The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Gail Carson Levine is probably best known for her Newbery Honor Book, Ella Enchanted, but The Two Princesses of Bamarre is severely underrated. When I was around eight or nine, my older sister insisted that I read this book. I absolutely hated it when my sister told me what to do and I refused to read the book for an unreasonably long period of time. However, when she finally wore me down, I ended up falling in love with the story (just as she said I would). This book is the reason why, to this day, I always listen to her recommendations.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre follows two princesses (obviously) who have very different personalities. When one of the princesses falls fatally ill, her sister goes out to search for a cure. It's a simple premise but the story is wonderfully written and full of adventure, courage, and love. Even as an adult, the ending never fails to make me cry.
My sister and I both still love this book and continue to connect over it. Like the princesses, we have different personalities, and when I read the book for the first time, I saw our relationship reflected back at me. The sisters in the story love and care for each other above all else, just like my sister and I do. I also saw myself in the narrator. I was a pretty shy and anxious kid, but reading about Princess Addie fighting ogres and dragons made me feel like I could overcome any fear I had, fight any monster.
Those feelings of love and strength, the affect the book had on me, is the reason why The Two Princesses of Bamarre belongs in the Crooked Canon. Children's books aren't included in the literary canon because they aren't considered "literature," but the literary status of children's books shouldn't matter. The canon contains influential books and I don't think anyone could successfully argue that the books we read as kids don't have a strong influence on us. A good children's book can change the way a kid thinks or feels, how they view the world around them and how they see their own role in it. Furthermore, reading a good book is what motivates a kid to keep reading, to keep falling in love with stories. Every single adult I know who studies English Literature, or even just reads for fun, has at least one book from their childhood that they recall with the same affection that I have for The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Children's books belong in the canon because they stick with us. They turn us into writers and publishers and academics. They turn us into the kind of people that care about literature.
Note: the book was republished in 2012 with a new cover, but I used the original image for nostalgia's sake.