Forgotten Kids’ Books From the 60s and 70s

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There have been some great books I read over and over again when I was growing up, books that still hold up as fun reads even today. Who cares if you’re an adult? These books are fun, light reads for when you want to feel like a kid again, or, if you’re a young adult now, read something fun and different. These are my picks for great books for young adults to explore, books that have been overlooked. The book titles are links to the corresponding Amazon page. Check ‘em out!

 

harrietHarriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy is the story of an eleven-year-old girl who wants to becomes a spy. She is constantly making notes and observations in a notebook she carries with her everywhere, and has an after school spy “route”; eavesdropping on people in the neighborhood and writing down her thoughts about what she witnesses in secret. One day her schoolmates find her notebook, and when they learn what she has been writing about, they turn against her. Children can be cruel. Even Harriet. But they can also be hurt more profoundly. This is a very engaging story about growing up.

 

809653Sport by Louise Fitzhugh

A sequel, of sorts, to Harriet The Spy (Harriet makes a camero in this one), the book is about Harriet’s friend, eleven-year-old Sport Rocque, who  is living a happy life, keeping his father’s absent-mindedness under control, and managing the family budget. When Kate, Sport’s new — and nice — stepmother enters the picture, things couldn’t be better. Then comes the news: Sport’s wealthy grandfather has just died and Sport is a multimillionaire.

But millions of dollars equals millions of problems, as Sport soon discovers when his mother returns and kidnaps him to double her share of the inheritance! Life at the Plaza Hotel is no fun when you’re a prisoner. Will Sport manage to escape and return his life to normal?

 

Hr_journeyThe Henry Reed Books by Keith Robertson

Henry Reed is an intelligent, inquisitive 13 year old boy, the son of an American diplomat, who spends his summer vacations with his aunt and uncle in the small town of Grover’s Corner, New Jersey, in the same house where his mother grew up. Henry is a serious, entrepreneurial boy, and most of the books concern his efforts to earn money by starting some kind of business. All of the novels are told as a series of Henry’s journal entries recounting his day-by-day adventures throughout the summer.

In the first book, Henry Reed, Inc., Henry meets his aunt Mabel and uncle Al and makes friends with Midge, agirl who lives in the neighborhood. Henry turns an old family barn into the headquarters for Henry Reed, Inc., a research service and attempts to make money by drilling for oil, hunting for truffles, and experimenting with a homemade weather balloon, among other efforts.

In the second book, Henry Reed’s Journey, Henry meets Midge and her parents in San Francisco, California, and they drive across the United States to New Jersey. In the third book, Henry Reed’s Baby-Sitting Service, Henry and Midge decide to become baby-sitters. Henry Reed’s Big Show, the fourth book, involves Henry and Midge’s efforts to become showbiz entrepreneurs.

In Henry Reed’s Think Tank, the fifth book, Henry and Midge return to their roots and set up a think tank to help solve the problems of Grover’s Corner residents. This book is set just after the events of Big Show.

 

Encyclopedia_Brown,_Boy_Detective_(1963)The Encyclopedia Brown Books by Donald J Sobol

It may be hard to believe in an age of internet, Google and smartphones, but there used to be resource called encyclopedias, a series of books usually found in libraries which contained all manner of facts from A-to-Z, from which many a school book report was spawned. Encyclopedias were the pre-Google information resource.

Encyclopedia Brown is a series of books featuring the adventures of boy detective Leroy Brown, nicknamed “Encyclopedia” for his intelligence and range of knowledge. The series of 29 children’s novels was written by Donald J. Sobol, with the first book published in 1963 and the most recent new novel published in 2012.

Each book in the mystery series are subdivided into a number of short stories, each of which presents a mystery, intended to be solved by the reader. Encyclopedia Brown invariably solves the case in the “Answers” section in the back of the book. The books encourage readers to try to figure out the mystery before turning to the back of the book, a clever device that makes the books entertaining and engaging.

 

0129-BKS-PAUL-1-articleInlineA Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1962. The story revolves around a young girl whose father, a government scientist, has gone missing after working on a mysterious project called a tesseract. The book has won  numerous awards, and remains popular to this day, having been in continuous print since 1962. That should tell you something right there about what a good book this is.

 

Hardy_boys_cover_40The Hardy Boys Books

I read every single one of these books, and you should too, no matter how old or young you are. The books are riveting, easy to read, and each one is a page-turner. The  series has been phenomenally successful, and the books have been continuously in print, in one form or another, since they were first published way back in 1927, and sell over a million copies a year to this day. The golden age of the Hardy Boys books began in 1959, when the books were revised to eliminate racial stereotypes, and it is this series that is worth reading.

The Hardy Boys are fictional teenage brothers and amateur detectives who live with their father, detective Fenton Hardy, their mother, Laura Hardy, and their Aunt Gertrude. In the older stories, the Hardy Boys’ cases often are linked to the confidential cases their detective father is working on. He sometimes asks them for help, while at other times they stumble upon villains and incidents that are connected to his cases.

The characters and books were originally conceived in 1926 by Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book-packaging firm, under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon, and there have been many ghost-writers who have written stories under the same pen-name.

