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Books for Children of All Ages


While doing some Win­ter Sol­stice shop­ping, I ran across the loveli­est lit­tle book, A Keep­sake Jour­nal of Books Read to Me, by Emi­ly Elli­son. It’s for par­ents and grand­par­ents to record the books read to and with their chil­dren. I do wish I’d kept such a jour­nal for Katie—and that my moth­er had kept one for me! It would be inter­est­ing to look back at that list today.

Books have always been an impor­tant part of my life — I can­not remem­ber a time when I didn’t want to go to the library week­ly at the very least! In turn, I read to Katie from the day she was born, some­times just what­ev­er I was read­ing, some­times some­thing I’d cho­sen espe­cial­ly for her — fairy tales, poems, nurs­ery rhymes, what­ev­er was at hand. She’s nev­er once, in her entire life, writ­ten in any book that wasn’t a col­or­ing book or work­book, prob­a­bly because she was taught to respect books from infan­cy. She nev­er tore up books or dam­aged them in any way, despite her pater­nal grandmother’s dire pre­dic­tions of what a baby would do if you gave her books! She’s always had her own books, but also has been allowed access to my book­shelves — I tried to read Beowulf for the first time when I was about 6 years old, in Mom’s old high school lit­er­a­ture book, so why not give her the same oppor­tu­ni­ty?

Look­ing back at the books I loved most, and those I’ve shared with her and intend to share with her as the time comes, I found myself want­i­ng to go back and revis­it some old friends. I know I missed some that oth­er folks cite as clas­sics, so I fig­ured I’d read some of those, as well. Then I ran across a fea­ture about the West­ern Canon Jr. that every child should read, and not­ed the dif­fer­ences (and sim­i­lar­i­ties) in the books var­i­ous peo­ple includ­ed in their own rec­om­men­da­tions. I’m curi­ous, now — what would you rec­om­mend?

