When Eleanor Cameron became involved in criticism of children's literature, she endlessly championed books that she felt met her exacting set of criteria. These were books written, for the most part, by her contemporaries, but that spoke to her strongly as if she were a child. To her, they were books that achieved the ideal of the art form. Some special favorites are discussed in detail at the top, followed by a list of other well-regarded books below.

Recommended Children's Books









Green Knowe series by Lucy Boston
The Children of Green Knowe (1954)
The Chimneys of Green Knowe (1958)
A River at Green Knowe (1959)
A Stranger at Green Knowe (1961)
An Enemy at Green Knowe (1964)
The Stones at Green Knowe (1976)

The books that Eleanor championed more than any others were Lucy Boston's Green Knowe series. The books seem to have cast a long shadow over Eleanor's own work, with elements showing up in A Spell is Cast and The Court of the Stone Children. In the late sixties, Eleanor began corresponding with Lucy Boston and eventually visited the Boston's home, the actual Green Knowe, The Manor at Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire, England.  

Eleanor on the books: "Lucy Boston is a writer whose unique abode is the expression of an idea which pervades the whole body of her work, and it is one which, when at last it became her home, released her at the age of sixty unto the period of her highest development as an artist." - A Country of the Mind - The Seed and the Vision p186

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The Return of the Twelves (1962) by Pauline Clarke
Eleanor on the novel: "I accept my trouble (at the end) with Pauline Clarke's The Return of the Twelves but am still devoted to it. There are works that, despite whatever small or large faults they may have, are accepted by their admirers with unfailing warmth, even love, because the books nevertheless give them lasting pleasure." - "On Criticism, Awards, and Peaches" - The Seed and the Vision p221


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Gone-Away Lake (1957) by Elizabeth Enright
Eleanor was a great admirer of Elizabeth Enright, both her work for children and adults. Eleanor found much to like about Enright's style, calling it "precise, ironic, and witty" with "apt and original metaphors." But her favorite was Gone-Away Lake, a book that seems to have partly inspired the tone and structure of The Mysterious Christmas Shell and A Spell is Cast. In fact, Eleanor even employed Gone-Away Lake's illustrators, Joe and Beth Krush, for those two novels.

Eleanor on the novel: "[Enright] has called up a shimmer of summer days, rich with humor and beauty, in a place that surely any child who dreams of wandering free through woods and country and swamp would deem as near perfection as it attainable on earth." - "The Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things" - The Green and Burning Tree, p267

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The novels of Jane Gardam
A Few Fair Days (1971)
A Long Way From Verona (1971)

The Summer After the Funeral (1973)
Bligewater (1977)
The Hollow Land (1981)
Crusoe's Daughter (1985)

Eleanor on Gardam: "You hadn't before this read Jane Gardam???!!! Oh, she's one of my great favorites, a truly tremendously gifted person writing for the young - sophisticated, in a way, or should I say an elegant professional, fully in control of her medium so that adults who love the assured writer could be entranced by anything she writes..."

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The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
The Tombs of Attuan (1971)
The Farthest Shore (1972)
Tehanu (1990)
The Other Wind (2001) 
Another book that Eleanor never tired of praising was Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, even writing a full essay of appreciation for the Horn Book ("High Fantasy: A Wizard of Earthsea", 1971). She admired the sequels to a somewhat lesser degree. As with Lucy Boston, her vocal admiration led to a correspondence and friendship with the author.

Eleanor on A Wizard of Earthsea: "For sheer artistry of writing and power of imagination, I find it marvelous - I was engrossed from beginning to end." 

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The Borrowers series by Mary Norton
The Borrowers (1952)
The Borrowers Afield (1955)
The Borrows Afloat (1959)
The Borrows Aloft (1961)
The Borrowers Avenged (1982)


The Borrowers was the last book Eleanor read aloud to her mother before she died. Like Gone-Away Lake, the books were illustrated by Joe and Beth Krush, who would later do four novels with Eleanor.