 

The_Pushcart_War_-_cover_image_1964The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill

This is a very fun, entertaining book about a battle between pushcart vendors, and the big trucks, and the drivers, who threaten their livlihood on the streets of New York City. Traffic in New York City has become intolerable. Leaders of the three biggest trucking companies, known as The Three, hold a secret meeting where they plan to take over the streets for themselves by eliminating other traffic, starting with the pushcarts. The pushcart owners fight back through a campaign of sabatoge.

 

margaretAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Both girls and boys should read this book, about a girl in sixth grade who confronts many pre-teen female issues, such as buying her first bra, having her first period, coping with belted sanitary napkins (changed to adhesive sanitary pads for recent editions of the book), jealousy towards another girl who has developed a womanly figure earlier than other girls, liking boys, and whether to voice her opinion if it differs from those of her friends. Blume’s success with Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret inspired her to write another book, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, which is slightly like this book, but from a boy’s perspective.

 

Then AgainThen Again Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume

Written from a boy’s perspective as he endures puberty, a crush on his friend’s sister, and the moral dilemma of a friend who steals, this books was a result of the success of Blume’s phenomenally popular Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. 

Tony Miglione relocates with his family to an upper-class community, where Tony meets a seemingly-respectful boy, Joel who impress Mr. & Mrs. Miglione, but commits crimes like prank calls, underage drinking, and shoplifting, encouraging Tony to participate as well. Tony develops an infatuation with Joel’s beautiful teenage sister Lisa and tries to cope with his change into manhood.

 

greatbrain2The Great Brain Books by John D. Fitzgerald

I read these books over and over again when I was in school. The Great Brain books are told from the viewpoint of  J. D., who idolizes his older brother Tom, a.k.a. The Great Brain, a silver-tongued con artist with a genius for making a profit. No matter what the situation, The Great Brain will always find a way to turn it to his advantage–usually, his financial advantage. As boys growing up at the beginning of the 1900s, J. D. and Tom have plenty of scope for their adventures. And while J. D.’s ingenuity may not equal his conniving brother’s, as a narrator he is endearingly sympathetic and wildly entertaining. First published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this classic series has been popular ever since.

The original Great Brain spawned a series of successful sequels: The Great Brain (1967), More Adventures of the Great Brain (1969), Me and My Little Brain (1971), The Great Brain At The Academy (1972), The Great Brain Reforms (1973), The Return of the Great Brain (1974), The Great Brain Does It Again (1976), The Great Brain Is Back (Published in 1995 from loose notes after the author’s death).

 

notes bookNotes On the Hauter Experiment by Bernice Grohskopf

This is an obscure book but an engaging read. My library had a beat up copy of it when I was a kid and I read it several times. Evelyn B. Chestnut finds herself in a strange school that is self contained, and she has no memory of how she got there. There are no exits, no adults, no teachers or staff…just students. Classes are provided by interactive viewscreens, homework is collected via anonymous slots in the walls, and food is dispensed from somewhere, delivered by conveyor belt. While Evelyn likes the things she is learning, she longs to find out what is beyond the walls of this mysterious school.

 

bluedolphin2Island Of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins is a 1960 children’s novel about a young girl stranded for years on an island off the California coast. It is based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Nicoleño Native American left alone for 18 years on San Nicolas Island in the 19th century.

The book is about Karana, who is stranded on the island after her people leave to find a safer place to live. Karana must build a safe place to live and fend for herself, as there are no men left to do the hunting, or watch for the wild dogs that roam the island. Karana has no idea if her people will return for her, or if she is stranded on the island forever.

 

Slakes_Limbo_coverSlake’s Limbo by Felice Holman

Slake’s Limbo is a novel for young adults, first published in 1974 about a young adolescent boy, Aremis Slake, who runs away from home to live in the New York City Subway tunnels of the IRT Lexington Avenue Line and stays for 121 days, earning a living by selling discarded newspapers.

With the money that he makes, he buys food from the local diner, and soon becomes a regular customer. The people at the luncheonette see him there every day and have sympathy for this homeless boy. They offer him a sweeping job and pay him with food sufficient to meet his needs. Also, whatever he finds on the floor he gets to keep, so Slake eventually has quite a collection of various items he’s organized and used to decorate his cave. The novel has received several honors, including a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award best book for young adults.

 

The Dueling Machine by Ben Bova

duelingThe Dueling Machine, published in 1969, was written before the Internet or virtual reality, and centers on a device that provides a solution to settling disputes without injury. After two opponents select weapons and environments, they are immersed in an artificial reality where the opponents fight to the virtual death, but no one actually gets hurt.

That is, until a warrior from the Kerak Empire figures a way to execute real-world killings from within the machine. Now its inventor Dr. Leoh has to prevent his machine from becoming a tool of conquest by a dictatorial empire. A well written political sci-fi thriller, the book holds up even today as an engaging story about how technology can be used for the wrong purposes.

76620Watership Down by Richard Adams

This one is a timeless classic, a real page turner about…rabbits. Set in south-central England, the story features a small group of rabbits which have their own culture, language, proverbs, poetry, and mythology. The novel follows the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils along the way and culminates in an absolutely gripping escape from a warren run by a dictator-like rabbit called General Woundwort. This isn’t a book you read, it’s one you experience.

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