (who doesn't want to have a twin? I sure did after reading these books!) who are completely different (one's sporty, one's girly) but love each other and share adventures, friends, and sometimes crushes (oooooh, drama!). Sweet Valley Twins was a prequel series, in a way, published after the popular series Sweet Valley High, about teenage Jessica and Elizabeth.

But Sweet Valley Twins will always have a special place in my heart, because it was one of the first books series that introduced me to horror. For some reason during the series, Jessica and Elizabeth's escapades take a supernatural turn as they start baby-sitting (there's that 80's/90's baby-sitting theme again!) a single mom's kids in the family's newly moved in (haunted) house where the kids start having nightmares of a "beast" attacking them in their dreams and then in REAL LIFE, so it's up to the super baby-sitting twins to stop it. It was pretty terrifying to read when I was around 9 or 10, but the mini-series of those four books (Too Scared to Sleep, The Beast Is Watching You, The Beast Must Die, and If I Die Before I Wake) was a major component in my turning out to be a major horror fan. So thanks, Sweet Valley Twins, for turning me into that weird, twisty person that I am today!

Bantam Books

Holes by Louis Sachar

THIS was the book that when I first read it, I was in awe that an author could take several different stories, weave them all together, to make one exciting, funny, and meaningful complete book. Even now when I reread it, it completely blows my mind that the stories flow so seamlessly and perfectly together. And yes, the movie is great, too, and that's because the author wrote the screenplay. Phew! At least that was a book-to-movie adaptation movie studios didn't mess up! (Also, RIP normal Shia LaBeouf)

Wayside School series by Louis Sachar

Bloomsbury Children's Books/Avon Camelot/Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
Most boys in my elementary school class were reading Captain Underpants books (which, let's be honest, I also read. They were hilarious AND inventive!), but my choice for go to funny books were the Wayside School books, also by the brilliant Louis Sachar. I both simultaneously did and did not want to attend the crazy, sideways Wayside School, which was full of strange and silly students and teachers, and their funny/scary/odd stories. These (in my super important and yet incredibly humble opinion) are classic comedic kids books that every kid (and adult) should read in their lifetimes. But that's just my very meaningful and not at all pushy opinion.

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Scholastic Paperbacks
You know how I mentioned that the Sweet Valley Twins creepy mini-series of books helped get me interested in horror? Well, The Dollhouse Murders also played a very big part in transforming me into the ghost-obsessed weirdo you see before you. I remember reading this book and it freaking me out so much, and yet making me interested in ghosts and other creepy things. Soon after reading this book I was looking in the "ghosts and supernatural" section of the library and the rest is history. I recently found a copy of this book at my local Goodwill (and bought it, of course), and my purchase of it actually influenced this post. Full circle! (Or creepy coincidence???)

The Ghost in the Third Row/The Ghost Wore Gray/The Ghost In the Big Brass Bed by Bruce Coville

Uh oh, another horror series that influenced young Emily? Yep! Bruce Coville's book series of two best friends who always seem to stumble upon a restless spirit who needs their help are so fun and so good! The power of friendship, solving mysteries, and creepy ghosts have never been so entertaining!

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Scholastic, Inc
If this wasn't your first introduction to the world of horror and ghost stories, then you had a sad, sad childhood (not really, but just go with it for the sake of this book list). Even as an adult, the illustrations will both scare you and make you feel vaguely nauseated. Plus the stories still actually hold up in their overall creepiness. Have fun sleeping after reading them! (Because you sure couldn't after you read them as a kid!)

Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine, the KING of 90's children's literature, proves that a horror series for kids can not only be scary but FUNNY. Which was brilliant because as he lulls you in with his humorous writing, he then scares the sh*t out of you as a young girl who only wears cloth shorts (not jean shorts. CLOTH shorts) and has a bowl haircut. Yes, I just described me as a child. And yes, now you can see how I turned out the way that I did. Plus, all the parents of the kids in my class were all worried that Goosebumps books were too scary for us kids which only made us want to read them more. That's how you get kids to read, people. Reverse psychology at its finest!

Pretty Much Anything Sharon Creech Has Ever Written!

Harpertrophy/MacMillan Children's Books
Life-changing. Any book authored by Sharon Creech is simply life-changing. But mostly Walk Two Moons and The Wanderer. But everything else she writes is good too. No, not just good. LIFE-CHANGING.

Special shoutout to Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume for being the OG children's books authors and for influencing us young and old readers for years and years! If you read any of these authors' books as a kid, then you had an incredibly fun and imaginative childhood! ♥ 

Puffin Books/Oxford University Press
Have you read any of these books as a kid? What were your favorites back then? Let me know in the comments!

Stay Weird,
6 comments on "Throwback: Books That Take Me Back to Childhood"
  1. Oh my god so much nostalgia! I can remember being obsessed with any kind of Jacquline Wilson book when I was younger, and Mary Kate and Ashley books! haha so funny. x

    1. Hahaha I'm glad you liked the blog post! Just hearing about the Mary Kate and Ashley books takes me back! Those books were like a status symbol at my school when I was younger! I remember being jealous of my friend because she had so many!!

  2. Goosebumps and Roald Dahl ❤❤❤
    I'm pretty sure I have some Goosebumps books in my parents loft, my favourite was Monster Blood II as it had a hamster on the cover lol.

    1. Lucky you! I wish I still had my old Goosebumps books. I've been thinking of hitting up my closest used bookstores and stocking up on them again! Ooh that was a good one! And the hamster on the cover was an added bonus! ;) I don't know if I had a favorite, but I did enjoy Say Cheese and Die a lot.

      Thanks again for reading! I'm glad someone else appreciates Goosebumps and Roald Dahl as much as I do!!

  3. Ooo I read a lot of Sweet Valley Twins, so happy to recognize that particular cover. It gave me such a pang of nostalgia. And I believe I read the horror ones too! You made me feel like doing a list too! :)

    1. I looooooved Sweet Valley Twins, so I'm happy someone else loved them too! It really made me want a twin, haha. Did you really??? I can't believe someone else read the SVT horror ones too! They almost seemed so out of place that I could have dreamt them! You should totally make your own list! I'd love to see what you'd write! <3

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Julie! You're the best!


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