If you always had the latest read tucked away in your Lisa Frank backpack, and the Scholastic Book Fair was the highlight of your school year, then you were likely a big reader in the ‘90s. And to be honest, the 1990s were a decade of excellent kid lit, from age-appropriate scary stories to the tales of young female entrepreneurs. Whatever their genre, the books every ‘90s cool girl read were all that and a bag of chips.
After all, this is the decade that featured heartwarming coming-of-age stories, as well as a series devoted to literary classics explained by a talking Jack Russell terrier. Parodies, fantasy, and drama: ‘90s lit had it all. It made you wonder why the adults ever bothered with all those John Grisham novels when your section of the bookstore clearly had the best reads of all.
Whether you were a summer reading program devotee at your local library or an Accelerated Reader all-star at your school, these books helped shape your tastes as a reader. There’s no harm in flipping back through them today for a major nostalgia moment, and sharing them with your own children is practically a given. Because as every cool girl today knows, anything from the ‘90s is very in.
1. 'Goosebumps' by R.L. Stine
As soon as Welcome to Dead House was published in 1992, Mr. Stine made a killing in the kid lit game. Any of the Goosebumps books, from Say Cheese and Die! to Monster Blood, were required reading. But no one would admit to actually being scared of these stories, which were often more humor than horror.
2. 'Amelia's Notebook' by Marissa Moss
If you were an avid diarist back in the day, then this book was probably close to your heart. Published in 1995, Amelia's Notebook by Marissa Moss is presented as the diary of 9-year-old Amelia, who shares her thoughts about school, cafeteria food, and her big sister. It's a charming, on-point look into a kid's world.
3. 'The Baby-Sitters Club' by Ann M. Martin
Although the first book (Kristy's Great Idea) was published in 1986, a huge part of this series was released during the '90s. Ann M. Martin's stories of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and their adventures running a babysitting business made The Baby-Sitters Club series a necessary read for you and your friends.
4. 'The Stinky Cheese Man' by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
This was probably your first exposure to parody, and it was fun to lord this information over your friends. ("Do you get it? It's making fun of these other stories. It's genius.") Reading 1992's The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith made you feel sophisticated as the author spoofed classic fairy tales. Because sometimes the ugly duckling just grows into an ugly duck.
5. 'Wishbone Classics' by Joanne Mattern
If you were a fan of the show (and who wasn't?), then the Wishbone Classics series by Joanne Mattern was a must-read. A friendly dog talked you through some heavy literary classics and made the stories about a million times more fun. With retellings of Oliver Twist and Ivanhoe, these books made your mid-1990s reading selections pretty highbrow.
6. 'Fudge-a-Mania' by Judy Blume
Judy Blume is a queen of the tween lit set, and her humorous, lovable characters Fudge and his older brother Peter returned in 1990's Fudge-a-Mania. The long-suffering Peter has to survive a vacation with his rambunctious five-year-old brother, and a lot of the story's humor and heart arises from their conflicts over everyday situations.
7. 'Animorphs' by K. A. Applegate
8. 'Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger' by Louis Sachar
Wayside School itself is pretty odd: it's a 30-story building with an elementary school classroom on each floor (well, aside from 19). But the characters are the real oddities in Louis Sachar's Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. The kids have to cope with a series of substitute teachers who have varying levels of meanness and eccentricities.