Here’s a question for you guys (and be flattered I’m asking you this, it means I think you may have something intelligent and worthwhile to say): What are the 5 books every child should read?
Some background info – my mother is an English teacher with a Doctorate in Education and Reading; I have been working in and around children’s books for the last 6 years and am considered somewhat of an expert on the subject. So when my mother called me last night and told me she had been asked to answer this question, I started laughing. That might be the fucking HARDEST question a person could ask either of us. It also sparked a long and intensely engaging conversation. I mean, which angle do you take when answering this? Is there an age limit? Are we talking just elementary school or K-12? Are we including pre-school books on the list? And what the hell – ONLY 5?!
In the end I chose books that either kicked my ass (both emotionally and intellectually) or were so important they couldn’t be left off the list. But the best part about this was that my mother had a completely different list, and the reasons for her choices were just as valid as my own. And you know what, THAT got my juices flowing (yes, at the end of the day I’m a dork who loves talking about books).
My Top 5 list is (and no mcbias, The Phantom Tollbooth is nowhere to be found):
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Nope, no Shakespeare on the list (and I am a devoted Shakespeare fanatic). No, I kept the list narrowed down to books that I couldn’t bear to NOT have there. These are all books that I thought about for days, weeks – hell, I still feel something when I think about them – after finishing them. I cried like a baby over every one. (Note: I realize I made Harry Potter 1 choice even though there’s technically 7 books – I don’t care. I’m not going to pick a favorite since I think they’re all shockingly good, should be read together, and actually mature in writing and story along with their characters. These books had to make my list, not just because they’re a tour de force by J.K. Rowling, but also because they’re legitimately significant historically and socially.)
Now I’m not going to go into my argument here about how I truly believe the best books ever written are all ‘children’s’ books (you people don’t need me to preach here and I don’t have the time to do the argument justice right now), but suffice it to say the list above and the list to come have my favorite books of all time on them. Do I read good ‘adult’ books? Yes, shockingly I do read more than romance novels. However the ones that really blow me away, for whatever reasons (and I have my theories), have always been the ones in the children’s section of the bookstore.
But enough explanation. Some other children’s books that I absolutely loved and would suggest you read even if you are technically adults – in no particular order:
Gathering Blue and The Messenger by Lois Lowry (these two go with The Giver – possibly my #1 book)
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon
Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (I hated that fucking kid, but still…)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Dr. Seuss (everything he ever wrote – the man was a genius)
William Shakespeare (again, he was a genius and his complete works should be read by every intelligent human being - King Lear is my personal favorite)
Oh, and Catcher in the Rye isn’t on my list – on purpose. You may now proceed to think whatever you want about me, but I never liked that book. Everyone else I know did, but I thought it was crap. So there you go.
Anyway guys, what would be on your lists? Did I miss anything on mine? (These were all off the top of my head, I’m sure I forgot something.) Hate my choices? For once I’m asking what you think and I actually care – blow me away.