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more friday fun: kiddie lit

(I'm trying to stay away from warblogging or newsblogging today. Trying.)

Jim Miller is dissatisfied with the Seattle Times list of recommended children's books to give as Christmas presents:

The books would appeal to a radical feminist graduate seminar. There is no book by Dr. Seuss, but there is Bee Boy Buzz for 2-5 year olds by bell hooks, who really does spell her name that way. No books on any American heroes, but there is a book on a kid with attention deficit disorder and a no doubt uplifting novel for young adults that "explores broken families, infidelity, and even murder". (Sounds perfect for Christmas, don't you think?) No books on George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, but there are books on a surly foster child, a Mexican Cinderella, and a wise boy in the Middle East. By this point you can probably guess what the one book on sports will be like. It is a story about a boy on a flag football team that needs another player, but the best athlete is a "girl who doesn't shave her legs". No religious books, but there is Crispin: The Cross of Lead, about a boy who has to struggle with the corrupt medieval church. I could give more examples, but I think that the pattern should be clear by now.

Jim then says:

You have to click the MORE link if you want to proceed. Which you do.

I am not an expert on children's literature, but I think I can do better than this, and I am sure we can. Tomorrow, I will start posting a list of book suggestions for kids. I'd be grateful for any suggestions that you might have, books that you enjoyed as a kid or that you know kids enjoy.

Children's literature has always been my favorite kind of reading. When I was younger, I read books faster than my mother could them into the house. As I got older, I never let my love for kiddie lit wane. In fact, I spent a few years working in the children's department of the local library (where my mother still works). When I had kids of my own, it gave me an excuse to rebuy all my favorite books over again. Plus, it didn't look so odd for me to be poring over Madeline.

I'll send my list to Jim Miller, but I'd like to post it here to get some discussion going on this subject.

Favorite books I read as a child that I have read over and over again into adulthood:

  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
  • Half-Magic (and other books in the series) by Edgar Eager
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  • The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  • How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • The Encyclopedia Brown Series by Donald J. Sobol
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Children's books I read as an adult and enjoyed

  • The Series of Unfortunate Event books by Lemony Snicket
  • His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (which I reviewed here)

Books I have enjoyed reading with or to my kids

  • The Day I Swapped my Dad For Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
  • The Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.
  • Owen by Kevin Henkes
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg(anything by Van Allsburg is good)
  • Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by John Scieszka
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

    This list is no way, shape or form complete. I'll probably add to it as the day goes on. Please feel free to add your own or comment on the books you read as a child (or still read when you want to feel like a child, or read to your own children......)

    Link to Jim via the lovely and gracious Meryl

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    Over here, I suggested Susan Cooper's series "The Dark is Rising." Good reading, at least when I was a kid (although the reviews at Amazon have adults liking them too).

    Your "books read as a child" list is almost identical to the list I myself would make. You've saved me the trouble... :)

    I remember feeling so depressed when I'd finished 'The Phantom Tollbooth'.

    I also read 'Two Minute Mysteries', as well as the 'Encyclopedia Brown' series.

    One book I loved, and recently bought, was 'The Great Brain' by John Fitzgerald (about his brother, Tom).

    'The Pigman' sounds familiar, as I probably had to read it for school.

    I miss the old days of bi-monthly Scholastic Book Club deliveries.

    Oh, where to begin for great children's books? Some of my faves:

    The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (probably THE classic children's fantasy series--way better than that Narnia crap)

    The Three Investigators Series by Robert Arthur. (screw the Hardy Boys--these are the best kids mysteries. Not only are they well written, good mysteries, but they uphold the value of rationality--and even better, they're back in print!)

    Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (his best, IMHO)

    The Heinlein juveniles, especially Between Planets, Red Planet and The Rolling Stones.

    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl (better than the original)

    Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

    I loved all of the Anne of Green Gables books by LM Montgomery when I was a girl, as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books and Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Oh, also Madeline L'Engals's A Wrinkle in Time. When I was younger than that, and my sister was really little, Momma used to read to us a book called "The Piggy in the Puddle" by Charlotte Pomerantz. We used to giggle non-stop when Momma read it to us in funny voices. The Reading Rainbow website (pbskids.org/readingrainbow) has lots of great books listed.

    I love, love, loved anything by Beverly Clearly....i.e. "Ramona the Greatest", "Ramona Takes Charge" and her best, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret". Also "Freckljuice" and "Where the Wild Things Are".

    I loved Judy Blume books, even before puberty! "Tales of the 4th Grade Nothing", Beezus & Ramona, Encyclopedia Brown, and there was specific series of history books I used to get at the school library about people like Clara Barton and Betsy Ross. I loved that stuff... still do! However, my all-time favorite is still "How To Eat Fried Worms" - a Classic in My Book.

    What, no Harry Potter? :)

    I remember reading "The Boxcar Children," the Encyclopedia Brown series, and "How to Eat Fried Worms," as a young adult.

    But Tolkien books - and Harry Potter - are books I just picked up in the past couple of years. I think I appreciated them more than I would have when I was in the proper age group for them:)

    By the way...has anyone read the Lemony Snicket, Series of Unfortunate Events? Are they any good? I keep seeing them at bookstores and want to pick them up, but don't want to look like more of a child than I already do:)

    I always treasured my Madeline L'engle books.

    Anyone remember Bunnicula? (or its many sequels, including The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Howliday Inn)


    Great choices. Where the wild things are, by shel silverstein, the Babar series, and more recently, The Jolly Mon, by Jimmy Buffett and his daughter Savannah get my votes.

    I love all the James Howe books, Geoff. In addition to the Bunnicula type books, he also did the Pinky and Rex series, which were the first non-picture books my daughter read.

    The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. (Look for the old edition, with the Sidney Paget-esque artwork, rather than the new copies, which features hideously bad modernist cartooning.)

    The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald. Just tremendous stuff.

    Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, especially the story wherein a doughnut-making machine runs amok.

    How could I forget Homer Price??

    That donut machine story was one of my all time favorites.

    Funny, I just posted an incomplete list of kids books I loved at my blog right before Thanksgiving. If I do this right, you should be able to find it right here.

    As a kid I read & enjoyed most of the books you've listed so far, Michele. I also liked (and Jayden has or has read) Ezra Jack Keats' books, Daniel Pinkwater's books (bizarre but fun), The Egypt Game (I forget the author's name), Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander, More More More Said the Baby, The Black Snowman, any of Maurice Sendak's, Roald Dahl's, Walter Dean Myers', and Beverly Cleary's books. As well as about a thousand others.

    I have read a few of the books on the Seattle Times' list and liked them. The classics are my favorites, but what's wrong with giving kids a different experience to read about? I've got a kid who is half black, has ADHD (probably) and has no father. There aren't many books featuring kids like him and like other families we know; I think it's great that kids' books are being written about so many diverse experiences.

    oh no! did I forget to close an italic tag?!

    If you did, I fixed it :)

    I also forgot the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I always wished there really was a woman like her.

    Now, as a parent, I wish it even more, because Mrs. Piggle Wiggle always had a spell to get kids to behave.

    Anything by Maurice Sendak, Madeline L'Engals or Dr. Seuss.

    The Ghost In The Noonday Sun by Sid Fleischman.

    Also, someone above mentioned Beverly Cleary, but I would specifically add all of the Ralph Mouse books, starting with The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

    My favorite as an older child (preteen) and still one of my favorites today:
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    I forgot about The Great Brain! and I wholly agree with connie abuot To Kill a Mockingbird - best book and great movie too. i also just thought of this series of books i was addicted to (i cant remember the name or author) but it was a 'create your own ending' kind of thing. at the end of the page it would say "to go into the house, go to page 45 or to get on the bus go to page 55... whatever... you get what i mean. they were cool.

    Lisa is talking about these books.

    Michele, I'm sorry to see youa re another adherent of the Cult of Gaiman. Seriously, I just don't get it. I've read most of his stuff, and, while his comic books/graphic novels are quite good, his regular novels stink up the place. Even in comics/graphic novels, he's by no means the best...I prefer Grant Morrison anyday, and Neil isn't fit to dip Alan Moore's quillpen.

    How long can this comment be?

    Anything by Roald Dahl, I particularly enjoy The BFG and Matilda which is FAR superior to the movie.

    Charlotte's Web, I used to check that out every single time I went to the library. My mom finally bought it for me.

    Love Homer Price, the donut machine!

    I read The Giver, by Lois Lowry when I was a little older. It's one of those books that kids probably wouldn't get, but as an adult it's one of the best books I've ever read.

    Jan Bret has some great picture books. I don't remember the title but the books about raining meatballs are great.

    Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and The Boxcar Children are musts. I do remember those Bunicula books, they were pretty fun.

    Shel Silverstein is always a good read. And the Amelia Bedelia series is just silly.

    One of my all-time favorites is The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles, by Julie Edwards (Mary Poppins wrote a really good children's book!)

    I'm sure I have more, but I'll spare you the rest of my literary ramblings. At least for now! :-)

    I don't think this list is that biased when you consider that it's not a "best of" list, it's a list of shopping suggestions; therefore, it leans towards the new and less known. I don't think we should blame the article's author for not including books about George Washington, instead, we should act why contemporary children's authors aren't writing compelling books about him.

    Which reminds me, George Washington's Breakfast was a great book, and got me started on my interest in the Revolutionary War.

    Oh I loved the choose your own ending books. I used to spend hours trying to read all the options.

    A favorite childhood book of mine is Watership Down, the book about the rabbits, and of course the best kids book for this time of year, Eloise at Christmastime! Tinkle, Trinkle, Tralala-falala-la

    Charles, I'll deal with you later. In fact, I will devote a whole post as to why I love Neil Gaiman and comic snobs and such.

    While I agree that there are many wonderful books on the lists that you have presented--(and I'll add more later when I have a little more time) I'd like to point out that I think Dagny had a good point: This article was about good books written or published in the last YEAR. Not all the children's classics ever--although the leadoff of the article might lead you to expect such a list.

    But....if people aren't writing the sorts of stories you'd like to see, it's hard to include that sort of story in a list. I'd like to add that most of the stories about American heroes that I remember as a kid tended to be rather saccharine and boring. However, if you want some interesting American history type stories that feature actual historical figures, I'd recommend reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Johnny Tremaine. Both of which are about fictional characters, but interesting and well written, and which revolve around real-world events.

    'Michele, I'm sorry to see youa re another adherent of the Cult of Gaiman. Seriously, I just don't get it. I've read most of his stuff, and, while his comic books/graphic novels are quite good, his regular novels stink up the place'

    Did you read smoke and mirrors? Some of the short stories in there were fantastic, especially Chivalry. And, personally, I rank the Sandman series of comic books as great literature. There's a depth and power to the storytelling there that goes beyond 'bam', 'pow' and all that shit. I wasn't as big a fan of American Gods as I expected, but Coraline is a real trip. I still rank Gaiman in my holy trilogy, alongside Douglas Adams and Hunter S Thompson. And I'm prepared to bore anyone within a three-block radius to tears in order to communicate that...

    Much like this, in fact. Figures...

    A couple of people have already mentioned the Heinlein books. One I'd especially recommend is "Tunnel in the Sky"--a surprisingly deep book, and far ahead of its time in racial and sexual attitudes. Also good is "Time for the Stars," although I wouldn't give it to anyone with a tendency to be depressed.

    Everything Daniel Pinkwater ever wrote (ad will write, as he's still both alive and writing)?

    I'm a firm believer that everyone needs a little Daniel Pinkwater in their lives.

    How 'bout The Polar Express.... I love that

    I work in a preschool. Our children there (3-5 year olds) have always loved anything by Eric Carle. "The Very Quiet Cricket" is my favorite, but he has written many others. Also I agree, "The Polar Bear Express" is a beautiful book, if for nothing else but the pictures. I remember the Encyclopedia Brown books too. They taught me not everything is as it seems, to look for the hidden patterns to people's behavior.

    As for Demosthenes, my 9 year old son just started bringing home the Lemony Snickett books home. They are funny in the most morbidly way.

    L. Frank Baum's Oz books. John Blaine's Rick Brant books.

    I sure could use Mrs Piggle Wiggle right about now!

    I still remember the very first book I received as a gift. I was about eight or nine years old and recall quite clearly many hours curled up in fascination with Jack London's Call of the Wild.

    I'll also vote for the Heinlein juveniles mentioned by Alex Knapp and David Foster, and add that Have Spacesuit Will Travel is yet another great example. Of course, older children will profit from Starship Troopers, even if it gives their teachers hissyfits...

    Juvenile science fiction ain't what it used to be, but some of the oldies are still goodies... and RAH's stuff has morals and thinking material and other stuff missing from much of the modern kiddylit.

    My list.

    I definitely agree on the Heinleins, Pinkwater (although I only discovered him as an adult), and L'Engle.

    Robert Lawson - get all his books back in print!!!