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Tom's Midnight Garden (1958) by Philipa Pearce
Though she never defined it in such words, this may have been the Eleanor's single most beloved time fantasy. The Court of the Stone Children certainly owes a spiritual and structural debt to this book.
Eleanor on the novel: "In a book such as this...one sees the fertile and perceiving mind of the writer joyously at work, unafraid of convolutions, ready to explore to the end every possibility opened up by each new pattern of circumstance." - "The Green and Burning Tree" - The Green and Burning Tree p 121,122

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Charlotte's Web (1952) by E.B. White
Eleanor on the novel: "The artistry of the book lies not at all in the use of unusual words but, as in all of Mr. White's prose for adults and children alike, in the way he combines words, creates intimations, such as this one concerning gullible humanity and the powers of promotion: "The news spread. People who had journeyed to see Wilbur when he was 'some pig' came back again to see him now that he was 'terrific!'" -"Dimensions of Amazement" - The Green and Burning Tree p242

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If one were to list every single book Eleanor mentioned favorably in an essay, the number would stretch easily into the hundreds. So I have only included books that were mentioned more than once and/or specifically included in her "A Branch of the Tree" bibliography. Eleanor seemed reluctant to create a definitive list of great children's literature, so regard this instead as a very good place to start.

Watership Down (1972) by Richard Adams
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962) by Joan Aiken 

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha (1978) by Lloyd Alexander
The Devil's Storybook (1974) by Natalie Babbitt 
A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich (1973) by Alice Childress
Where the Lilies Bloom (1969) by Vera and Bill Cleavers
The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Carlo Collodi
Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Daniel Defoe
Eva (1988) by Peter Dickinson
Knight's Castle (1956) by Edward Eager
The Witch Family (1960) by Eleanor Estes
By the Great Horn Spoon! (1963) by Sid Fleischman
The Slave Dancer (1973) by Paula Fox
How Many Miles to Babylon (1967) by Paula Fox
Tales from Grimm (1936) by Wanda Gag
More Tales from Grimm (1947) by Wanda Gag 
The Ghost Downstairs (1972) by Leon Garfield
Elider (1965) by Alan Garner
The Doll's House (1947) by Rumer Godden
The Complete Peterkin Papers (1880) by Lucretia P. Hale
The Planet of Junior Brown (1971) by Virginia Hamilton
Across Five Aprils (1965) by Irene Hunt
The Kelpie's Pearls (1964) by Mollie Hunter
The Sound of Chariots (1972) by Mollie Hunter
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

Moominpappa at Sea (1965) by Tove Jansson
The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster
The Gammage Cup (1959) by Carol Kendall
Kim (1901) by Rudyard Kipling
A Separate Peace (1959) by John Knowles
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (1973) by Penelope Lively
The House in Norham Gardens (1974) by Penelope Lively 
The Call of the Wild (1903) by Jack London
At the Back of the North Wind (1871) by George MacDonald
The Princess and the Goblin (1872) by George MacDonald

Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985) by Patricia MacLachlan
Earthfasts (1966) by William Mayne

A Game of Dark (1971) by William Mayne 
The Five Children and It (1902) by E. Nesbit
The Magic City (1910) by E. Nesbit
Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) by Scott O'Dell

The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) by Katherine Paterson
A Pattern of Roses (1972) by K.N. Peyton
A Gathering of Gargoyles (1985) by Meredith Ann Pierce
The Sherwood Ring (1958) by Elizabeth Marie Pope
The Yearling (1938) by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger
Fog Magic (1944) by Julia Sauer
Ivanhoe (1820) by Sir Walter Scott
The Egypt Game (1967) by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Bronze Bow (1962) by Elizabeth George Speare
Dominic (1972) by William Steig
The Red Pony (1933) by John Steinbeck
The Pearl (1947) by John Steinbeck
Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kidnapped (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976) by Mildred D. Taylor

Call the Darkness Down (1984) by Dixie Tenny
The Hobbit (1937) by J.R.R. Tolkien
"Farmer Giles of Ham" (1949) by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954) by J.R.R. Tolkien
Mary Poppins (1934) by P.L. Travers
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain
A Traveler in Time (1939) by Alison Uttley
Fireweed (1969) by Jill Paton Walsh
Unleaving (1977) by Jill Paton Walsh

Gaffer Samson's Luck (1984) by Jill Paton Walsh
A Knowledge of Angels (1994) by Jill Paton Walsh
The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells
Little House books (1932 - 1943) by Laura Ingalls Wilder