8.12.2008

Tuesday's Edition of Children's Classics

Children's Classics So, some of you may have noticed I theme a lot of my posts around books, and it's oftentimes because I enjoy reading another blog about books, called We're Reading Into Everything (WRIE), but it's also because, well, I LOVE books, and I am convinced I was born with my nose in a book(instead of the dr. slapping me on the tush to get a reaction, he had to surgically remove my nose from the yellow pages of my copy of Good Night, Moon ;) ). Speaking of my childhood, I've been thinking of the classics I used to love to read, handing off (I hope) that same love to my own children. A classic book, by tradition, was "one written in ancient Greece or ancient Rome." But that has changed and can now include other literature or art: "any pre-1900 book still in print as a classic, or titles that is [a] hundred years or older and still in print, and many books are classed as modern classics because of their contemporary significance or perceived future significance."
[Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classic_book ."]

Jennifer Donovan from WRIE has challenged other bloggers to post today (a) book(s) that fit into this category. I went beyond the one and listed my top five (my bad!). There's a group of chapter books that I consider "classics," for readers in the 8-12 age group, that deserve mentioning;and so, that I will do. A couple of them are older, and then there are some newer ones not quite a century year-old. There's a small pile of books I am reading as an adult now or have planned to read, that I never got around to as a child.
So, on with the "show," top-five style(one being the best). I wanted to list more, more of ones given the honorable John Newbery Medal, like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle [1959-1960](consider it an honorable mention), but there's entirely too many out there, and I just have too much to say about the top five I have (remember: I have a big mouth! ;) ). I hope other bloggers share my love for the same books and list what I could not.

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie [1932-1940's] series was given to me as a boxed set, as a little girl, from my grandmother. I loved watching the television show in syndication, and I always enjoyed pretending to live pioneer-style; my grandmother was very much a reader herself, and she was in tune with my likes and dislikes. She poured the love of books all over me, maple syrup style. ;) Anyway, I loved these books. They were sincere, they were historical, and they gave me a sense of the accomplishment we had as a nation, in that the illnesses that plagued Laura's family and friends in that time, no longer sent us into peril. For that, it gave me a reason, as a little girl, to be thankful for things I had. And to me, that's always a good lesson learned.

2. Nancy Drew [1930-1970's] Mysteries, by Caroline Keene. I was very much, from the beginning, a lover of mysteries. I enjoyed a good murder plot (even at the ripe age of 8) and again, it was my grandmother's doing. She set me on this path when she read me some "Jack The Ripper" cases and good ol' Sherlock Holmes sleuthing tales. I read the Nancy Drew books, three or four at a time, on a weekly basis, off my grandmother's shelves. Nancy was a sweet, courageous, smart, and strong-minded young girl/woman who did everything imagineable within her community: she volunteered her time and she had she a lot of friends and authority figures helping her out when she needed them. She was usually very unwelcomed when she started prying into the lives of those who were not honest in their endeavors and who were obviously very crooked. Nancy sleuthed very well, and I enjoyed reading how she was going to get out of a pickle and solve a case the police could not, for whatever reasons, detect themselves. The ND series are classics because Nancy is every little girls heroine with spunk and brains, and, because, they've been around since the early-to-mid-twentieth century. And despite that fact, or because of it, they always felt very modern to me.

3. Charlotte's Web[1952] by E.B. White is a Newbury Medal-winning story about adventurous talking animals, and what kid doesn't like talking animals, who act out human emotions and display qualities we have when it comes to friendship and loyalty? It tells a tale of a spider becoming heroic, despite her nasty habit of killing and sucking the blood out of insects("...I eat anything that gets caught in my web. I have to live, don't I?"), and her ability to sacrifice her life to help save her friend, the pig, Wilbur. While it brings on the tears, it also reminds young children that it's not about being popular, but about how a loyal friend can make you feel alive. It clarifies what children, today especially, need to learn about how to treat each other, and in my book, that's a very important lesson to learn.

