December 21, 2004

Kids Books

I'm a fan of kids books. I wouldn't have admitted this before, but if you take a look at my tower o' reading on any given day there's bound to be at least one children's book there. It's only in the past few years that I have stopped feeling rather silly about my love for children's books. To this day I get weepy over Robert Munsch's Love You Forever, and Nancy E. Shaw's Sheep In A Jeep will bring me out of the deepest funk 9.5 times out of 10 (every once in a while I like being depressed).

At one point I did wonder if there was something emotionally stunted about choosing to re-read
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe rather than the latest John Grisham, but I've grown to accept this part of me, and decided that a 12-step program would be unnecessary. So I'm absolutely thrilled that JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is due for release on July 16, 2005. You can read about that here, here and here.

A lot has been written by JK advocates and detractors. I don't really want to add to it, but I will say this - one of the great successes of her Harry Potter series is that it's reminded publishers that many adults not only buy children's books, they read them. So to celebrate kids books that this adult reads, here are 5 of the authors on my 'love to revisit' list:

Robert C. O'Brien - Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
A winner of the 1972 Newberry Medal, this was already a classic by the time I read it in elementary school. The movie is cute, but the book shines in its intelligence, so its worth revisiting as an adult. Mrs. Frisby is a dedicated mother, recently widowed, who needs to relocate her family. She's also a mouse. Fearing the worst, she turns to the rats who live under the rosebush and learns her spouse had secrets, and that there's a whole world outside her doorstep she didn't know was there. Sound familiar?

Lloyd Alexander - Prydain Chronicles
Based on Welsh mythology and extensively researched, this series of books was first published in the 1960s to high acclaim, receiving honours in 1966 for The Black Cauldron and the 1969 Newberry medal for The High King. It tells the tales of an enchanted land from the point of view of Taran, a young apprentice pig-keeper. In 1985 Disney put out an animated film called the Black Cauldron, which was loosely modeled on the first two books in the series.

C.S. Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia
My first full immersion in the world of fantasy was Lewis' Prince Caspian. I backtracked to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and burned through the set. Years later I learned that the final book was awarded the Carnegie Award, and only recently did I figure out how prestigious that really is. But don't read the books because of awards. Read the books because the story has great mythology, with talking Bears, wardrobes as portals to alternate worlds, a lamp post that grows in the middle of the forest, as well as a proper english tea with a beaver family. And that's just the first book! The rest are just as amazing, and range far and wide in both imagination and time. To read a book synopsis, or a full chapter, visit

Norton Juster - The Phantom Tollbooth
Another oldie, this book was first published in 1961, celebrated its 35th anniversary, and is still going strong! You don't have to look far to find the reason why; the 10 year old Milo finds a toy tollbooth in his home which leads him to the Lands Beyond, a dog named Tock, and the saving of maidens Rhyme and Reason. If you think this is nonsensical, it is, but in a sensible way. Doubt me? Read this

Crockett Johnson - Harold and The Purple Crayon
First published in 1955, this story was eventually turned into a movie, which is how I got my first exposure to Harold's adventure. In his first outing, the little round-headed cutie in footed pyjamas draws his way in and out of adventures during the night, and manages to keep his wits about him. If you want to know more about him, visit him

1 comment:

L-girl said...

Excellent list! I will add:

A Wrinkle In Time - Madeline L'Engel
Harriet The Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg

Holes - Louis Sachar - deserves its own line

for older kids:

The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
The Pigman (and other books by) - Paul Zindel

Chris Crutcher is another great YA writer. Try "Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes".