Commonplace Book: Children’s Literature

The responses to yesterday’s “Commonplace Book” post prompts me to list here ten favorite lines from children’s literature. (And please see yesterday’s post for quotations from Crockett Johnson and Dr. Seuss, and yesterday’s comments for great lines from E. B. White and Louis Sachar.)

To get very far he was going to need a lot of books. B is for Books. He could find plenty of big words in a pile of big books. He was ready for anything.
Crockett Johnson, Harold’s ABC (1963)

Crockett Johnson, "How to write a book," illus. from Ruth Krauss's How to Make an EarthquakeYou can write books about anything. For instance, fruits. The first page could be a banana and the second page could be an orange and the third could be cherries, and like that. If you can’t write yet, you could just draw. Then the book could be especially for someone who can’t read yet.
– Ruth Krauss, “How to write a book,” in How to Make an Earthquake (1954), illustrated by Crockett Johnson, p. 27.

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax –
Of cabbages – and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.’
– Lewis Carroll, chapter 4 of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there (1871)

We like our toys.
We take CARE of our TOYS.
We do not want our toys to become broken.
We want to keep our toys for along time.
Cousin Stinky has come over to play.
“Where are your toys?” he asks.
Munro Leaf, "Grown-ups aren't weird monsters," from How to Behave and Why“What is ‘TOYS’?” we ask.
“We do not know what that word means.”
Lane Smith, The Happy Hocky Family (1993)

Grown ups aren’t some kind of weird monsters that have fun making us do things we don’t want to do. They just know a whole lot more than we do because they have been here longer.
– Munro Leaf, How to Behave and Why (1946)

You must never feel badly about making mistakes, as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.
– The Princess of Pure Reason, in Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961), p. 233

“Do you like educational games?” Hodgkins asked cautiously.
“I love them!” said the Nibling.
I sat down and didn’t know what to say.
– Tove Jannson, Moominpappa’s Memoirs, translated by Thomas Warburton (1968), p. 147

Hodges is considered by many to be the finest pastry chef in the city.
Too bad his duck is so crazy.
Tim Egan, Friday Night at Hodges’ Café (1994)

For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908), Chapter 36

The Scarecrow was now the ruler of the Emerald City, and although he was not a Wizard the people were proud of him. “For,” they said, “there is not another city in all the world that is ruled by a stuffed man.” And, as far as they knew, they were quite right.
– L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Yes, that last one was in honor of today’s midterm elections here in the U.S. And, of course, one could add many more quotations to this list. Among those who ought to be represented here are: Francesca Lia Block, Dr. Seuss, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Langston Hughes, Florence Parry Heide, J.K. Rowling, and the list goes on and on! Do feel free to add your own below.


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  2. Rachael


    A really good one from a 2010 book:

    “It’s alarming how quickly people adjust to adventures when they are in one. You have to really work at being astonished by life.” -Ellen Potter, The Kneebone Boy

  3. Reply

    thanks for reminding me about Friday Night at Hodges’ Cafe. It’s one of those books I love but often forget about. I think I’ll read it to my class today before I it slips my mind.

  4. Reply

    I actually used to keep a commonplace book, years ago. I wonder if I have any children’s lit quotations in it? I’d have a terrible time doing this myself, but it’s really fun to read yours.

  5. Cecilia


    I kept a commonplace book in high school, but I have no idea where it is now. In college, I was lazier and just scribbled things on scraps of paper and posted them on a wall. I have your same Phantom Tollbooth quote on my classroom wall along with my personal Norton Juster favorite “So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they are impossible.”

  6. Reply

    Glad to have seen your site!

    I’ll add one:

    “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”
    – A. A. Milne

  7. Reply

    I keep Word documents of quotes from books so I can actually find quotes when I need them. Here are a few quotes from my kidlit document that I’d like to share.

    “Of course, there must be lots of Magic in the world, but perhaps people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.” from The Secret Garden

    “I guess ice-cream is one of those things that are beyond imagination.” from Anne of Green Gables

    “Ruby Gillis is rather sentimental. She puts too much love-making into her stories and you know too much is worse than too little.” from Anne of Green Gables

    Thanks for these posts, I’d like to see what other quotes people share!

  8. Reply

    I like quotes so much, I made a whole blog of them. Though as I’m going through a divorce, they have tended toward spiritual and inspirational quotations. Though you can get a nice selection if you click on the “Books” category.

    I also made a page for awhile called “Why Read?” with quotations about the joy of reading.

    Your selection of quotations is wonderful! I was especially delighted with the Wizard of Oz quotation. As it happens, that was on the very page that I got to read in the audiobook project to produce the entire book, read by hundreds of different voices.

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