4. Anne of Green Gables [1908-1939]by L.M. Montgomery is one series I picked up as an adult; fairly recently, in fact. I had picked up the first one for my older daughter to read, but realized she was then, at age 6, not ready for it. So I read it myself and thoroughly enjoyed it: so much so, I ordered the next three from Amazon and read through them quickly. I consider this series a sort-of Canadien version of LHOTP. Obviously, the story line is different and that also of the characters, but the at-home feeling they give you, as if you know the character personally right away, is that much like what Laura makes you feel when she first introduces her young self and her family. Anne is an orphan who makes up a lot of things in her mind to make her not-so-lovely life much more manageable. Because of her wild temperament and imagination, Anne finds(thinks) she's very hard to love, and thus, to adopt. And it's only by "accident," that she gets pulled from her orphanage and taken to an older couple, only they are really ready for a boy to help on the farm, not a helpless girl! But they were wrong, and she was wrong: she's very lovable, very helpful, and she becomes a happy, well-balanced girl: they take her in and raise her while she gives them great joy and amusement in the midst of the trouble she often finds herself in. This series makes you laugh, cry, and imagine. And it gives a child hope. I have yet to finish the complete series, but hopefully, when my daughters become as happy with them as I have, we can finish them together.

5. Swiss Family Robinson[1812], by Johann David Wyss, is a work-in-progress for me right now, but so far, I am seriously wondering why I never read it as a child? I picked it up earlier this summer in hopes of reading it and involving my children. Just last week, I took it off my shelf and began reading it, to get the feel for it. Least to say, I have become so engrossed in it, that I have not yet started reading it aloud to my children. I know, my bad. I want to, and I plan to. And then I will bring out the movie and reminisce of how I watched it as a child, not realizing then, that it was a book first. And, to me, that is a tragedy. I don't want my children to get the idea that Hollywood always comes up with these great screenplays out of the blue, but instead, I want them to know that, much of the time, they are derived from great classics like this one. What I like about this book, is that while in fear and wonder for this family's future, I am also learning about things I never knew. There are Science lessons, Historical lessons, and life-lessons one can only REALLY learn by living them out, but also, the reader becomes engaged in the adventures this family has to endure and wants to know how they come to the conclusions that they do. A pastor and his wife, and four sons, do everything they have to do to survive a shipwreck. They hunt, they build, they garden, they share. And they pray. I really like that about the book, too. All of their faith is wound up in this book and it is strengthened, not weakened, by this struggle for survival. Also, it's funny. They find animals and train them, and the boys make mistakes that give the family time to breath and escape the harshness of thier island, by laughing. And while I still am reading this great classic, I think I've witnessed enough of it to enter it into this category. If you and your children are in need of a late-summer adventure before returning to school, or even to dive in while in school (it's a good before-bed story,too!), then pick this up!

I hope to be able to continue this list in the future, for a bigger reading age group, and for this one, too.
A last thought: if you don't like watching beach volleyball or wrestling this Olympic Season, pick up a classic! If not for you, then for your witnessing children! :)

6 comments:

Lauren@Baseballs&Bows said...

You listed some wonderful books! Charlotte's Web is one of my all-time favorites!

Melissa said...

I loved your list--I agree with all of them!
My kids are 9 and (just turned) 8. We listened to Anne of Green Gables as an audio book in the car and they both thoroughly enjoyed it. I think it would have been a bit much for them to slog through reading to themselves, even my 9 yo advanced reader.

My son is reading Swiss Family Robinson now and LOVES it.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Yea! Thanks for joining us!

I never read Anne of Green Gables as a kid, and have been thinking of picking it up as an adult. I also had a boxed set of Little House on the Prairie books (a light blue box). I read and reread those books.

I also think that we will feature Newbery's sometime as a category, so you can revisit some of those that you love (and more than one recommendation is certainly fine!).

Bluestocking said...

I like all those books. In fact I read most of them.

I reviewed The Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit.

http://web.me.com/bluestocking_bb

Polly Wolly said...

I would have to say that The Little House Books and Charlotte's Web were my favorites as a child, too...well, as an adult, as well. I also remember reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and consider that a classic. As an adult, I have enjoyed The Secret Garden and A Wrinkle in Time and would consider them classics. There are so many great books out there that I have yet to read! (Hoping to get to do that with my dd this year. She's read more Nancy Drew books than I ever did..)I have devoured so much more in the area of picture books (as a lover of children's literature). It's time for me to branch out. ;)

Omie said...

I like your list. I reviewed (or commented on) A Wrinkle in time so how could I not agree. I loved the Little house and Nancy Drew books - didn't realize that Nancy Drew went back to the 30s! But have only heard of the others. Your post is quite educational? Who knew classic originally meant written in ancient Greece or Rome?