I have to say, though, choosing only seven was incredibly difficult. It was a tough call between The Trumpet of the Swan and The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Jackaroo and The Black Cauldron. As I was writing it, friends and family kept throwing in even more selections. So I hope this reawakens the memories of your childhood favorites -- and I can't wait to hear about the ones you'd like to see onscreen too!
1. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
One of the cutest horror spoofs ever – and I don't know a single child that dislikes it. It's the story of Harold the sheepdog, Chester the cat, and the mysterious Bunnicula, a baby rabbit discovered by the Monroe family at a nighttime showing of Dracula. The bunny has cape-like markings, two little fangs, and is only awake at night. Harold thinks he is just a bunny, but Chester is convinced they have a rabbit vampire – and his suspicions are confirmed by the house's vegetables being drained of juice. It's hilarious, and with today's CGI, there's no reason it can't be done. Bonus points if it could be as cute as the illustrations, which were so fuzzy you could practically pet them.
2. King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
The most heartbreaking animal story ever. It's a fictional account of the real-life Godolphin Arabian, ancestor to Man O'War and Seabiscuit. The story begins in 18th century Morocco, where the Arabian is nearly killed at birth for bearing an ill-luck omen – until the mute boy saves him by discovering the horse has the marks of good fortune too. The horse is sent as a gift to King Louis XV of France, who thinks him ugly and condemns him to living as a cart-horse on the streets of Paris. The boy and his horse encounter no end of misery and degradation before finally ending up at the English estate of the Earl of Godolphin. The story rivals Black Beauty, and won the Newberry Medal. To my amazement, it has been done with none other than the late Sir Richard Harris – but I think it is high time this story of love and redemption is rediscovered.
3. Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck
The first in a series set around 1914, the books follow the titular Blossom Culp, a poor half-gypsy girl who literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks. She suffers all manner of psychic visions and ghostly encounters, which inevitably leave her to solving some kind of gruesome mystery. It's like Medium for the younger set. Culp is the coolest heroine I had the fortune to read as a young girl, as she is incredibly smart, feisty, and sarcastic –traits which serve her well in the snooty town of Bluff City. Her visions in this one deal with the Titanic, the story that will always send shivers down preteen spines. Incidentally, Ghosts I Have Been was largely responsible for me insisting on visiting Madame Tussaud's while in London – but to my bitter disappointment, the Chamber of Horrors described therein no longer exists.
4. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
I was not an outdoorsy girl, but this book made me want to give up my suburban existence and live in a tree, eating nothing but roots, berries and acorns. I wanted a tame hawk, a weasel, and to play with raccoons. Shades of Into the Wild abound, but Sam's life in the wilderness boasts a happy ending. It was made into a movie in 1969, but I think it too deserves to be remade, especially as so many children are (allegedly) clueless about nature. Plus, now they could make a trilogy, as the third part of the story, Frightful's Song, was only just published in 2001.
5. A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
My sister loved this book (it was second only to The Little Fur Family), and even named her hamster Tucker in honor of its resourceful mouse. She was always annoyed if I borrowed it or any of the sequels. Chester the cricket finds himself stranded in the New York City subway after smuggling inside a picnic basket. He's rescued by a boy named Mario, who works in his family's newsstand. Desperate for a pet, he convinces his mother to let him keep the cricket. A cricket's effect on a New York subway is, frankly, enchanting, and something the animated version just couldn't capture.
6. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
This book kept me awake as a kid, because I was desperate to have a mouse who could actually ride a motorcycle, wear a golf ball helmet, and understand me. It was made into a television movie in 1986, but I remember being bitterly disappointed by it for reasons I can't quite remember. My cousin loved it, so maybe I'm mixing it up with something else. Anyway, no time like the CGI present to do it again – and there's a franchise here, as the book had two sequels.
7. Jackaroo by Cynthia Voight
Because young girls need a chick who brandishes a sword onscreen every year or so, and as Keira Knightley is hanging up her tricorn, a new girl must take her place. Gwyn is a young girl in the Kingdom (a vaguely named medieval land), who finds a disguise in her family's inn that she believes to have once belonged to Jackaroo, the local Robin Hood figure. She dons it herself to, surprise, rob the rich and assist the poor. I remember the costume being extremely cool, and that many swords were involved. Perhaps I'll pick it up someday and realize I added the action scenes myself.