Top 10 Bestest Favoritest Greatest Of All Time Magazines From My Childhood

I’ve been a magazine junkie since birth and in the past I’ve explored 15 Women’s Magazines that don’t suck, 100 Awesome Magazine Covers Featuring LesbiansSix Lesbian Magazines From The Then Before Now and Ten Now-Defunct Magazines That We Miss With All Our Hearts.

Today, we’ll be going very far back in time to when I was too young for Teen but too old for Highlights For Children, otherwise known as the late ’80s and very early ’90s. I’d pretty much read any magazine that arrived at our house, which included The New York Times Magazine and The Nutrition Action Health Letter, but there was a select group of magazines targeted at my actual age group which tided me over until I was officially ushered into the glorious and ultimately disempowering world of teen magazines for girls!

 

Top Ten Most Bestest Amazing Magazines For Pre-Pre-Teens, According To Me Circa 1987-1991

10. 3-2-1 Contact Magazine

321contact2

A companion publication to the PBS television show 3-2-1 Contact, this magazine actually debuted three months before the show premiered. Apparently early issues included “reader submissions of computer programs written in BASIC computer language” and a column featuring a fictional “disc jockey” who answered computer-related questions from readers. I’m actually not sure if I read this magazine regularly, but I don’t really see how anybody who loved Mathnet (a narrative story incorporated into my favorite PBS show ever, Square One) as much as I did could’ve turned down an opportunity to experience even MORE Mathnet in the form of this magazine’s Mathnet comic.

mathnet


9. Stone Soup

stone-soup-1988

Stone Soup, founded in 1973 by William Rubel and Gerry Mandel, published literary writing by 8-to-13-year-olds, which meant I evaluated most of the pieces based on a scale of whether or not those punks were better writers than me. I never actually gathered the courage to submit, so we’ll never know if they would’ve been interested in a 56-week serial about an all-girls baseball team in suburban Detroit or my epic multi-layered novels about time travel and magical eyeballs. Stone Soup incorporated as the Children’s Art Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and continues publishing six issues a year today.


 

8. Zillions

Initially called Penny Power when it launched in 1980, Zillions wanted to “empower kids to become financially literate, see through media hype, and make informed marketplace decisions.” It empowered me to become a really ambitious entreprenuer at a very young age and prepared me for a lifetime of bitching about advertising.  At some point it folded into its mother magazine, Consumer Reports, just like a baby bird. The Billfold recently did a big feature about Zillions and how amazing it was, which is the first piece of documented evidence I’ve seen that suggested anybody besides me read it.


 

7. Ranger Rick

ranger-rick

Ranger Rick is a children’s magazine founded in 1967 and still published by the National Wildlife Federation, initially invented to encourage children to get off their asses and go outside, develop an appreciation for nature and subsequently care about the fact that the environment is fucked. To be honest I wasn’t really crazy about nature because mosquitos and allergens are really crazy about me, but like any good liberal I was very concerned about the environment and enjoyed full-color photography. Also I felt a deep affinity towards Ranger Rick the ambitious raccoon and his problem-solving pals.

 


 

6. Cricket

cricket-magazine

Marianne Carus founded Cricket in 1973 with a group of “historically minded writers and their artist and designer friends”, intent on creating “The New Yorker for children.” The 48-page magazine comes out nine times a year and features stories, poems, folk tales, articles and illustrations. They always had lots of copies at the library.

 


 

5. Cobblestone

cobblestone

Cobblestone, which debuted in 1980 and is still in print, is brought to you by the same publishing group who brought you Cricket. Each issue focused on one particular historical subject. HISTORY MOTHERFUCKERS!


4. Boy’s Life

boys-life

Boy’s Life has been published by the Boy Scouts of America since 1912, and because my brother was a Cub Scout we got it. There was probably weird religious shit in it, but there was also a lot of stuff about hobbies and sports and other things I was into. Like FLYING DISKS!!!!!!!!


 

3. DOLLY Magazine

michael-stipe

I wasn’t allowed to read teen magazines until I was an actual teen, but my Aunt in Australia was like two years older than me which made it pretty easy to sneak some Dolly into my life before actually being part of its target market. She’d bring me issues of the magazine, which launched in 1970 and is still in print today, when she came to visit me. Fun fact: Dolly was actually the inspiration for our Beloved Sassy magazine.

1988 cover girl contest via glossy sheen

1988 cover girl contest via glossy sheen


 

2. Disney Adventures

kiddie mags

This magazine ruled. It debuted in 1990 (and shuttered in 2007) so I aged out of it pretty soon afterwards, but I really appreciated the presence of Darkwing Duck AND Jennie Garth, all in one digest-sized package. The size was a real bonus because it made me feel grown-up, like when I read Reader’s Digest at my Grandma’s house.


1. Sports Illustrated For Kids

martina

When this debuted in 1989 as a spin-off of Sports Illustrated I pretty much died of happiness. Then I came back to life and died all over again when I found out they had sports card inserts in every issue (I was a big baseball card collector, and even though the SI cards had no real value at the time, they were still fun to have.) It was probably how you felt when this website launched!

whazzup monica

whazzup monica


What were your favorite childhood magazines?

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2659 articles for us.

52 Comments

  1. I used to love Stone Soup, but my favorite was New Moon: The Magazine for girls and their dreams. It featured content written mostly by girls in elementary and middle school and it was feminist and body-positive. I read it in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but it’s still being published today.

    • yes! i remember that magazine coming out exactly at the moment i became too old for it, i saw it at the library and was like UGH FINALLY! cuz there wasn’t anything geared towards young girls even though there were so many magazines geared towards young boys. girl’s life and american girl came out around that time too, just when i got too old for them, but they probably also sucked

  2. Zillions! That was easily one of the nerdiest things about my childhood…that and a Buffy scrapbook we don’t need to talk about right now.

    Also gonna expand on your reference to Highlights magazine. All I can remember about it was Goofus & Gallant, the most heavy-handed cartoon ever.

  3. I came in here expecting to see Highlights magazine listed, but surprisingly it wasn’t. Another one I was half expecting to see was Nickelodeon the magazine. We had a subscription to that one in my family and it was pretty cool.

    Also, anyone else think NPH has aged well?

  4. Cricket still exists — my son gets it, and we love reading the stories as a family. Terrific quality and widely multicultural. Alas, no inclusion of LGBT families or kids in the several years we’ve been receiving it. Hope they do something about that.

  5. Disney Adventures was my jam! I remember this one time my mum accidentally bought me Total Girl (probably an Australian thing) instead as they looked kind of physically similar. And I totally disdained it because girly things were gross, but then secretly stole it back and read it really fast without her seeing.

    My brother and I used to get the Horrible Histories magazine too, which was very exciting and interesting even if it had a very loose grasp on ‘historical fact’.

  6. So I guess this hadn’t come out yet when you were a kid, or maybe it had and it just wasn’t your jam, but Muse magazine was my LIFE from maybe 7-13 or so. It’s Cricket’s science magazine for 9-14 year olds. I wasn’t much of a science kid and am not much of a science grownup, but for some reason after Ladybug my family chose to go the Click and then Muse route instead of the Spider and Cricket route. But we did have an AMAZING audiotape of stories from Cricket. Oh my god. That audiotape. I don’t know where it is now, but there was one story about going on a hike and everybody switching sandwiches because they knew they all hated the sandwiches their own mothers packed for them…and then they all ended up with salami anyway. And there was one “story” that was just palindromes, which is where I learned my favorite palindrome: go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.

    oh man, you guys. CHILDHOOD. THE 90S. What a time to be alive.

    • Muse is the greatest! I’ll always remember that I learned how to play chess from a feature in there about the endgame of the giant wizard’s chess match in the first Harry Potter book (this was published in the magazine right around when the movie came out in 2001). But they had so many awesome issues! I don’t know if my favorite was the cats one or the Black Death one.

      Also I wrote a letter to them once and got one back from the magazine’s characters!

  7. I was obsessed with Disney Adventures, it was probably the only magazine I read consistently at that stage.

    How did I not know there was a Mathnet comic? I only knew about the show, unfortunately, it did not actually improve my math skills (and I really needed the help).

  8. Remember the time during the book fair in middle (elementary) school anne you had to order your books and subscriptions? Yes, Disney Adventures and the babysitter’s club was my thing, and scrunchies.

    OH MY YOUTH!!!

  9. Cricket used to be the only thing I ever got in the mail and it was so exciting. I really loved the illustrations, and for the longest time there was a comic on the back cover that was amazing. Zoobooks was another favorite as well, I think I read them all.

