A Little History

The 1960s was the decade of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  In general, the 1960s were a time when people felt that they could solve many things that had been problems for a long time, and few things had been a problem in the United States longer than racial issues.  School desegregation started in the 1950s with the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education.  However, other aspects of segregation continued, such as forbidding black people from eating in certain restaurants.  People began staging demonstrations and marches to draw attention to the problems. Eventually, the movement led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which officially made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their race in matters of employment, education, and admittance to public places.  The law also covered discrimination against people because of their sex, national origin, or religion.  Later laws clarified and strengthened these principles.

However, not all of the idealism of the 1960s led to the changes that people hoped for.  The decade was far from peaceful in spite of the anti-war attitudes of many people.  The anti-communist sentiments of the on-going Cold War had led the nation into the Vietnam War with troop already being sent during the 1960s.  Anti-war demonstrations continued into the 1970s along with the fighting.  Many of the soldiers who went overseas did so only because they were drafted.  When the war ended and the last of the surviving soldiers returned home in 1973, many of them met with (undeserved, especially for those who had not gone by choice) scorn from members of the public for taking part in the bloody conflict, leaving the former soldiers with little or no sense of accomplishment or appreciation for the hardships they had endured.  For many, it felt like it had all been a waste.  The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s also left people with a feeling that their high hopes for a better American society were being dashed.

It was a decade of social unrest and major changes, and although many people felt that it fell short of their hopes, it left a permanent impact on society and led to further changes later.

The Cold War technological race continued.  Yuri Gagarin  (Russian cosmonaut) became the first person to go to outer space in 1961.  At the end of the decade, progressions in space flight finally allowed astronauts from the United States to land on the moon.

Color television was becoming popular, particularly from the middle of the decade onward.  Many television shows which are considered classics now were produced during this decade, including Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes, Bewitched, the Andy Griffith Show, the Dick Van Dyke Show, and Bonanza.

The 1960s was a relatively prosperous period in the United States, and parents spent a fair amount of money on their children, including buying them toys.  Some classic children’s games such as Twister, Kerplunk, and Operation came from the 1960s and also some classic toys such as G.I. Joe action figures.  Barbie dolls were growing in popularity after being introduced at the end of the 1950s and would remain popular for decades afterward.

In children’s literature, although many 1960s books may seem more innocent in comparison to more modern books, books for older children were showing an increasing tendency to tackle difficult topics which had been taboo in earlier decades, such as divorce, single parents, puberty, racism, and drug use. Such books were (and still are) frequently challenged and banned in school libraries, but the number of books on topics like this increased during the following decades.  It was a sign of changing attitudes in society and an increased willingness to confront uncomfortable issues in order to help people understand them and work through problems.

Fiction Books

General Fiction

 

Series

Betsy and Eddie Books

The everyday adventures of a group of neighborhood children. By Carolyn Haywood. 1939-1986.

Ginnie and Geneva Series

When shy Ginnie moves to town, she makes friends with the more outgoing Geneva, and the two girls have adventures together.  By Catherine Woolley.  1948-1973.

Mystery

Basil and the Lost Colony

Basil helps to unravel an historical mystery, tracking down a lost colony of mice in the Alps. By Eve Titus.

The Egypt Game

A young girl goes to live with her grandmother and starts a game of pretend with new friends that takes on a life of its own.  In the process, she almost becomes the victim of a murderer.  By Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

The Ghost of Windy Hill

Professor Carver and his family move into a house in the country to solve the mystery of the ghost that is haunting it.  By Clyde Robert Bulla.

Mystery Aboard the Ocean Princess

A girl and her cousin who are on a cruise to Europe try to prevent the theft of a valuable painting being transported on their ship.

Mystery of the Golden Horn

A girl who has gone to live with her father in Turkey becomes friends with a troubled orphan girl and investigates strange things happening in the house where they are staying.  By Phyllis Whitney.

Mystery of the Secret Message

Penny moves to a new house with her aunt and uncle and receives a mysterious package mailed by her now deceased father that attracts unwanted attention from the strange people living next door.  By Elizabeth Honness.

Mystery on the Isle of Skye

An orphan girl takes a trip to Scotland with her relatives and carries out a series of tasks set for her by her grandmother.  By Phyllis Whitney.

Secret of the Tiger’s Eye

A girl and her family go to visit a relative in South Africa and solve the mystery of a theft that occurred years ago. By Phyllis Whitney.

The View From the Cherry Tree

A boy witnesses the murder of a neighbor and has to convince his family of what he saw before the killer can get him.

Series

Hardy Boys Mysteries

Two brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, solve mysteries in their East Coast town of Bayport and around the world. By Franklin W. Dixon, A Stratemeyer Syndicate series. 1927-Present.

