Friday, November 22, 2013

It's Christmas! Buy a Child (or Yourself) a Children's Book

I was discussing children's books with my niece the other day. It's a topic near and dear to my heart. When I was in college studying to be a teacher (before the writing bug bit me), one of the classes I had to take was Children's Literature. I think I read something like 140 books that quarter (okay, a lot of them were picture books, which made it doable). And I loved every minute. It was easily my favorite class.

Once I started teaching and then went on to raise my sons, I just kept reading children's books. I still do. Admittedly, I prefer middle school and young adult books to picture books, but even there I have my favorites. Here are a few of the best that have come my way. I apologize in advance if I've posted some of these before, but I didn't want to leave out my personal favorites.

The Dark is Rising is a Newbery Honor book and part of a wonderful 5-book series by Susan Cooper. Here's the description from the Amazon website:
On the Midwinter Day that is his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton discovers a special gift -- that he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping the world from domination by the forces of evil, the Dark. At once, he is plunged into a quest for the six magical Signs that will one day aid the Old Ones in the final battle between the Dark and the Light. And for the twelve days of Christmas, while the Dark is rising, life for Will is full of wonder, terror, and delight.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief blends mythology and modern day adventure. It, too, is part of a 5-book series. The author, Rick Riordan also has a couple of other series out. I eagerly await the release of each new book. 

Of course, Harry Potter is on the list. I'm not even going to include a cover for Harry. Everyone knows about him (but it wouldn't have felt right leaving him off). 

Then, too, there are the outdoor/adventure books by Gary Paulsen. I believe he has written more than 200 books, but the best known is Hatchet, a Newbery Honor book. Here is the description from the Amazon site:
Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present -- and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent's divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair -- it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive. 
For twenty years Gary Paulsen's award-winning contemporary classic has been the survival story with which all others are compared. This new edition, with a reading group guide, will introduce a new generation of readers to this page-turning, heart-stopping adventure.

It's a wonderful and gripping tale. Don't miss it.

Suzanne Collins is best known for her Hunger Games trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but before that there was Gregor, the Overlander in the 5-book Underland Chronicles series. Here's the description:

In the first novel of the New York Times bestselling series by Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, young Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building and hurtles into the dark Underland. This strange world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it -- until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

And then there's Ella Enchanted, also a Newbery Honor book. 

How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?
At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy's gift—the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head!
But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse—and live happily ever after.

That's a good beginning, but only a beginning because this post is already growing rather long. If you run across these books, pick them up and try them. They're just as much fun for grown ups as they are for young people. Do you have any favorites that you would have included?

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