The 80s bring back a rush of memories: big hair, glam rock, and some of the best books I’ve ever read. It was a decade of thought-provoking, emotion-awakening, soul-sparking literature penned by some of the world’s most beloved and prolific authors. These were the books we carried with us to gym class, read by flashlight in a tent at summer camp, and cried over at weekend slumber parties. They have become a part of our social fabric and, thankfully, they’re still available today.
Here are 10 awesome books from the 80s that every kid should read (at least once):
“Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen
On a cold winter’s night, with the moon full and the air crisp, a father and daughter journey into the woods to see the Great Horned Owl. In silence, they walk together, taking in the peace of the countryside and stillness of the earth. Whoo-whoo-whoo, the father finally calls to the mysterious nighttime bird. But will he answer?
Published in 1987, this stunning picture book won the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations, and has appeared on “Reading Rainbow.”
“A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein's books were all the rage in the 80s. One of his most popular, “A Light in the Attic,” is a collection of quirky, relatable poems that kids of all ages will love. First published in 1981, kids will meet Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, and the Meehoo with an Exactlywatt, among other colorful characters.
“Stone Fox” by John Reynolds Gardiner
“Stone Fox” is an action-packed adventure that is based on a so-called Rocky Mountain legend. Little Willy lives with his grandfather in Wyoming. Together, they run a potato farm. When his grandfather falls ill, Little Willy must find the money to save the farm from foreclosure. He sets his sights on the National Dogsled Race. The prize money would certainly get them out of debt. Can he compete and win against more accomplished racers, including the formidable Stone Fox?
“Superfudge” by Judy Blume
Judy Blume, author extraordinaire, never fails to disappoint. In her 1980 hit, “Superfudge,” she delivers a poignant, hilarious, hard-to-believe glimpse into the Hatchett family, which could very well be any typical family with kids. 12-year-old Peter dreams of running far away from his annoying, younger brother Fudge. Could things get worse? They sure can, as Peter soon finds out. His mom is pregnant, again, and now they’re moving. “Superfudge” is the sequel to “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” but can be read as a stand-alone novel.
“Ramona Quimby, Age 8” by Beverly Cleary
Ramona Quimby just turned eight. Her dad is off to college, her mom is headed back to work, and she's finally old enough to ride the bus alone. The only downside? After school, she must stay with her grandmother and bratty Wilma Jean until her sister Beatrice (Beezus) stops by to pick her up. Life is in upheaval and all the Quimbys must adjust, including Ramona. Can her family count on her to help and see the bright side now that she's all grown up?
“Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry
Published in 1989 and set in Nazi-occupied Denmark in 1943, “Number the Stars” is a Newbery Medal-winning novel that tells the story of 10-year-old old Annemarie Johannesen, whose family harbors her best friend, Ellen Rosen. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johannesen family. Soon after, Annmarie must go on a dangerous mission to save her best friend’s life.
“The BFG” by Roald Dahl
Recently turned into a major motion picture, “The BFG” is the story of an extraordinary giant. He’s nice, funny, and not a bit grumpy – not a man-eating monster like the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, or the Bonecruncher. That’s good news for Sophie, who was captured by the BFG. When she hears of the plot for the giants to travel to England and eat some children, she enlists the BFG’s help to stop them once and for all.
"'The BFG' is one of Dahl's most lovable character creations. Whether galloping off with Sophie nestled into the soft skin of his ear to capture dreams as though they were exotic butterflies, speaking his delightful, jumbled, squib-fangled patois, or whizzpopping for the Queen, he leaves an indelible impression of bigheartedness,” says one Amazon reviewer.
“Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLachlan
“Sarah, Plain and Tall” is a Newbery Medal–winning book and the first of five books in Patricia MacLachlan's chapter book series about the Witting family. Anna's and Caleb’s lives are forever changed after their widowed father advertises for a mail-order bride. That bride is Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton, who travels from Maine all the way to the prairie. Will Anna and Caleb ever accept her as their new mother? “Sarah, Plain and Tall” thoughtfully explores the themes of abandonment, loss, and love.
“Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen
Brian Robeson is the only passenger aboard a small aircraft whose pilot suddenly has a heart attack and dies mid-flight. After crash landing, Brian must brave the Canadian wilderness to stay alive. “This is a heart-stopping story: it seems that at every moment Brian is forced to face a life-and-death decision, and every page makes readers wonder at the density of descriptive detail Paulsen has expertly woven together. Poetic texture and realistic events are combined to create something beyond adventure, a book that plunges readers into the cleft of the protagonist's experience,” says “Publisher’s Weekly.”
"Annie on My Mind" by Nancy Garden
“Annie on My Mind” was a groundbreaking book when it was first published in 1982. Meant for mature teens and young adults, the novel follows the blossoming love between two teenage girls amidst pressure from their family, friends, and school. Their relationship is put to the test when challenges nearly tear them apart.
“Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves,” said the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee.
Which 80s kid’s books would you add to the list? Share in the comments!
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