Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Childhood Full of Books, Revisited

A Message from the Blogfather, via Journals Editor Jeff (and Blogger Dan):

For this week's Weekend Assignment, John Scalzi wants to know: What were your favorite children's books? Tell us in your blog, and either link to the post in my comments section or over in John's audio entry. And have a great weekend! (Extra credit: "You forgot the ubiquitous Scalzified Extra Credit portion of the assignment asking us to recommend some books that kids might like to read... ")

Some of my children's books; that is, books meant
for children, but which belong to me. I have no children.

Having done every single Weekend Assignment since April, 2004, and every Monday Photo Shoot since whenever it was that started, I often read a Scalzi assignment and say, "Wait a minute. Didn't we do this one already?"

The truth is, some of these really are similar to past assignments, although they're almost never identical. My problem is that with my, uh, loquaciousness, and tendency toward overkill, I tend to obliterate not only the topic itself but also every similar topic in the near vicinity.

And so it is with this one. What I'm remembering is a slightly different topic:

Weekend Assignment #82: What was your favorite bedtime story as a child?

Extra Credit:
As an adult, have you shared that favorite bedtime story with a child?

My response, called "A Childhood Full of Books," started out with the explanation that I didn't recall ever being read to at bedtime, and continued with a survey of some of the many books I loved to read as a child. I see I have pictures in that entry of many of the same books I photographed to discuss tonight.

But the heck with it. I'm going to talk about some of them anyway.

Whitman books, mostly.
Whitman editions - from my 2005 entry

I really didn't have a favorite book, at least, not the same consistent favorite. In first grade I loved something called Little Dog Tim, but that was pretty much the last time I could identify a single title as my favorite. I loved a lot of books, especially as I got a little older. I devoured my brother's Whitman editions of the classics, and my own: Tom Sawyer, Black Beauty, Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, Little Women, The Little Lame Prince, The Bobbsey Twins Secret at the Seashore, Lassie and the Secret of the Summer... okay, maybe they weren't all classics. Funny thing, though - of all those titles, the one I remember most fondly is the one about Lassie and Jeff, even though Lassie belonged to Timmy by the time I was born.

There were other whole categories of books I devoured:
  • Arrow Book Club purchases such as Follow My Leader (about a newly-blind boy and his dog) and Skip (about a boy and his newly-blind dog).
  • Book series from the school library: the Mother West Wind series by Thornton W. Burgess, the Mary Poppins books, Beverly Cleary and so on.
  • Hand-me-down books from Steve, my mom, my grandmother, and even my mother's friends: Pollyanna, Peggy Lee Stories for Girls, Winnie the Pooh, and The Little Prince.

This was not one of the titles Steve had in the 1960s

Special mention should probably go to all the books about dogs and horses. I read my way through Jim Kjelgaard's books about dogs and wild animals, and Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, Marguerite Henry's Chincoteague books, and of course Albert Payson Terhune.

A Wrinkle in Time. You know I have to
mention this book yet again.

And in fifth grade or so, a librarian recommended this when I ran out of books to read by Eleanor Estes and Elizabeth Enright. Actually, I almost certainly found the book while looking for more books by Lois Lenski. I don't remember any of the books I read by Estes and Enright and Lenski all those years ago, but A Wrinkle in Time is the book that changed my life. I'm not sure it was my favorite at the time, but I must have read it several times in elementary school. I later went looking for more books by L'Engle at the Manlius Public Library, but there wasn't much around by her back in 1968. In desperation I struggled through half of the only other L'Engle book that library had: her depressing second novel, Ilsa, which was very definitely for adults. It wasn't until college that I ever saw a L'Engle book for sale, and even then it was a hardback. I had to save up to buy The Wind in the Door, and later A Swiftly Tilting Planet. From that point on, I bought every new L'Engle novel as it came out in hardback.

So what one book, out of all of those, would I recommend to an 8-to-10-year-old? I guess it would depend on the kid. Horse crazy? Go with Misty of Chincoteague, or The Black Stallion. Would you reather read about kids your age? Try a Beverly Cleary book. Love fantasy? The Little Lame Prince, or maybe The Hobbit, which I read much later. And if you feel like a misfit, and you like to think about the big questions of Life, the Universe and Everything, you can't do much better than A Wrinkle in Time.

Even if you're ever so much older than 8 to 10 years old, I recommend all of these books. Not that you're likely to find Peggy Lee Stories for Girls, but oh, well.


Update: Scalzi has managed to add words to his entry, and the Extra Credit seems to have changed a bit from what I thought I heard:

The extra credit is to suggest a good kid's book from the current era (not including the Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket books, because, well, they're sort of obvious).

So I have to recommend a recent book, eh? The newest books for kids that I've read skew a bit older than the 8-to-10 age range, I think - they're basically all YA (young adult) books. Anything by Meg Cabot is good, or Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. If Daniel Pinkwater is still writing books for kids, then I'll recommend those, on the basis of his older books.

L'Engle's most recent books for children

I'd love to recommend a recent L'Engle title, but her newest one for kids is a picture book called The Other Dog, and I don't love it. The last one before that is A Full House: An Austin Family Christmas. Yes. That'll work. Christmas is coming, after all.


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Paul said...

I had the same reaction as you: "haven't we already done this one?" Luckily for me, my previous entry on this topic focused on books for younger children, like Dr. Seuss, and the Little Golden Books (which I believe you mentioned in your previous entry as well), so I can do something here with the 8-10 year old age range that I didn't do back then.

Bea said...

I love your children's book titles. You've already read my entry, we share a few favorites. I am on the last couple of chapters of A Wrinkle in Time. I know you must think I am hopelessly slow in reading, because it was, what, a month ago that I first mentioned I was reading it. It is as you said, an excellent choice. I can see why you, as a fifth grader, could fall in love with the characters, the plot, the theme. I can see you as the young girl in the story, Meg. She is stubborn, clever, protective, persistent, and very brave. Yeah, I think those qualities would have been admired by young Karen. Let me go so I can finish Wrinkle... Bea