Our List

  • Tamo­ra Pierce’s works have been very pop­u­lar in our house­hold since Katie dis­cov­ered them. They’re clas­si­fied as teen books, but Katie had no prob­lem read­ing them at 9 and cer­tain­ly enjoyed them.
  • If you haven’t heard about the Har­ry Pot­ter books you must have spent the last few years under a very iso­lat­ed rock. We’ve enjoyed them, although I don’t quite think they’re as incred­i­ble as some folks do — but they have got­ten many kids to read who weren’t inter­est­ed in any print­ed mat­ter before, and that’s cer­tain­ly laud­able.
  • Per­son­al­ly, I find Diana Wynne Jones to be a bet­ter writer than J. K. Rowl­ing, but she isn’t as well known. Katie real­ly enjoyed the Chrestom­an­ci series.
  • Graeme Base’s Ani­malia is one of the best alpha­bet books ever. A friend of the fam­i­ly gave it to Katie before she was even born — her very first book.
  • Love You For­ev­er by Sheila McGraw and Robert N. Mun­sch is a mar­velous­ly sap­py book. Since this wasn’t pub­lished until (I think) some­time in the 1980’s, it obvi­ous­ly isn’t one I remem­ber from my own child­hood, but it’s a love­ly one for any par­ent and child.
  • Good­night, Moon by Mar­garet Wise Brown
  • Mrs. Pig­gle Wig­gle by Bet­ty Mac­Don­ald
  • Debra Barracca’s Taxi Dog books
  • Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood. We checked this book out of the library, attract­ed by the beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions by Don Wood, the author’s spouse. Katie loved it so much we bought our own copy, and it’s a good thing we got the hard cov­er edi­tion, as it has been read many times!
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Mau­rice Sendak (and just about any­thing else by him).
  • Who could for­get Dr. Seuss?
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peg­gy Parish
  • Roald Dahl’s books upset many par­ents and edu­ca­tors to no end, and have been doing so for years! They’ve been banned so fre­quent­ly that the recent movie ver­sions of James and the Giant Peach and Mathil­da were many people’s first intro­duc­tion to him. He has many more excel­lent books, though!
  • One Kit­ten is Not Too Many — this is out of print, but it’s one I’d got­ten at a book fair when I was in first grade, loved, and passed on to Katie in turn.
  • The Won­der­ful Flight to the Mush­room Plan­et by Eleanor Cameron. I loved the sto­ries about Mr. Bass.
  • The Bor­row­ers by Mary Nor­ton
  • The Sto­ry of Doc­tor Doolit­tle by Hugh Loft­ing. I love the ver­sion illus­trat­ed by Michael Hague.
  • The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia by C.S. Lewis. These can be read on so many lev­els by chil­dren and adults that they have a per­ma­nent place of hon­or in our library.
  • The Hob­bit by J.R.R. Tolkien. One of my favorite teach­ers, Ms. Keifer, gave me a copy of Lord of the Rings set when I was in sev­enth grade with one caveat — after I fin­ished them, I had to pass them on to some­one else who would enjoy them. I went out and got my own copy right after pass­ing them on, and added The Hob­bit, which I enjoyed even more.
  • Wiz­ard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, and all the sub­se­quent books. I’m very glad I read the sto­ry before I ever saw the movie — I still much pre­fer the book!
  • The Three Inves­ti­ga­tors series by Robert Arthur were our of print, but thank­ful­ly they’re being reprint­ed! The first in the series is The Secret of Ter­ror Cas­tle. I remem­ber them being labeled as “Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Inves­ti­ga­tors” when I read them, but it seems that bit has been edit­ed out now.
  • Judy Blume is great for all pre-teens to teenagers, but be sure you read her books first. They deal very can­did­ly with some issues, like sex and mor­tal­i­ty, and you may want to dis­cuss the books with your kids. I remem­ber kids who would nev­er have read any oth­er book pass­ing dog-eared copies of For­ev­er around our mid­dle school because the book had been banned.
  • The Lit­tle Prince by Antoine Saint-Exu­pery is mag­i­cal. I didn’t encounter it until a col­lege French class, but I made sure Katie had a copy (in Eng­lish) on her shelves when she was born.
  • Any­thing and every­thing by Madeleine L’Engle, but espe­cial­ly the Wrin­kle in Time series. There are more books in the series now than when I was child — they are:
  • The Adven­tures of Sher­lock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Lit­tle House on the Prarie and its sequels, by Lau­ra Ingalls Wilder.
  • Lit­tle Women and Lit­tle Men by Louisa May Alcott.
  • The Princess and the Gob­lin by George Mac­Don­ald. I didn’t dis­cov­er MacDonald’s fairy tales until I was grown, but I’m catch­ing up!
  • Col­lec­tions of folk/​fairy tales, mytholo­gies, nurs­ery rhymes, games, etc. from all over the world. Any time I find anoth­er col­lec­tion, I get it. I fond­ly recall read­ing through the children’s sec­tion of the Gads­den, Alaba­ma pub­lic library and absolute­ly thrilling to the ways dif­fer­ent cul­tures explained the same things, like what caus­es light­ning, or how the world was cre­at­ed.
  • Old Tur­tle by Dou­glas Wood. I can pret­ty much count on find­ing a beau­ti­ful book any time I stop by the Uni­ty Church’s book­store on Cham­blee Dun­woody Road, and this is one of the many books I dis­cov­ered there.
  • Most of our fam­i­ly has been read­ing Diane Duane’s Wiz­ardry series late­ly — and we’ve all enjoyed them. There are four books now, with a fifth out soon. So You Want to Be a Wiz­ard? is first, fol­lowed by Deep Wiz­ardry, then High Wiz­ardry and A Wiz­ard Abroad. The kids are eager to be read the two adult books set in the uni­verse, as well — The Book of Night With Moon and To Vis­it the Queen (and as soon as I can find my copies, which have gone miss­ing, they will).
  • Any of Leslea New­man books for chil­dren, includ­ing Belinda’s Bou­quet, Heather Has Two Mom­mies, and Too Far Away to Touch, are good ways to gen­tly intro­duce your chil­dren to the conept of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty. Belinda’s Bou­quet deals with accept­ing the fact that we’re nat­u­ral­ly all dif­fer­ent sizes and shapes, and accept­ing that our bod­ies won’t all be the same. (New­man has writ­ten anoth­er nov­el on this sub­ject for ado­les­cents, Fat Chance.) Belin­da has two moth­ers with no father evi­dent, but it’s pre­sent­ed in a very mat­ter-of-fact man­ner. Heather Has Two Mom­mies is, of course, infa­mous — it’s the sto­ry of a lit­tle girl who has been told by her preschool teacher that she can­not have two mom­mies, that it sim­ply isn’t pos­si­ble — but she does. And Too Far Away to Touch is a love­ly book about los­ing some­one you love to a fatal ill­ness — a gay uncle lost to AIDS in this case, but it is a good intro­duc­tion to talk­ing about any loss with a child. Michael Willhoite’s Uncle What-Is-It Is Com­ing to Vis­it!! and Fam­i­lies : A Col­or­ing Book are also very good. Ama­zon seems to think some of these books are no longer avail­able, but I have found them at Out­write Books in Atlanta (404−607−0082).
  • Katie intro­duced me to Lloyd Alexander’s books after she read The Book of Three at school. We’re adding the whole series to our library: The Black Caul­dron, The Cas­tle of Lyr, Taran Wan­der­er and The High King.
  • The Lit­tle Princess by Frances Hodges Bur­nett was very spe­cial to me as a child — one of the first real hard­back books I owned that wasn’t a “baby book.”
  • My much-bat­tered copies of Hei­di by Johan­na Spyri and Hei­di Grows Up by Charles Trit­ten sit on Katie’s book­shelves now. They got banged up from being clutched as I climbed trees to read in peace away from my younger sib­lings, from being stuffed into a bag on my bike when I rode out into the woods, from being smug­gled under the cov­ers and read with a flash­light. I think I may have to buy new copies if Katie loves them as much as I did.
  • Socks by Bev­er­ly Cleary, along with the rest of her many books, are always big hits.
  • Ursu­la LeGuin’s Catwings books:

