Top 10: Classic Children’s Books Not Beloved Now (ages 3-14)

 Classic Children’s Books No Longer Popular

I did a post a few days ago on Top 10:  Best Old Fashioned Children’s Books based on the books that I loved as a child and now my kids do too.  This is the ugly stepsister version.

I thought about why a book might lose its appeal to a younger generation.  In the case of these picture books, I truly believe that the simple 2 color illustrations don’t appeal to this generation.  A simple but sweet story that unfolds slowly also gets rejected because this new generation of  readers need to be pulled in at page 1 or 2 to keep going.  Perhaps our kids have more choices such that books with humor slightly too sophisticated as in the case of Amelia Bedelia, or plots that are too layered as in the case of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, or plots that have scary bad guys as in the Nancy Drew series are easily rejected.

It pains me that my kids don’t like these books at all.  These are great picture and chapter books and get listed as Best Book on many a reading list.  But, it’s true.  My kids (and others that we know), do not like these books. They are still wonderful books so I hope that you have better luck with your kids.  I have listed my kids’ objections below.

Do you have any favorite books that your kids have rejected?  Award winning gems?  And do you also have an entire bookshelf of the Nancy Drew series because it was at Costco and it will never be that cheap again so you bought it when your oldest was a baby and saved it for her only to find that NO ONE wants to read them?! OK, maybe that is just me.  I can live with that.

10. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg

“I’m confused.”  “Huh?”  “I don’t get this book.  What is going on?”  [Newbery Honor Book chapter book, ages 10-14]

9. Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

“I tried it but I didn’t like it.  Can you choose another book for me?”  [award winning chapter book, ages 9-12]

8. Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

“Too scary.  Can we read something else?”  [a classic chapter book series but with bad guys, ages 10-14]

7.  Babar series by Jean De Brunhoff

This book just never gets chosen by my kids.  When I chose it, it gets kicked off the bed in disgust.  [a classic and wonderful picture book series, ages 3-8]

6.  Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“It’s so boring.”  [A wonderful chapter book series on every Top 100 list, ages 8-12]

5. One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey

“Do we have to read this book?”  Me:  It’s a wonderful advanced picture book, with literacy rating of “L.”  “It’s so boring.”  [picture book written by one of my favorite children’s authors of all times, ages 5-9]

4.  Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

My two girls did not like this book, but my youngest son does.  The girls would just reject it as a bedtime story.  [picture book, ages 4-7]

3. Flat Stanley series by Jeff Brown

I bought the entire chapter book series but I can’t get any of my kids to read them.  [picture book for the first book, ages 3-7; chapter book series as well, ages 7-10]

2.  Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish

“I don’t get it.”  [picture book with advanced humor based on homonyms, ages 6-9]

1. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

My middle daughter’s book club picked this book when she was in first grade.  I was excited. I LOVED this book as a child.  The Spanish Bullfighters with their costumes and all the different costumes.  “Boring.”  “I hate this book.”  “I refused to read it.”  [a wonderful and classic picture book about being true to yourself, ages 4-9]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on the image of the book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Oh! I’m sad with you! My parents bought me the Little House set when I was 9 and I read them over and over. I still have them, and my girls both disliked them. I may try with my sons who are 8 & 10. So many wonderful books they are missing out on!

    • I’m going to try again with my girls and read some of the Little House series with them. I can’t believe they rejected it either. Makes me really, really sad!

  2. My girls must not be hip to the times. All but three of these are dog-eared on our book shelf! Another oldie but goodie is Jan Balet’s What Makes an Orchestra.

  3. Dani in NC

    I didn’t read any of these books when I was a kid myself, but I did try to get my kids to read a few of them with mixed results. I also have memories surrounding a few of these books even though I didn’t read them.

    –I never read the Konigsberg book, but I remember having a board game based on the book. I think it was on the back of a cereal box, but I’m not sure. All I know is that I liked playing that game and trying to get the kids out of the museum.

    –My 13 yo daughter who loves mysteries found the first Nancy Drew book boring so she wouldn’t try any of the others. I think this is similar to what you described. Modern kids want to get to the action right away.

    –Babar, Little House on the Prairie, and the Purple Crayon books have all been turned into such excellent TV productions that the kids were not interested in reading the books. With Little House on the Prairie in particular, I picked up the first book to read to my daughter and was immediately turned off by all the descriptions of slaughtering animals. I grew up loving the TV show, so the book was a disappointment to me.

    –The one series that my kids loved was Amelia Bedelia. I think they were on the upper end of the age range for these books so they got most of the jokes right away and laughed when I explained the few they didn’t get.

  4. Amanda

    I’m twenty years old now and, although I will admit that I was a more voracious reader than the other children I knew, I read most of these, some many times, and some I still read now. I read every Nancy Drew book written during the summer after first grade, and the Little House books are still favorites of mine. Amelia Bedelia fascinated me because of the wordplay, and I always felt so sorry for her employers because of the trouble she caused.

    Other really good books that I read while I was younger were the Betsy-Tacy books, the Mandie series, the Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins mysteries, G.A. Henty’s historical fiction, and the American Girls books, along with many, many others. It makes me sad, although it doesn’t surprise me, that so many people do not enjoy them.

    • Thank you for your suggestions! Now, I’m remembering the Betsy-Tacy-Tib; the girls were turn of the century in Milwaukee?! Do you remember the titles? LOVED those as a child and always wanted to eat raw onion sandwiches like in those books! Mandie is new to me but I also loved Nancy Drew. I bought the whole set years ago when it was at Costco but sadly no one is reading them!

    • I don’t know the Mandie series so I will check that out. But thanks for your list of favs — just reading it makes me so happy!

  5. Jacquie F.

    Just recommended “Mixed-up Files” and “Little House” to a group of moms I talked to this week – BUT, I recommended them in conjunction with a museum visit or visit to historic site (respectively).

    I feel that sometimes kids reject a book because they’re comparing the stories to others they’ve read instead of letting the story stand on it’s own. I think that some of these books, when paired with fun outings or specific developmental milestones, would be very much enjoyed by kids. For example, consider reading “One Morning in Maine” when your child has a loose tooth.

    ps. my kids enjoyed most of these, but neither of them ever asked for “Harold” or “Amelia Bedilia” to be read again.

    • To Jacqui,
      I think you nailed it when you pair those books with something else that brings the book to life and makes it feel relevant to a kid! What good ideas you have! Thank you so much for sharing.

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