Hunting Down the Lost Books of My Childhood

Books were a big part of my childhood. I wasn't the best reader, and truthfully, I got bored easily, but the books that did manage to grab hold of my attention left a big impact.

Not much has changed 😅.

Gift Receipts (as they were called in the 90s) to bookstores were a common present to give & receive in my family. So we bought plenty of books.

Those books are still in my parents house, which is cool, because my sister and I can look back through them. But as they aren't lost, I'm not writing about them today.

We were also frequent library visitors. My memory of these borrowed books is very shaky, since I likely never saw them again after they were returned. But the fact that I can still remember some surprises me.

How Did the Hunt Begin?

Here's what happened.

I was on and I came across this book: Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle. It didn't look familiar, but the title stirred up some deep-rooted memory.

I googled it, saw the cover that was on it back in 1999, and instantly remembered I had read this book. It was one I really enjoyed.

From 3rd to 5th grade I read a lot of books from the library. I had already begun thinking I would like to write books someday, and if I'm remembering correctly, these handful of books spurred on that initial desire. I started writing shortly after this time.

Seeing Afternoon of the Elves again led me to recall more vague memories of the books I liked around that time.

Most of what I remembered wasn't searchable, but if I combed through the suggestions on, I figured I'd notice anything that felt familiar.

So here I am, 20 years later, hunting down:

The Lost Books of My Childhood

1. Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle

Originally Published 1989

"Hillary doesn't believe all the mean things she hears about Sara-Kate. Sure, she wears weird clothes and she lives in a dumpy house, but if Sara-Kate's as bad as everyone says, how could she take such good care of the elf village in her backyard? She and Hillary spend hours fixing the tiny stick houses and the miniature Ferris wheel so the elves won't move away. But as Hillary is drawn further into Sara-Kate's world, she learns there are other mysteries besides the elves. Why doesn't anyone ever see Sara-Kate's mother? And why isn't anyone allowed in her house?"


What I remember from this book is the difference in class between the two girls. And how they bond over a fantasy which becomes more important to them than reality. But also the sad fact that nobody in town seemed to care about the poor family.

Do I want to re-read it? Yes. Knowing that I understood the class based issue at the center of this book as a child makes me want to see how the author managed to write that.

2. The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks

Originally Published 1985

"The Fairy Queen strictly forbids fairies from using their magic power on humans. But after Tiki accidentally meets Jan, a woman who is desperate for a baby daughter, she finds it impossible to resist fulfilling her wish. Now up against the dark and vicious power of evil, this fairy rebel must face the Queen’s fury with frightening and possibly fatal results."


My original AOL screen name was Fairyrebel something something something. I made it after reading this book, and yet all I can remember about it now is that somebody had a strip of blue hair... I think.

Do I want to re-read it? Yeah. I have to.

3. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Originally Published 1979


Is he or isn't he a vampire?

Before it's too late, Harold the dog and Chester the cat must find out the truth about the newest pet in the Monroe household -- a suspicious-looking bunny with unusual habits... and fangs!"


Do I want to re-read it? No. I feel like I remember this book well enough and I don't think I'd find the POV from the other pets compelling as an adult. Would totally read it with a child someday. Did not expect to find that it was published in the 70s! It feels so 90s!

4. Half Magic by Edward Eager

Originally Published 1954

"Four children wish on aHalf Magiccoin that gets their mother Alison half-way home, rescued by Mr Smith. Mark's wish zaps them to a desert without island, where half-talking cat Carrie gabbles to a camel. Romantic Katherine battles Launcelot. Eldest Jane rejects siblings for another family. Stubborn youngest, Martha, causes a riot downtown."


I remember renewing this book from the school library multiple times. I think I had a hard time remembering what had happened and kept starting it over because I liked the book. I wonder if I ever actually finished it?

Do I want to re-read it? Maybe. I see now that it's a first in a series of classic kids books, so that does intrigue me, but in a sort of far future reading goal sort of way.

5. The Gold Dust Letters by Janet Taylor Lislie

Originally Published 1994

"Angela and her friends Georgina and Poco are mystified by the strange messages that appear on the mantelpiece in Angels's house during the night. They're written on beautiful paper in purple ink and signed "The Gray-Eyed Faerie. When opened, they send clouds of gold dust floating into the air. The letters speak of magic and wonders beyond belief -- and the loneliness of a fairy who longs to communicate with humans. No one will ever believe the girls unless they get some proof. And when the "Investigators of the Unknown plan a sleepover tofind out more, they discover that there really is magic in this world, and it can touch anyone who believes."


I remember being really into solving the mystery in the book, but not liking how it ended. I still remember the end. I'd probably enjoy it more as an adult.