  10. I started reading Cricket when I was nine and started reading my sister’s issues instead of my own copies of Spider (Cricket’s younger sibling). Our parents caught on, tipped off our grandparents (who were buying us the subscriptions at the time), and lo and behold, I graduated to Cricket and she moved up to Cicada. That was a happy day for me. (That was also the year I got a poem published through one of Cricket’s contests and spent many hours jumping around the house in glee. I still have the certificate on my wall.)

    My sister eventually stopped getting Cicada, but I still read and subscribe to Cricket now at age 23. I buy my own subscriptions now, though. 🙂

  11. 3-2-1 Contact was my JAM. You guys, TIME TEAM. BEST EVER. And I totally programmed a bunch of those BASIC programs into the family computer.

    I loved Boy’s Life, too.

    My favorite though was Young Voices, which was this tiny local magazine similar to Stone Soup that was the first place I was published (a poem in 3rd grade) and the first place I had a regular writing gig (a science column in 7th-8th grade). The editor, Steve Charak, was a fixture in our community and a really amazing guy who kept my love of writing alive even when I was convinced I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up. (Yeah, that didn’t go as planned.) I really believe that if he hadn’t been around, I probably wouldn’t be a writer today.

    Unfortunately, before I could tell him what an impact he made on my adult life, he died of a brain tumor. 🙁 I didn’t find out until years after it happened – I did a Google search on him because I wanted to tell him all this and found his obituary instead. I wish I’d gotten a chance to tell him!

  12. Horse & Pony was the only one I had a subscription to, they used to have these cute little photo comics with a pony called Daisy. Speaking of comics, I dunno if they count as magazines but we were obsessed with The Beano and The Dandy in our house, my piano teacher had huge stacks of them in her music room and I would just sit in an armchair reading while she desperately tried to convince me to play the piano like my parents had paid for.

    And that’s why I have no musical skills with which to impress the ladies, but I could totally show you how to tack up a pony, which I admit isn’t quite as useful at open mic nights.

  13. Riese, I must personally thank you for reminding me of Sports Illustrated for Kids. I also loved their their AMAZING sports cards, as I was also a collector. My happiest memory, however, is drawing probably hundreds of athlete caricatures and trying to get them printed in the magazine (which I don’t think ever happened, though I did get Mark Grace to sign one of them at a Cubs game one time). I also had a weird obsession with Kirby Puckett, which was reflected in numerous drawings and, like, a 2 page spread in my baseball card book.

  14. I was a huge fan of American Girl, New Moon (which made up much of my early feminist education, and which in retrospect was probably the best magazine I loved as a kid) and Muse. And I also read Stone Soup and Cricket. I’m also kind of mad I never submitted anything to Stone Soup; I definitely was a better writer than some of the ones I remember reading!

    As part of a younger generation, I also really liked Hopscotch for Girls. I got a letter published in there and it got some angry responses from other girls in later issues. One of my first experiences in being a shit-stirrer via the printed word, haha.

    And I also read some history magazines though I can’t remember what they were called. Really, my parents just let me subscribe to way too fucking many magazines. And I still love them, but I can only afford to have an iPhone subscription to The New Yorker and I briefly had a free subscription to Opera News. *cries* I WANT MORE MONEY FOR MORE MAGAZINES.

  15. I think I’m a little bit younger than some of you, but does anyone remember Barbie magazine? My brother always got Disney Adventures and I got Barbie and American Girl.

    When I was a little bit older I was obsessed with Girls Life, YM and Seventeen. I won’t lie, I still read them sometimes at airports, but only in cities where I don’t know anyone because it sort of ruins my super liberal, feminist persona.

  16. …and then there was me, the weird girl who begged her parents for a subscription to Dog Fancy
    (we didn’t have a dog), and read the Levenger catalogue like it was a magazine. Interestingly enough, I made one of my first Officially Gay Friends when she saw me reading Levenger in the back row of class one day. Apparently queer women have a thing for fountain pens and other fine writing accessories?

  17. Every so often I wonder what the name of the magazine was that I used it read in elementary school because they had a subscription to it and was like Consumer Reports but for children. And now I know and I am really really happy.

  18. I lived for the Weekly Reader we got at school because my family didn’t have money for a magazine subscription. Later when I was in jr. high, I read Girl’s LIfe. I would read that shit cover to cover. And would cut them up after a while to make cool collages that included Avril Lavigne’s face all over the place.

    • My mom subscribed my brother and me to something like that, except it was Catholic. It was HORRIFYING. Fortunately I knew enough to know that it was crap. (My mom was actually a super-liberal Catholic so once she knew what was up, it did not get a renewal!)

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.