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Classical Childrens Books

Early 20th Century Literature

This list of early 20th century literature contains classical books for kids with stories before 1950. These books have been in continuous print for over 50 years, or are noted to be newer.

Old Fashioned Phone What changed in the early 20th century?
  • Homes
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Schools
  • Movement from farm to cities
It was a time of rapid change, and to learn that some things never change. Or do they?

See more about using Early 20th Century at the bottom of this page.

National Velvet

By Enid Bagnold

Realistic Fiction
Sussex England - rural
Reading Level: 5th - 8th Grade
A fourteen year old girl becomes the owner of a marvelous piebald horse and dreams of entering him into the National Championship. Her determination to overcome multiple obstacles reflects the champion-spirit her mother displayed a generation before. Many of the classical horse stories are from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In The Shadow of the Pines

By Karen Newell

True Story
East Texas - Rural- USA
Reading Level - 4th grade and above
When the mother in a sharecropping family dies leaving six children, the oldest son promises to keep the family together and get the younger children to school. When every circumstance works against them, the children strive to help each other. A newer book, it is one of the titles in Depression Era literature.

Cheaper By The Dozen

By Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

True Story
New Jersey - USA
1910 - 1920
Reading Level: 3rd to 6th Grade
We've all read about the famous inventors. Here's a true story of one family with 12 kids who undergo remarkable changes as their home and life is modernized. Look for other titles from the 20th century that are also humorous stories.

Earthquake At Dawn

By Kristiana Gregory

Historical Fiction - based on true story
1906 Earthquake in San Francisco

6th - 8th grade

Daisy is the fictitious main character who travels as an assistant with the historical Edith Irwine, world renown photographer who took forbidden pictures of the city after the famous earthquake. A realistic glimpse into the hardships surrounding the people who survived the horrific earthquake.

After the Dancing Days

By Margaret Rostkowsky

Kansas: Post World War I
Grade 5-9
Historical Fiction
Thirteen year old Anne's father has returned to home after serving as a military physician, but still there are plenty of severely wounded soldiers whom he needs to care for at the local hospital. Against her mother's advice, she befriends Andrew, one of the veterans. In addition to the cripling wounds of the men around her, Anne also needs to face the reality of her favorite uncle who did not return; particularly when she finds out how he died.

The Story Of My Life

By Helen Keller

Reading level: 5th grade and above
The inspiring story of a blind and deaf woman who communicated with the world; and the persevering teacher who taught her to do so.

The Cruise of the Snark

By Jack London

True Story
South Pacific
The story of a famous author and the boat he designed to sail around the world. The cruise around the world was never completed, but his pictures and stories have endured for over one hundred years. See other ocean stories early 20th century literature tales of traveling by sea.

Letters From Rifka

By Karen Hesse

Based on a true story
Russia to Ellis Island
The story of immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island for a better life is an important part of early 20th century literature. While this award winning book is too new to technically be considered a classic, it is likely to earn that designation with time. Based on the story of the author's aunt, it describes the journey of Rifka, a Russian-Jewish immigrant seeking a new life in a new land.

Twenty and Ten

By Claire Huchet Bishop

True Story of a school in France
World War II often marks the ending period of early 20th century literature. Twenty and Ten tells the story of a boarding school that hides ten Jewish children from the Nazis. See other World War Two stories.

All The Cities Of Gold

By Karen Newell

True Story, Rural Kansas
Fourteen year old Donna traveled across the country with the desire to be reunited with her mother. But first she needs to be determine why her family was separated. Piece by piece her relatives help her untangle the story of her family's past. But her own future remains uncertain as she is left with the choice of bitterness or forgiveness.

Old Fashioned Phone
Children's stories from the early 20th century often document the momentous changes that individuals, families, communities, and society underwent. No longer did the hands of time move slowly. They moved with breath-taking speed.

Think about it.

Children born in covered wagons on the wild frontier flew across the country to meet their grandchildren who were born in hospitals only a few decades later.

The day to day life style went from old-fashioned to post-modern in one life-time, causing enormous change to families and communities. At the same time that individual lives were being altered, world conflicts changed the globe forever.

Stories in this era reflect much the same thing that all classical literature does: men and women and children of character rising to meet the challenges of their time with the goal of overcoming evil with good.

But sometimes it became harder to tell good from bad.

Things that were once taken for granted were challenged. And ideas that were once challenged were taken for granted.

As readers encounter the literature of the early 20th century, help them recognize that the universal search for good sometimes became complicated as social changes swirled around the characters.


Classical Children's Books

Literature by Era

Books by Historical Era
Ancient History
The Middle Ages
American Revolution
Thanksgiving History
18th Century Literature
19th Century Literature
Civil War Era Literature
Early 20th Century
Depression Era Literature
World War II Literature
Historic Fiction Teaches

Books by Grade

3rd Grade
4th Grade
5th Grade
6th Grade
7th Grade
8th Grade
Classical Lit Book Club

Easy Books

Preschool Picture Books
Early Reading Books
First Chapter Books

Lit Unit Studies

The Jungle Book
Wind In The Willows
Little Women
Twenty and Ten
Shadow of the Pines
Wizard of Oz
Calico Bush
Benjamin West & His Cat
The Golden Goblet
The Golden Goblet

Literary Themes

Children's Book Themes
Animal Stories
Dragon Legends
Ocean Stories
Family Life
Overcoming Disabilities
Christmas Stories
Detective Stories
Christian Literature
Fairy Tales

Favorite Authors

List of Authors' Books
Charles Dickens
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Jane Austen

Favorite Book Series

Sets of Classics

People & Places

Tales From Other Lands
African American Lit
Native American Stories

Boy Reading and Dreaming
Favorite Boys Books

Girl Reading and Dreaming
Favorite Girls Books

Shadow of the Pines
In The Shadow of the Pines

Shadow of the Pines
All The Cities Of Gold

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