This book list of classic children’s books from the 1930s includes a variety of genres. I’ve included realistic fiction, some historical fantasy, a bit of whimsy and more serious selections, even a more philosophical novel. Some of these 1930s books are particularly well-suited for read alouds.
If you’ve been following my series, Classic Children’s Books by the Decade, you know that I try to include lesser-known titles, which is why Little House on the Prairie is not on this list. If you’ve never heard of Little House, I don’t really know what to do. Several of these books are by British authors but it’s interesting to think about how the American books were written during the Great Depression. You can certainly see its influence on the subject matter. (Note: Book titles and covers are included affiliate links.)
Which of these children’s books from the 1930s have you read?
The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter. (1934) I read this out loud to my son and he loved it! An English absentminded professor provides lots of entertainment and laughs with his misguided inventions like pancake-making machines and burglar-catchers. A 1930s classic that will make modern readers giggle!
Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett. (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 aloud to the whole family at Christmas time. (Note: this NYCB version is not abridged.)
Bright Island by Mable L. Robinson. (1937) Thankful is a girl who loves the sea. However, her parents send her away to school on the mainland so she can learn “what a girl is good for.” The beautiful writing details Thankful’s experience at the school, her attachment to boating and the coast of Maine. It is a lovely coming of age story and is perfect for fans of books like Anne of Green Gables.
The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. (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 by Munro Leaf. (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.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. (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 by Kate Seredy. (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.
The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White. (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: 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