10 children’s books you should read.

29 Mar

top 10 reads

A big kid at heart, I am a very big fan of children’s books. My house is still full of them. As a child, you read the books and take it face-value; but many of them provide some insight into things adults may take for granted. Meghara Eichhorn of Examiner.com has outlined some children’s books that you should consider taking a second look at…

Harry Potter: Since there are only ten books on this list, and the Harry Potter series is made up of seven books, I’m classifying them as one entity. Besides, once you read one, it’s virtually impossible to skip the rest. You’ll be shocked at how quickly you can breeze through all seven novels, especially considering their combined length leaves the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and War and Peace in the dust. Author J.K. Rowling has a knack for weaving intricate plotlines through satisfyingly detailed magical settings populated by witches and wizards. She’s also a master at tracking the maturity levels of her readers. The early books are fun and light-hearted, but as the books progress, so does the weight of the writing. Over the course of the series, Rowling transitions from writing children’s fiction, to young adult fiction, to novels that deal with adult subject matter. By the seventh book, you’ll forget they were written for kids.

The Phantom Tollbooth: When I was a kid, my brother’s favorite movie was Fletch. Because he loved Dr. RosenRosen, and because it was an excuse for my parents to avoid watching a Disney cartoon, we saw Fletch more times that I care to admit. When I got older and watched it again, I realized how much humor had gone over my eight-year-old head. The Phantom Tollbooth is a lot like those movies. I read it as a fourth grader, and loved the silly adventures of Milo in the Kingdom of Wisdom. Many years later, I found a copy and, skimming through it, picked up on the clever wordplay and literal puns I missed the first time. Adults will get a kick out of Milo’s jump to the Island of Conclusions and other similarly literal interpretations of classic literary tropes. While this is a children’s book, many consider it too advanced for the younger set and more appropriate for an adult audience.

The Giver: This book, by Lois Lowry, is about a boy named Jonah living in a seemingly utopian society in the distant future. In an effort to eliminate negative aspects of life like jealousy, pain and suffering, Jonah’s community has converted to a rigorously structured system of “Sameness,” which ensures all people a similar life experience. Husbands and wives are paired based on personality types. Children are born to a class of women called “Birthmothers,” then granted to family units that have applied to receive children. The children are then grouped in classes by age, and each class celebrates the same birthday. They all receive the same gifts at the same stages of their lives, until the time comes for them to be assigned a professional role in the community. Elderly people are “released” when they reach an age at which they can no longer serve the community. Everyone lives in peace; there is no violence, no dissent and no rude behavior of any kind. Initially, it seems ideal, if creepy.

When Jonah is assigned to the role of Receiver of Memory, he must take on the responsibility of telepathically obtaining and storing all the community’s suppressed memories of life before Sameness. He begins to perceive that the life he is living is not natural, and he must choose whether to perpetuate the disturbing cycle of dystopian Sameness, or call an end to detached control. It’s disquieting, it’s thought provoking, and it has stuck with me since seventh grade.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Considering that some 20 film and television versions of this Lewis Carroll classic have been made, it’s likely that most people are familiar with the tale. However, because Alice is so readily available at Blockbuster Video, most people figure they can skip the printed version, which is a mistake. Read it for the ongoing use of logic and mathematical references, Alice’s charming habit of talking to herself or that unsettling sense that she has wandered too far from home.

The Hobbit: When parents read this book to their kids, they often enjoy exaggerating Gollum’s sibilant hiss when he refers to his “precious,” the magical ring that first appears in the Hobbit, and then goes on to form the basis forthe Lord of the Rings trilogy. When you finish reading this article and rush out to pick up a copy of the Hobbit, I would suggest doing nothing to suppress this urge, even if you’re just reading it to yourself.

After the dark nature of the popular Lord of the Rings movies, the Hobbit comes across as a refreshingly sweet and funny novel. Rather than overcoming the forces of evil, protagonist Bilbo Baggins (also fun to say) is an unsuspecting homebody forced by a group of dwarfs and a wizard to embark on an adventure to steal a dragon’s gold. Along the way, they encounter a staggering variety of magical creatures and trek through fantastical terrain inhabited by elves and goblins. Now is an especially great time to read or reread the Hobbit because the film version, to be directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), is slated for release in 2012.

The Giving Tree: There are two schools of thought when it comes to the Giving Tree. Some perhaps slightly naïve scholars believe Silverstein’s book represents the idea of a perfect parent willing to sacrifice him or herself for a child’s happiness. In this scenario, the child is not selfish, he is just behaving like any kid who relies on a parent. Other, more malevolent scholars take a different view of the book, claiming the tree represents an over-indulgent parent who is spoiling a greedy, ungrateful child. Considering how often copies of The Giving Tree are given as gifts, I have to believe the vast majority of people adopt the former interpretation. Unless, of course, they’re trying to send a subtle message to someone whose parenting skills are in need of reform. Either way, I get a kick out of the fact that academic types sit around arguing about The Giving Tree. Read it again and see what you think; after a while even want the tree to tell the kid to go to Home Depot if he’s in such dire need of lumber.

The Princess Bride: The only downside of reading The Princess Bride instead of watching the film version is that Peter Falk won’t come to your house to read it to you. However, if you find the thought of Falk sitting next to your bed, narrating the love story of Westley and Buttercup in his raspy Columbo voice unappealing, then you might prefer to read it yourself anyway. William Goldman wrote the novel, though it is presented as if an S. Morgenstern is the true author, and Goldman was merely in charge of abridging an earlier version of the work. His humorous comments and asides are present throughout, made to seem as though Goldman is commenting on Morgenstern’s writing. Even if you’ve seen the movie 600 times, read the book; it’s just as charming in print as it is on the screen.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: No, I’m not kidding. I realize that this book is not even remotely aimed at the adult demographic, but consider how quickly you’ll breeze through it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the intrepid Harold and his trusty writing implement, Crockett Johnson’s book is about a boy whose life is a blank canvas. All he has to do to get what he wants is imagine it, draw it with his purple crayon and it magically pops into existence. He crosses purple oceans in his purple boat, eats purple pie and rests beneath purple trees. After traveling great distances and experiencing many things, Harold must find a way to return home. Okay, it’s not exactly Swann’s Way, but give it a chance.

A Wrinkle in Time: A Wrinkle in Time is a novel about children who travel through a “tesseract,” or a fold in time, to other planets in search of their missing father. Author Madeline L’Engle creates a cast of memorable characters with bizarre names who help the children fight against an evil, omnipotent bad guy bent on controlling the thoughts of everyone on planet Camazotz.

The Neverending Story: If you can get over the fact that the main character’s name is Bastian, the Neverending Story is a classic work of young adult fantasy. Part adventure, part hallucinatory drug trip, Michael Ende’s novel tells parallel stories that eventually merge. In one, the land of Fantastica is being threatened by the “Nothing,” an evil force obliterating all living things. A young warrior named Atreyu is charged with combating the Nothing, and sets off on a quest to save the kingdom. The other storyline is about Bastian, a wimp of a kid who steals a book, also called the Neverending Story. He begins to read the story of Atreyu, and eventually he enters the world of Fantastica to help combat the Nothing. Weird, but fun.

Source: Examiner.com, story by Meghara Eichhorn

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