Well, to quote Trace Adkins: "All I can do, is all I can do and I keep on tryin'". My mother-in-law was a huge country fan and she once said this to me and it has always stuck in my head.
Here we go with the next 10 books on my Top 100 list.
70. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I am sure that many of you have seen the film version of Ella Enchanted starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy which is cute and campy. Levine's Newbery Honor book actually has a lot more depth. Yes, there is a fairy godmother and a handsome prince, but Ella Enchanted is less about finding true love and more about redefining the classic fairy tale heroine. Ella may be cursed with obedience, but she does not allow that to keep her from being confident and independent. Rather than waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her from unhappy circumstances, Ella exerts her will to change things herself.
69. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
I think that the expected, happy story line would be for Buck to stay loyal and make the steadfast journey back to his home. London does not take this route, though. Instead he shows that Buck's domesticity barely contains a fierce and independent will to survive. Eventually he becomes so disgusted and furious that he abandons all semblance of docility and embraces the savage freedom of a wild wolf.
And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. . . . Thus, as token of what a puppet thing life is the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again. . . .
68. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
It has been over 75 years since Mr. Popper's Penguins was published but it is just as lively and cheerful to read today. Mr. Popper is just your everyday house painter working and raising a family in a small town. Whenever he has a free moment, though Mr. Popper dreams of traveling to the Antarctic and exploring the frozen continent just like his hero, Admiral Drake.
One day a package arrives from Admiral Drake and the Popper family is delighted to welcome a penguin, whom they dub Captain Cook, into their home. When Captain Cook is overtaken by loneliness the Poppers do the logical thing and bring him home a mate. Well, of course, one penguin plus one penguin equals ten baby penguins and what could possibly go wrong in a house with a dozen penguins?
This book is so joyful; it begs to be read aloud with your children.
67. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
I am a total book nerd so nothing could be better than an exciting fantasy that revolves around books and reading. Don't stop after reading just the first one, though, because the entire trilogy is an amazing fantasy adventure.
66. The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
The fierce loyalty and 300 mile trek of Luath, the young lab; Bodger, the old bull terrier; and Tau, the Siamese cat are the antithesis to The Call of the Wild. Both books do share a savage yet breathtaking setting: London's being the Alaskan wilderness and Burnford's takes place across Canada. Burnford actually based The Incredible Journey on the pets she and her husband owned while living in Canada and the strong bond that those animals shared.
The Incredible Journey was not that popular of a book until Disney made it into a movie in 1963. The 1963 film version is wonderful (I do not like the remake, Homeward Bound, as much, because they changed the breeds of the dogs which bugged me), but the book is definitely worth the read.
65. The Tale of Despereaux byKate DiCamillo
My kids and I listened to the audio version of The Tale of Despereaux and the reader, James Heywood, was wonderful. The narrator in this book "breaks the fourth wall" i.e. speaks directly to the reader which really works when are you listening to the audio version.
64. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
I am aware that most "greatest chapter books" lists have From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler much higher. I do love this book and, like every other kid who read it, imagined running away and secretly living in a museum (or library!). However, it has never been a book that I wanted to read again and again. I also had to drop it lower on the list just because even when I was a kid I thought that Claudia was a snobby, know-it-all and when I read it as an adult I still thought that she was a snobby, know-it-all and a selfish, disrespectful brat too. I know that is the mom in me talking, because if my kids just decided to runaway with or without a note, because they didn't always get their way I would be frantic with worry and really angry when I found them. Despite the rather unlikeable heroine (I much prefer Claudia's little brother) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a fun mystery to read.
63. The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
"Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean.
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean."
- Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr Fox, Ch. 1
62. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
61. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brian
I must have read this book half a dozen times and probably watched the Don Bluth cartoon more than a hundred times. I cannot remember if I read the book or watched the movie first, but they are both imaginative and exciting. Sorry, Mrs Frisby, you may have been the title character, but I was much more interested in the super intelligent laboratory rats that escaped from the National Institute of Mental Health.
The home that they build in the Fitzgibbon's rose bush is so fascinating I wish that I was small enough to explore it. I read this aloud to my daughter when she was five or six and it was so much fun to share a book from my childhood with her and have her love it just as much as I did.