Do I want to re-read it? Sure

6. A Message from the Match Girl by Janet Taylor Lislie

Originally Published 1995

"Nine-year-old Walter has no memory of his mother, who died when he was a baby, yet Walter is sure she is speaking to him. The voice of her ghost comes softly to him at first. . .almost like thoughts running through his head. Then, magically, she speaks more clearly, leading him to a sad statue of the Little Match Girl in the park where his picture had been taken when he was a baby. When he finds mysterious items from his infancy left at the foot of the statue, he believes the Match Girl has the magic power to reveal the secret of who he is--and who his mother was. Yet it takes Walter's own powerful imagination and a little help from Juliette, the cat, for Walter to make a most amazing discovery."


I don't remember how this book ends but I remember where I was sitting while reading it. I sat there all day because I didn't want to put it down. I'm nearly certain I made a Ouija Board after reading this book. Yes, my parents were fine with that. lol.

Do I want to re-read it? Yes, I think this was a favorite book of mine.

7. Fog Magic by Julia Saur

Originally Published 1943

"A Newbery Honor Book. Greta had always loved the fog—the soft gray mist that rolled in from the sea and drifted over the village. The fog seemed to have a secret to tell her. Then one day when Greta was walking in the woods and the mist was closing in, she saw the dark outline of a stone house against the spruce trees—a house where only an old cellar hole should have been. Then she saw a surrey come by, carrying a lady dressed in plum-colored silk. The woman beckoned for Greta to join her, and soon Greta found herself launched on an adventure that would take her back to a past that existed only through the magic of the fog."


Honestly, I barely remember this one, just the cover really, but it even sounds like a good story to me now.

Do I want to re-read it? Sure

8. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Originally Published 1961

"For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . ."


In school we had these obnoxiously large reading text books which for some reason often included parts of novels. I remember reading part of the Phantom Tollbooth in the textbook and liking it enough to take it out from the library to read the rest. I also believe I bought a copy of it for my sister one year. Maybe for summer reading?

Do I Want to re-read it? Yes. I've actually wanted to read this book again for some time. I remember thinking it was clever as a kid. I'd probably get so much more out of it as an adult.

9. The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit

Originally published 1907

"Jerry, Jimmy, and Cathy stumble upon a mysterious castle with a beautiful princess asleep in the garden. The princess is really Mabel, the housekeeper's niece, who is only pretending to be royalty. But when she shows them a secret room filled with treasure where they discover a magical ring, enchantment becomes a reality."


I think this is another book I kept trying to read, but it was too long.

Do I want to re-read it? I'd actually like to read a bunch of E Nesbit now. She's on my long list of classic kids lit. And also on my Pre-Tolkien Fantasy books reading list.

10. The Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Originally Published 1996

"Half moorfolk and half human, and unable to shape-shift or disappear at will, Moql threatens the safety of the Band. So the Folk banish her and send her to live among humans as a changeling. Named Saaski by the couple for whose real baby she was swapped, she grows up taunted and feared by the villagers for being different, and is comfortable only on the moor, playing strange music on her bagpipes.  

As Saaski grows up, memories from her forgotten past with the Folks slowly emerge. But so do emotions from her human side, and she begins to realize the terrible wrong the Folk have done to the humans she calls Da and Mumma. She is determined to restore their child to them, even if it means a dangerous return to the world that has already rejected her once."


I have a growing suspicion that my criteria for picking books as a child was (A.) Is there magic and (B.) Is there a medal on the cover?

Do I want to re-read it? Maybe, but I remember thinking it was sad.

Books I Haven't Found

There's actually 3 more books I vaguely remember, but can't find. Here's what I remember.


- There was a family of sisters who lived across a river from a family of brothers and they would walk to and from school together.

- They played pranks on each other, retaliating back and forth.

- There was some mysterious monster in the woods. I think they teamed up to trap it in their garage.

- I believe there were multiple books. Maybe four.

- The covers looked old

I would LOVE to find this series. It was actually a favorite of mine.


- A boy who lived on an island made friends with a girl who lives on the mainland.

- The boats can't sail in winter.

- They're trapped on the island each winter until the ice gets hard enough to walk on.

- At the end everyone goes to Christmas church service on the island because they lay old Christmas trees down across the ice to mark the path.

- I'm pretty certain it was a standalone novel.

I honestly don't know why I remember this book so vividly. I guess it was good.


- Has a cover that looks like the original cover to book one of Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. I know it can't be Fablehaven itself because I read this book in 2002/2003 and Fabehaven released in 2006.

Final Thoughts

It was actually really fun to hunt these books down and create a new wishlist, not that I need more reading goals in my life.

Lot's of these books are out of print so part of me wants to buy the copies I see for sale right now while the other part of me thinks I should just see if I can get them from the library again. For old times' sake. Lol. Would they be the same copies?

I think these books feel special to me now because I picked them out myself. They weren't required reading.

I could probably do another one of these lists about all the books they made us read in school that I remember hating. Would that be interesting? We could co-miserate. I can tell you right now the only books I really enjoyed reading in school were To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, & Hamlet.

I don't usually rip synopsis' for books right off Goodreads, and I feel kind of badly for doing it here. But seeing as I was specifically blogging about books I can barely recall, and that you've probably never heard of, it felt appropriate to do today.

Do you have a list of books like this too?

Thanks for reading!


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