Thursday, June 3, 2010

Children's books

Almost as soon as I learnt to read, my parents introduced me to Enid Blyton, and for many years, I graduated from one set of books to the next. Sure, there were the occational Pollyannas, and the Hedies, and the Secret Gardens and, the March sisters thrown in, but for the most part, I stuck to reading and re-reading and re-re-reading the Enid Blytons. With the result that, though I spent the best part of my childhood reading, when it comes to Children's books, I am almost functionally illiterate.

Some months back, two European friends were arguing about whether or not the holiday home one of them stayed in resembled the house Pippi Longstocking grew up in. Considering I had only heard her name a couple of weeks back when I had read the first of Stieg Larsson's trilogy, I was incredibly inpressed by how well my friends knew their books. That weekend, while looking for books for my kids, I chanced up the Astrid Lindgren classic, and bought it for myself.

A couple of weeks after I fell in love with Pippi, I ordered a copy of Charlotte's Web, which for some inexplicable reason doesn't seem to want to vacate Mt. TBR (Mount To Be Read, for the uninitiated). But a few weeks after that, I was taken in by Matilda's grin, and brought her home along with The Railway Children. Both books I finished within a week, and I can barely wait till my next visit to the bookstore so can stock up on more 'children's books'.

The official reason for my interest in those books is that I am surveying the market for my six and a half year old. But given the fact that he is currently struggling slightly even at the Mary Pope Osborne level, I know that there is no way he is going to be ready for any of those books for at least another year.

There may just be something wrong in my internal wiring- but I have liked all the 'childrens' books' that I have read recently; genuinely liked, not condescendingly liked in that 'they are good for children's books' kind of way.

And if by reading them, I am better placed to introduce my kids to the magical world of books, can anyone ask for more?

And, and, since this is a great place to ask. Any recommendations?


Al said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Al said...

I generally love children's books.

I think the reason is children's authors are much more likely to give their imaginations free rein.

After all their audience doesn't usually have to suspend disbelief.


Publish or Perish

Ann said...

A favorite of my children was "Under the Hawthorne Tree" a story of three children traveling to find their aunts in the Irish famine. They read and re-read this book over and over. All four of them. But it seems you are doing a great job of sussing them out for yourself.


I was always reading Enid Blyton books I enjoyed them over and over again.
Enjoyed your post very much,

Have a lovely day.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

The only book I remember from that age was Danny Meadow Mouse. I still have it somewhere.
When he's a little older, he might like the Hardy Boys.

Nf1andprek-whisper said...

how old is your daughter.. I have tons of recommendations...

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You've read some good books, there!

You've got 2 boys, I think? (Sorry, my memory is awful!) So probably no Little House on the Prairie books (my daughter is enjoying those now.)

Dahl's books are really all good--especially BFG. Not so easy to read aloud, but fun for chapter readers.

Picture books my son had enjoyed were "Bad Kitty" by Bruel, "Knuffle Bunny--A Cautionary Tale" by Mo Willems, and "The Perfect Nest" by Friend.

Chapter books he liked included the Redwall series by Jacques, Peter and the Starcatcher series by Dave Barry, Gregor the Overlander by Collins, Artemis Fowl by Colfer, Lightning Thief by Riordan, Inkheart series by Funke... some of these might be a little farther down the road as far as what they're ready for, or you could work them into story time.

Mason Canyon said...

I think you summed it up perfect. By reading these books and enjoying them as an adult, you can introduce them to your children know they are something they will take with them through adulthood and hopefully pass on to their children. More happy reading.

Thoughts in Progress

Clarissa Draper said...

I agree with Elizabeth, those are great books and the authors you mentioned are all wonderful, I remember reading them as a child.


Deb and Barbara said...

My appreciation for children's books definitely blossomed when I read to my kids. You get to bring something magical to them as well as rediscovering the magic yourself.

If your son is 6 and lively, he might love any of the Robert Munsch series. They are kinetic and funny and children looooove them. They don't pander to kids, but they also take their concerns very seriously and do it in a sweetly, entertaining way (so it doesn't feel like a lesson). And they're fun for a parent to "perform"!


Leanne said...

I found a Blyton at a used book sale yesterday and snapped it up. :-) Meanwhile, Elizabeth hit many of the same ones I mentioned the other day, so there you go, corroborating evidence! Matilda was my hero when I was a munchkin, and Pippi was just FUN. If you have trouble finding any titles you're looking for, just tell me and I'll send 'em. :-) Long live kidlit!

Watery Tart said...

I LOVED my kids being at the age where I got to read all those books for fun! Exploring the kid lit, and SHARING it, was so fabulous. I know I've passed on my favs list to you elsewhere but I forgot the ever-important Captain Underpants--they are graphic books that are annoyingly silly to an adult, for the most part, but they are perfect reading motivation for those early elementary boys.

For YOU (to read aloud to them or chuckle to yourself) I think I also forgot to recommend the Series of Unfortunate Events. The STORY is elementary level complexity, but the 13 book series is grammar joke after grammar joke after grammar joke--they are HYSTERICAL to read.

slommler said...

I love children's books as well. There are some marvelous writers out there.
I have always like Madeline L'Engle. Wonderful books!
Hugs and happy reading

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I enjoyed reading any of the Doctor Seuss books to my daughter and now I enjoy reading them to my grandson.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I do love children's books!

Try Astrid Lindgrens: Mio. Not sure of the exact English title though. Might be something like: My Mio. Or My son Mio.

Philip Pullman is a must: his Dark Materials trilogy is wonderful!

Harry Potter of course.

Anything by Roald Dahl is a must! I've read almost all his books with the kids.

I also suggest The Lionboy trilogy by mother-daughter team: Zizou Corder.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the award :o))

I loved reading my mum's Enid Blyton Famous Five series that she had when she was a girl. I still have them. Might be worth a lot of money :o)

Your boys might enjoy the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne. Great adventures and the kids learn things as well.

Anonymous said...

duh I just reread you had Mary Pope Osbourne, no wonder your post made me think of the Tree House. hehe

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I think there is something truly magical about children's books. I love reading with my children. So much imagination and innocence and beauty. I don't have quite the gift to write picture books, but I love to write for kids, so I write YA. I'm so glad that even if you didn't have full exposure to them as a kid, you are enjoying the books now.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I highly recommend Mark Ludy's books if you enjoy cross-cultural reads (The Grump, The Flower Man, The Farmer, When I Was a Boy I Dreamed...). Mark's artwork is amazing and fun for the grownups who read to kids. And he lives in my part of the country, too.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Al - I think you nailed exactly why children's books are so wonderful.

@ Ann - kids do like those "searching" books, don't they? On my list.

@ Yvonne - Enid Blyton was the best, wasn't she?

@ Diane - I loved the Hardy Boys too. Looking back, they were so predictable, but fun.

@ Nf1andprek-whisper - just sent you a mail. They are both boys, and the older one is 6 1/2, and just started to read independently.

@ Elizabeth - I loved them all, and to be honest, the kids were only an excuse.
Your memory is perfect, and your recommendationa for boys is on the list (of books to read myself).

@ Mason - totally. The one thing I missed in my childhood was not being able to discuss my books with my parents. They knew the books they wanted me to read, but hadn't read them themselves. I don't want to repeat that mistake.

@ Clarissa - there are some fantastic books for kids, aren't there?

@ Barbara - Robert Munsch it is then. Sounds exactly like what I am looking for.

@ Leanne - you would. Which one? And you are quite a bit of a Matilda yourself- for some strange reason, I was picturing you while reading about her. And yes, if I don't find any of the titles, I will definitely let you know.

@ Hart - it was from your stories about discovering books with your kids that I realised I should be passing on my passion to my kids. Thank you.

@ SueAnn - children's books are marvellous, aren't they?

@ Jane - son did Cat in the Hat in school last year, and reads it aloud to me!

@ Fiona - Astrid L of Pippa fame? I am sure I will love anything she writes.
And Harry Potter I read to both of them even before they were born.

@ Niki - I have two Famous Five books that belonged to my uncle - red hard cover versions. Never thought of them as being collectors' items!

@ Carolina - writing for kids is amazing, isn't it? Though writing for kids, with kids may be more fun.

@ Patricia - will definitely pick it up if I get it here. Sounds amazing.

Cold As Heaven said...

Got attracted to this post when I saw the picture of Pippi, one of my favorites from the childhhod. Another superb book by Astrid Lindgren is Emil from L√łnneberget. Read all of these books when I was a kid, and have later enjoyed re-reading them with my boys >:)

Cold As Heaven

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ CaH- my childhood was spent with Enid Blyton and for a long time, I used to be really jealous of people who had grown up on a more varied fare. No more- I can have fun reading those books for the first time now, and in a couple of weeks read them with the kids!
Will take your advice on the other books by Astrid Lindgren.


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