Liza, Bill, and Jed Mysteries

About three siblings who solve mysteries together.  Many of them are treasure hunts.  By Peggy Parish. 1966-1986.

Meg Duncan Mysteries

Meg and her best friend Kerry solve mysteries in their small Virginia town and other places along the east coast.  By Holly Beth Walker. 1967-1972.

Nancy Drew Mysteries

Nancy Drew encounters and solves mysteries with her friends in her hometown of River Heights and around the world. By Carolyn Keene, A Stratemeyer Syndicate series. 1930-Present.

Trixie Belden

A classic mystery series featuring a girl and her group of friends who solve mysteries and support good causes.  Created by Julie Campbell and continued by other authors. 1948-1986.

Fantasy

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The basis for the movie of the same name but different in plot.  A magical car takes an inventor and his family on a trip to France where they find themselves battling a gang of smugglers.  By Ian Fleming.

Historical Fiction

 

Picture Books

Harvey’s Hideout

Harvey and his sister Mildred are bored and lonely over the summer because their friends are away.  The two of them spend a lot of time arguing and fighting, but that changes when Harvey makes a surprising discovery about the place where he has dug his secret hideout.  By Russell Hoban.

Starlight in Tourrone

Children in a small village in France revive an old Christmas tradition that brings life back to their town.

Series

Gus the Ghost Series

Gus is a friendly ghost who lives in an old house that has been turned into a museum along with his friends, a mouse, a cat, and Mr. Frizzle, who manages the museum.  By Jane Thayer. 1962-1989.

Old Black Witch Series

A witch who haunts an old house is horrified when someone buys it to turn it into a tearoom, but they end up becoming friends.  By Wende and Harry Devlin. 1963-1972.

Non-Fiction

Interesting Facts

Children born in this decade in the United States:

Had been born during the Cold War and would be adults by the time that the Cold War drew to an end at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the early 1990s.

None of them would remember a time before space flight, although the concept was still very new to the world in general.  Those born in the early part of the decade would have been old enough to remember the moon landing.  Those born at the end of the decade wouldn’t be able to remember a time before human beings had walked on the moon.

In their early years, although they would be taught to beware of strangers, they were far less worried about accepting homemade treats on Halloween than children in later decades, after stories of Halloween sadism spread.

Throughout their lives, they would become comfortable with a variety of new technologies, seeing rapid technological changes such as:

  • from records to cassette tapes to cds to music purchased electronically with no physical copies
  • from color television to vhs tapes to dvds to movies and television streamed online
  • increasing computer usage and the progression from floppy disks of various sizes to cds of computer games and software to downloads and updates for computer programs managed entirely through the Internet
  • from corded phones to cordless phones to cell phones to smart phones that do far more than just make phone calls

Some of these changes would have happened when they were adults.  Their children would be even more comfortable with technology than they were, having grown up with forms that their parents wouldn’t have had during their earliest years.

They would not have had use of the Internet and e-mail while still in school, except for some who may have used it in college.  Computer usage in general would have increased in popularity as they progressed through school.

Home tv was pretty common when they were very young, and color tv was becoming more common and more affordable.  However, VCRs wouldn’t come into vogue until the following decade. Some of their parents rented their first VCRs from video stores rather than owning them themselves.  Those who didn’t have VCRs of their own just watched their favorite shows when they were on tv, at the time they aired, and if they missed them, they simply missed them.  This was a simple fact of life that would change significantly later, almost unknown by their children.

All of them were already adults around the turn of the new millennium.  Many of them had children of their own at the time.

As adults, everyone born in this decade would be old enough to understand the events of September 11, 2001 at the time it happened and remember them forever after.

Those born in the early part of the decade lived during a time when schools were segregated, but by the time they were old enough for school, things were changing.  They would be among the the first to attend newly-desegregated schools with a far more diverse student body than the schools their parents had attended.  Racial makeup of churches and other religious institutions would vary by religion and region.  Years later, they would have little or no memory of times when there were separate bathrooms or drinking fountains for different races in the United States or when people of different races weren’t allowed into certain restaurants or other public places.

Other Resources

For more about 1960s culture:

The 1960s

Major events of the decade.

Culture in the 1960s

About the 1960s counterculture and its philosophies.

The People History — 1960s

Major events, timeline, stats, fashions, and fads.

Retrowaste — 1960s

Entertainment, fashion, trends, and statistics.

Lists of 1960s children’s books on other sites:

1960s children’s books — Wikipedia

Best Children’s Books Published in the 1960s

Classic Children’s Books By The Decade: 1960s

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