Children's Books 1950-1959
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis, first published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. The first and most popular of the 7-book Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is also the most popular C.S. Lewis book overall. Throughout his lifetime Lewis wrote over 30 books, including many highly acclaimed fiction and non-fiction works, including many books on Christian apologetics. The Chronicles of Narnia were published between 1950-1956 and today are considered a classic of children’s literature, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages. Weaving together Christian themes, Greek and Roman mythology, and Irish and English fairy tales, Lewis created a world in which children could become kings and queen after stepping through the magical wardrobe. Original illustrations for the works were done by Pauline Baynes and many current editions contain these illustrations as well. Baynes also illustrated books for J.R.R. Tolkien, who was a close friend and associate of Lewis. Lewis began the Narnia series with a single image that had been in his mind since he was sixteen, that of a faun standing in a snowy wood with an umbrella and parcels.
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
First published in 1951, this chapter book about a boy and his dog won the Newbery Medal in 1952. When Jerry Pye buys Ginger for a hard-earned dollar, the smart little dog wins everyone’s hearts. When Ginger disappears, Jerry and his sister Rachel search the town, eventually solving the mystery. This book is great for independent readers ages 8-10.
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Published in 1952 by Harper & Brothers with illustrations by Garth Williams, Charlotte’s Web is one of author E.B. White’s most famous works. This story about a pig saved from the slaughter by an ingenious spider opens with one of the most memorable lines in children’s literature, “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” The book has sold over 45 million copies and has been made into two notable films, a 1973 Hanna-Barbera animated movie and a 2006 live-action film. White, who was also the author of Stuart Little and co-author of the still-popular writing style guide Elements of Style, rarely signed books, so a signed or inscribed first edition of Charlotte’s Web is highly sought after and very valuable.
Shadrach by Meindert DeJong
Shadrach is a novel about a young boy receiving a long-awaited pet rabbit. The boy has never been happier, until one day when the little black rabbit named Shadrach disappears. This book is set in the Netherlands, where the author, Meindert De Jong, spent his childhood before his family emigrated to the United States in 1914. Shadrach was the 9th book illustrated by Maurice Sendak and was released three years before Sendak authored anything himself. Shadrach received a Newbery Honor in 1954.
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
In this American tale, Sarah Noble accompanies her father to his newly purchased land in Connecticut in the early 18th century. At first, Sarah is frightened when they come into contact with the native Schaghticoke tribe, but soon her family soon learns to survive in the new land with knowledge and help from the native people. This text was once widely taught in schools but it has fallen out of favor because of the paternalistic material of the novel, like Sarah giving the ‘Indians’ Christian names and being deemed their first teacher. This story was a Newbery Honor Award winner in 1954.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Harold and the Purple Crayon is a beloved picture book about a curious 4-year old boy and the world he creates with just a crayon. The popularity of the book prompted multiple sequels: Harold's Fairy Tale (1956), Harold's Trip to the Sky (1957), Harold at the North Pole (1958), Harold's Circus (1959), A Picture for Harold's Room (1960) and Harold's ABC (1963). The author, Crockett Johnson, also illustrated The Carrot Seed in 1945 with his wife, author Ruth Krauss. He was also known for his syndicated comic strip, Barnaby.
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Old Yeller is a classic children's novel about an ugly, old stray dog who sounds like a howling baby. When he helps 14-year-old Travis protect his mom and younger brother while Travis’ father is away driving cattle, Old Yeller becomes a valuable part of the family. The sad ending of this story after the dog gets bitten by a rabid wolf leaves an indelible mark on the reader, young or old. The year after it was published in 1957, Disney released a now-classic movie based on the book. Old Yeller was a Newbery Honor book in 1957.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat, a picture book about a boring day being interrupted by a tall cat wearing a red and white hat, has been a classic in schools and homes since its publication in 1957. The creation of The Cat in the Hat came when Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was challenged by the director of the educational division at Houghton Mifflin to combat the dullness of Dick and Jane readers by writing a more entertaining reading primer for children. Geisel took him up on the challenge, creating The Cat in the Hat from a list of 200 basic vocabulary words. Since Geisel was under contract with Random House, the two book publishers agreed on a deal - Houghton Mifflin published the education editions distributed to schools and Random House published the trade editions. The Cat in the Hat is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time and the success of the book led to the Beginner Books series published by Random House, using the same premise of creating fun stories for beginning readers out of 200 easy words.
The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright
We couldn't let the 1950s go by without mentioning a book that is often called one of the creepiest children's books of all time! The Lonely Doll was written and photographed by Dare Wright and it is now a cult classic and a favorite among many women artists.
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Although the first US edition was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1960, the true first UK edition of A Bear Called Paddington was published in 1958 by Collins. The author, Michael Bond, based the bear on a lonely stuffed animal he bought for his wife at a shop near the Paddington Station. Bond wrote the story, about the polite bear with a note on his lapel that reads: “Please look after this bear. Thank you” in ten days. The author went on to write more than twenty books involving the bear, which have sold over 35 million copies.
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
Danny and the Dinosaur was one of the first books published in the Harper Collins “I Can Read” series, which later included Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad. When Danny picks up a dinosaur friend at the museum they spend the day playing games and having adventures. When the dinosaur has to return home, Danny realizes that the day was fun but dinosaurs are too big to have as pets. Danny and the Dinosaur won the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean George
My Side of the Mountain is a young adult adventure novel first published by E.P. Dutton. 14-year-old Sam Gribley runs away from his overcrowded New York City apartment to live off of the land on his great-grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskills. He learns survival skills from books at the library, kidnaps a falcon to help him hunt, and adopts a weasel that he catches in a trap. At the end of the book, Sam is doing so well that his whole family decides to move to the farm where Sam has been living happily by himself. This novel is best for children ages 10 and up.
Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.