I recently sent out an email to friends and relatives to ask them to share their favorite kid books with me, my plan being to consolidate the list and share it with everyone. I've already received many excellent titles—many of which I'd not yet discovered.
While working on this list, I began my own and discovered that many of the books that I loved as a kid are the classic kid lit, but that I really got hooked in 1st or 2nd grade when my 5th-grade friend, Denise Logsdon, introduced me to the glorious Nancy Drew... I remember pouring through them on the bus to school.
This early love of books that star a hoydenish heroine has obviously influenced many of the kids' books that I own and love to read to my kids too. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch being my number one fave — the story of a beautiful princess who's about to marry a prince when a dragon burns up her castle (and everything but a paper bag) and kidnaps Prince Ronald. Using guts and guile, Princess Elizabeth saves the day, and ends up finding out what Ronald is made of too (unchivalrous is a nice way to put it). The end of the book will leave you smiling and should make you laugh too.
Another fave, that I discovered in the bookstore at WWU while I was a senior, is Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson. It's hilarious, and compares Cinder Ella and Cinder Edna — neighbors with the same lot in life, and very different ways of handling their circumstances. Of course, the gal with moxie is the one who really ends up living "Happily Ever After."
Two others by Cornelia Funke feature fabulous leading ladies — Pirate Girl and The Princess Knight. Molly, the Pirate Girl gets herself rescued (by her amazing kick-butt Pirate Mama) using her smarts and stubbornness. The Princess Knight practices jousting, etc. and disguises herself as a mysterious prince, winning her own "hand in marriage."
And, a few years ago I hunted down Tamora Pierce's the Song of the Lioness Series (four books), the first of which —Alanna— I'd discovered in junior high. I'd only read the first two books and was thrilled to discover there were two more. I bought all four paperbacks, and hope the kids enjoy reading them someday. Basically, Alanna and her twin brother are supposed to be sent off for apprenticeships as a healer and a knight, except that her brother is a natural at healing, and Alanna is the one who wants to become a knight. So, they swap places and she disguises herself (it's of course fine for her brother to be a healer if he wants, so he doesn't have to bother with a disguise) and the adventure begins!
Last, but not least, we've recently discovered the story of Mulan, who Madeline adores—running around the house shouting "Hi-Ya!!" and working on her fight moves...