Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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The Kairos 30-Day Meme: Eighteen Favorite Children's Books

This is a queued entry and does not reflect my current status. A new post will appear each day this month, but to preserve novelty, the categories that I used won’t be listed publicly beforehand. If you’d like to use my template, let me know and I’ll privately send you the complete list of categories so that you can rearrange and swap them out to suit yourself.

If you don’t want to bother with the entire meme but still want to play, it is highly encouraged to list some of your own favorites for today’s category in the comments.

Day Eighteen: Children's Books

I love children's literature so much I can't even, you guys. I mean sure there's an element of nostalgia and there's also a detached part of me trying to measure the value of a book which was meant for the enjoyment and growth of someone much younger than myself, but mostly I just love reading a good book. Here are some good books for anyone and everyone to appreciate.

The Serendipity Series by Stephen Cosgrove

Everyone knows these, right? They’re so cute and there’s so many of them and the critters look so gentle and sparkly. Series like this don’t get any love from adults, because they’ve got that mass-produced look to them and they’re very simplistic, but I feel like this is exactly what kids want. And because it’s what they want, it’s what they need. Encourage reading early in life through any means!

Word Smart Junior by Julian Fleisher

Yeah it’s a textbook. Builds vocabulary through fiction. I was homeschooled. I’ve never seen or heard of it since then but I remember that plot elements included Deadheads obsessed with RSGs (red seedless grapes), and a girl who had picked up a “working knowledge” of the language of jackals. Trust me, it was good.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I remember trying to picture a “bit” based on this book’s description. I remember wondering why a woman was described as “handsome”. I remember the abrupt way we were told that Merrylegs would be worked until he died when he and Black Beauty were parting ways. I remember receiving the book as a surprise gift at my place at the kitchen table, and finishing it in one day. I haven't held a copy in my hands in decades.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Four books, young reader novels, fantasy parodies before they were cool. Badass princess way before every princess had to be a badass. Kazul is a really interesting character (she’s not the princess; she’s the King of Dragons), and there’s this enchanted rabbit named Killer, and arglefraster melts wizards.

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

Um...I’m not sure this actually qualifies as a children’s book. It’s certainly a difficult read for a child, though easy enough for an adult. Either way, it’s an excellent introduction to philosophy, and has this clever structure that gave me a major WTF moment near the end. And when I say WTF moment I mean I was questioning the nature of reality. I like that. I like that a lot.

Animalia by Graeme Base

I hope this is still as well-known and loved as it was when I was a kid. Just some fun with alliteration and anthropomorphism and the alphabet, but the art is sumptuous with a lot of silliness and character and it’s a joy to pore over it looking for details. Damn, what happened to my copy? I need to see this again.

The Dinotopia Series by James Gurney

Struggled with what category to put this under, because story-wise, 90% of the appeal is the setting, and 90% of the appeal of the setting comes from the art, but the art and the setting are so incredibly good that together they make a series of books that you can linger over again and again all your life. (Plus you can learn a thing or two.)

Dump Days by Jerry Spinelli

Written by the same author as the award-winning modern parable Maniac Magee, and, in fact, set in the same neighborhood with a brief crossover -- I don’t know why I prefer this one. I don’t fully know why I love both of them, but everything this book describes, from strawberry milkshakes to racial animosity during Vietnam, is vivid and real and honest and funny and warm.

Fanny and May by Jon Buller

My parents loved this one when my sister and I were little, and afterward we all spent years trying to find it again, which was difficult because we thought it was called Don’t Eat the House! When we finally got our hands on a copy, we found they remembered the rest of it accurately: elephant sisters, a skateboard, “I wish there was no wishing well.” The plot is cohesive, though.

All About Doggie and Pussycat: How They Kept House and All Sorts of Other Things as Well by Josef Čapek

Okay, you read the title? Read it again to be sure you properly appreciated it. This is one of a couple translations from Czech that make me wonder if translating can actually improve the original on occasion. Anyway, the whole book sounds like this. I cannot even look at it without wanting to open it and reread it, preferably aloud.

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville

Unexpected treasure -- this author was popular when I was young, and for good reason, but you don’t really go into a book about a boy hiding a magical pet in his backyard expecting much. In this case, it turns out the kid is a talented artist, and we see his maturity as he deals with injustice from the adults in his life with support from the baby dragon, who names herself Tiamat and initially communicates through mental projections of color.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

It’s sort of a collection of short stories but also basically a book of its own and it’s definitely written for children so I’m listing it. If you’ve only ever known Disneyfied versions, check this out to see what Mowgli was really up to. He’s a badass, and kind of racist, and when he grows up he gains some kind of superpowers which have no real explanation.

101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

You know what makes me feel superior to everyone else? I look back on the books that consumed my life at some point in the past, and they’re almost always the best of their kind. This one in particular is an odd, compelling doggy adventure that backs a solid message of familial love, and I think it even gave me one of my first glimpses into the world of adults.

Whalesong by Robert Siegel

Major influence on my creative development. (Yes, I still sometimes think about the aquatic video game I was planning.) Next time you’re looking for an easy, enjoyable read, try this instead of your usual self-indulgent genre, and finish it feeling good about all of the mystery and magic in the world. How perfect is the name “Hruna” for a whale, btw?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

If the only thing I liked about this was that it was a Lord of the Rings prequel and that somehow one’s for adults and one’s for children, I would still probably put it on the list. But it’s a perfect adventure full of beautiful language and it’s basically perfect. And beautiful.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis introduces the Narnia series by explaining that children outgrow fairy stories and adults can grow back into them. I was between the correct ages when I first read them, but hindsight, and rereads, have put them into their proper place in my heart. If I complain about message fiction, don’t think Narnia makes me a hypocrite -- my real problem is messages that take away from the story, and there’s none of that here.

The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques

It’s completely true that these books can be enjoyed by adults, but what I appreciate about them most, now that I’ve grown up, is that they provided the perfect bridge between children’s literature and adult epic fantasy. The characters are animals, yes, but the books are the type of up-all-night-to-finish-it, when-is-the-next-one-coming-out, can-we-talk-about-this-character’s-motivation stuff you don’t get from Beatrix Potter.

God Bless the Gargoyles by Dav Pilkey

If you’ve followed me online anywhere for any length of time, you’ve seen illustrations or quotes from this book. I found it by accident one day in a discount bookstore. I know it won’t speak to everyone the way it speaks to me, but it’s my touchstone. “Each one was cherished and loved and respected.”
Tags: 30 day meme, a book i read, disney, family, links, middle-earth

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