    I’d nev­er real­ly thought of LeGuin as a children’s author, but Katie has fall­en in love with these books about a fam­i­ly of kit­tens born with wings.

  • You couldn’t real­ly go wrong by begin­ning with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent trans­la­tions of the Bible—lack of knowl­edge of the Bible, espe­cial­ly the King James ver­sion, is sim­ply crip­pling if one plans to study much west­ern lit­er­a­ture. We aren’t Chris­tians, but have a King James, a Chidren’s Liv­ing Bible (a gift from my child­hood), a New Inter­na­tion­al Ver­sion and (my favorite) George M. Lamsa’s trans­la­tion from the Ara­ma­ic text. We also have Asimov’s Guide to the Bible — an excel­lent ref­er­ence. (I know, most peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t have or need so many ver­sions, but most of these are due to the fact that I was brought up in a fun­da­men­tal­ist fam­i­ly, and didn’t leave Chris­tian­i­ty until I was an adult.)
  • Then, of course, you’d need to add a col­lec­tion of the works of William Shake­speare. I think you need them in their orig­i­nal form, but there’s a col­lec­tion of the sto­ries retold for chil­dren that’s also a good intro­duc­tion for young­sters.
  • Some of my absolute­ly favorite pas­sages for read­ing aloud (to chil­dren and adults) come from Mark Twain. I’d love to have a com­plete col­lec­tion of Twain’s books, but for now we make do with A Con­necti­cut Yan­kee in King Arthur’s Court, The Cel­e­brat­ed Jump­ing Frog of Calav­eras Coun­ty, and Oth­er Sketch­es and a few oth­ers.
  • Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Won­der­land and Through the Look­ing Glass are cer­tain­ly a require­ment for a full lit­er­ary child­hood!
  • Actu­al­ly, you pret­ty much need sev­er­al ver­sions of the Arthuri­an cycles, as well. For kids, T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone is a safe choice. For teens, I real­ly like the twist Mar­i­on Zim­mer Bradley put on it with The Mists of Aval­on. Katie read that one at 10, so it isn’t too dif­fi­cult for a mature pre-teen.
  • You could also safe­ly print out lists of New­bery and
    and Calde­cott medal and hon­or win­ners and find every sin­gle book to be a gem.

Books for Parents

There are a cou­ple of books I’ve read for par­ents and/​or about chil­dren and par­ent­ing in gen­er­al that I thought I’d rec­om­mend.

  • Intel­li­gence and Gift­ed­ness : The Con­tri­bu­tions of Hered­i­ty and Ear­ly Envi­ron­ment (Jossey-Bass Social and Behav­ioral Sci­ence Series), by Dr. Miles D. Stor­fer. This is not some­thing you’ll run across on the paper­back rack at Winn Dix­ie, okay? In fact, I’d prob­a­bly nev­er have run across it, except that I met Dr. Stor­fer at a Men­sa con­ven­tion while I was preg­nant, and attend­ed a ses­sion at which he spoke. The book pulls togeth­er an incred­i­ble amount of research on intel­li­gence and nature vs. nur­ture. One of the things that fas­ci­nat­ed me was a com­par­i­son of child-rear­ing prac­tices in var­i­ous soci­eties that are believed to con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of gift­ed­ness. The book is very, very dry, though, and cer­tain­ly a more schol­ar­ly tome than what I’m usu­al­ly read­ing — the foot­notes, bib­li­og­ra­phy, etc. prob­a­bly make up half the pages! But it is worth­while if you are curi­ous about gift­ed­ness and how to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that encour­ages its devel­op­ment.
  • Pos­i­tive Dis­ci­pline
  • I’ll Tell You a Sto­ry, I’ll Sing You a Song by Chris­tine Alli­son. I found a copy back before Katie was born, and it was invalu­able for find­ing the words to songs I almost remem­bered from my own child­hood.
  • Cir­cle Round: Rais­ing Chil­dren in God­dess Tra­di­tions by Starhawk, Anne Hill and Diane Bak­er. A won­der­ful resource with an expla­na­tion of major pagan hol­i­days and sto­ries, recipes and craft activ­i­ties for each of them. There’s a great web­site that accom­pa­nies the book, too.

Sites About Children’s Books