This book list of classic kids books from the 1930s includes both whimsical and serious selections, as well as a few terrific books well-suited for read alouds.
Which of these books from the 1930s have you read?
Family from One End Street. (1937) 10 delightful stories about a happy, working class, poor family living in a small English town. Makes a lovely read aloud for younger children. Fans of books like The Penderwicks, The Saturdays, and All-Of-A-Kind Family will enjoy this one.
The Box of Delights. (1935) In the companion book to John Masefield’s The Midnight Folk, which was on my 1920s book list, Kay Harkin now has to deal with mysterious messages, magical boxes, time travel and the threat of Christmas disappearing altogether. Read this English classic at Christmas time. (Note: this NYCB version is not abridged.)
The Cat Who Went to Heaven. (1930) In old Japan tradition says that cats are to be denied Buddha’s blessing for rejecting his teachings. But a poor artist makes friends with a patient cat and against the warnings of the priests paints him into a portrait of Buddha. There are lovely illustrations and the story includes details about Buddha’s life. This is a wonderful story about compassion and goodness. Don’t miss it.
Wee Gillis. (1938) This is a longer picture book, thankfully brought back into print by the good folks at NYRB. The author wrote another famous book, The Story of Ferdinand, but this one about a young bagpiper caught between highland and lowland Scottish cultures is graced with a silver Caldecott.
Calico Bush. (1931) This is a good choice for children who like historical fiction. Thirteen year old French immigrant, Marguerite, orphaned and alone, indentures herself to to a farming family in harsh, isolated and beautiful 18th century coastal Maine. A Caldecott honor book.
Swallows and Amazons. (1930) Be prepared to Google a lot of boating terms when you begin to read this book with your kids! However, once you get over the hump you will no doubt love this English classic about a group of siblings who set out on an independent camping adventure.
The Good Master. (1935) Jancsi expects his city cousin, Kate, to be a delicate flower but when she arrives at his family’s farm he finds the headstrong girl anything but demure. Set in rural Hungary, this novel will satisfy those of you who think all the best life lessons happen in a rural setting.
Thimble Summer. (1938) Elizabeth Enright’s book is a wonderful choice if you are looking for chapter books about strong independent girls. Nine year old Garnet’s family farm has been suffering from lack of rain but when she finds a silver thimble and the rains come, Garnet’s wonderful summer begins. Enright’s writing is superb and the descriptions of Garnet’s everyday farm life are enchanting.
Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm. (1934)An English absentminded professor provides lots of entertainment and laughs with his misguided inventions like pancake-making machines and burglar-catchers.
The Sword in the Stone. (1938) Enchantments, magic and adventure abound in this tale in which Merlyn tutors the young Arthur before he was king. A certain band of Merry Men make an extended cameo.
Visit my other posts in this series:
Classic Children’s Books: 19th Century
Classic Children’s Books: 1900s
Classic Children’s Books: 1910s
Classic Children’s Books: 1920s
Classic Children’s Books: 1930s
Classic Children’s Books: 1940s
Classic Children’s Books: 1950s
Classic Children’s Books: 1960s
Classic Children’s Books: 1970s
Classic Children’s Books: 1980s
Classic Children’s Books: 1990s
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