Posts filed under ‘Children and Young Adult’
Nature had never polished a stone as smooth as this one. Its flawless surface was dark blue, except for thin veins of white that spiderwebbed across it. The stone was cool and frictionless under his fingers, like hardened silk.
Have you ever had a dream about a book you’re reading? This happens to me every once in a while, and it’s surprisingly unsettling. Everything seems familiar and recognizable from the book, but it’s either not the way I pictured it when I was reading, the characters act in unfamiliar ways, or there’s just something…off.
That’s the way I felt when reading Eragon: as if I was dreaming I was reading another book. Eragon is a story about a fifteen-year-old boy who discovers a dragon egg in the woods near his home and is consequently flung into a world full of swords, sorcery, dragons and quests. On the way he meets an ancient storyteller, an elfin princess, another young man with a mysterious past and dwarves who have built an underground city. He also learns how to fight with a magic sword, control his own brand of magic and, oh yeah, communicate telepathically with a dragon.
The pencil woman had begun handing out the tests. The first child to receive one was a tough-looking boy in a baseball cap who eagerly grabbed it, looked at the first question, and burst into tears…..
“I’m afraid loud weeping isn’t permitted,” said the pencil woman. “Please leave the room.”
The Mysterious Benedict Society is exactly the type of book I would have loved at about the ages of eight or ten, around the time I was reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy. It’s one of those novels that, though only published in 2007, already feels like a childhood classic. reminiscent of E. L. Konigsburg in all the best ways, this book is about four independently-minded orphans with exceptional, varied and complementary abilities, who must band together for a common goal.
This motif is not new. Anyone who has read The View from Saturday will recognize elements of that novel in this one, as well as elements of other classic YA books such as The Giver and The Boxcar Children (or something like them). (more…)
Forgive me for expounding on children’s books again; you’d think I’d get sick of them after several Fairy Tale Fridays and miscellaneous children’s book reviews, in conjunction with a dissertation on a popular YA fantasy trilogy. But as I was trying to think of a good topic for today’s post, I found myself wondering if Jasper Fforde’s The Fourth Bear (or, more broadly, his Nursery Crime series) would be appropriate for children.
But then I had to decide what ‘appropriate’ meant. Any definition of that word naturally would exclude some children’s classics from the canon. A happy ending? Cross the entire Winnie-the-Pooh series off the list. Clear moral code? Forget about Grimm’s or Perrault’s fairy tales, especially if you’re also going to demand that children’s books have no sex or violence. (more…)
In olden times when wishing still helped one, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone on her face.
(Warning: Sorry, this post’s theme is a little PG-13, thanks to one Dr. Bruno Bettleheim and his feelings on frogs as symbols. Only click through if you feel like you can handle it!)
Lately, I’ve been reading The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettleheim, about fairy tales and how they can help children unconciously work out psychological issues through fantasy and, despite the unrealism of the tales, actually help children adjust better to the real world.
I was happily reading along the other day, contentedly pondering children and the search for identity, when I stumbled across this line: (more…)
Perhaps you will wonder how the princess could tell you that the old lady was an old lady…her hair was combed back from her forehead and ace, and hung loose far down and all over her back. That is not much like an old lady — is it? Ah! but it was white almost as snow. And although her face was so smooth, her eyes looked so wise that you could not have helped seeing she must be old.
First, I should apologize for giving you all another fairy tale that is as recent as the 20th century. There aren’t even any fairies in this story, for goodness’ sake, which is the excuse I used for Tom Brightwind. But I had to share this story with you, because George MacDonald is the creator of my favourite fairy godmother in the genre, and he throws in some awesome goblins and a strapping miner boy as well.
The basic story is that there is a little princess called Irene who is stuck inside on a succession of rainy days. (more…)
FAR out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above. There dwell the Sea King and his subjects.
I once had a disagreement with a professor when she argued that fairy tales always have happy endings. I had argued that no, they don’t always, and the example I used was Grimm’s “The Frog-King”, a story that ends with a little princess being married off essentially as punishment for judging by appearances. This, admittedly was an imperfect example, which made more of a feminist argument than an objective one. Were I to make this argument again, I would undoubtedly use Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” to make my argument.
According to Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, many children drop two reading levels over the summer, due to the fact that they are not in school and not constantly reinforcing everything they learn. To that end, Kristof has given readers a list of what he calls the ‘Best Children’s Books — Ever!‘ that ostensibly should keep your kids reading all summer long.
Many of the books on his list are excellent — in fact, most of them are, and I highly encourage everyone to read them, children or not. Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, The Harry Potter Series, and The Prince and the Pauper are all perfect for independent reading by child or adult, or reading aloud if the child in question doesn’t have the reading stamina yet to make it through the book on his or her own.
But, as these things tend to do, this article made me think about what I would encourage kids to read, had I the opportunity. Kristof’s list is hardly complete and a little subjective — he admits that many of the books were his personal favorites, though the inclusion of Anne of Green Gables makes me think he did include some books he knew his daughter would like in an attempt to counteract his tendency to choose ‘boy’ books (Hardy Boys but not Nancy Drew? Really?).
So, if you would, please consider the following short list a complement to Kristof’s list; there’s no reason you can’t work your way through both this summer! (more…)
You know what I miss? Reading silly young adult novels without being judged. Come on, we all read some really, really lame books when we were younger, or at least I did. But because it’s spring, and I’m in a silly and nostalgic mood, I thought I’d talk about some of the books that stand out in my mind from those years when I read everything I could get my hands on…none of which I’d be caught dead reading now, but really loved at the time.
Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl
This was my favorite book for a year or two. Never mind that there’s no way a seven-year-old girl could build a whole living space within the walls of her house only using the tools her dead father left behind, let alone that her family would be cool with this. But I get the metaphor, though I didn’t at the time — it’s hard to miss the moth/cocoon connection later in the story, and this book is really too bizarre to be taken literally by anyone but the very earnest young reader I was.
Eva by Peter Dickinson
I checked this book out of the library at least six times over the course of my pre-adolescent years. Now that I know it’s not actually that easy to transplant a young girl’s brain into that of a chimpanzee, it has lost some of its charm, yeah. It’s probably not even scientific enough to be science fiction. Nothing is really resolved in the end, except maybe something about environmentalism and that we’re all just animals anyway and probably we shouldn’t be so cruel as to ignore animals lost in scientific progress. Or something. It’s probably important to note that this was written in the 1980s.
Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce
Another book about a teenage girl who does something really, really cool. Sensing a theme here? This was my favorite book ever until I had the imagination beaten out of me by serious literary criticism and an interest in journalism. I mean, come on. The girl speaks to animals, has the ability to turn into one if she wants, and at some point resurrects the bones of dinosaurs to storm a castle. There’s not much out there that can compete with that. In retrospect, I think I might have liked the story of Wolf Speaker, its prequel, better, but this is the one where she starts to shape-shift, which I thought was pretty amazing, without any of the creepiness of the Animorphs series that was kind of popular at the time.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Wolf-Woman by Sherryl Jordan
The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse
So I was fascinated by survival stories, especially ones that involved animals in some form. I also went through a really long wolf-loving phase that reached its peak in middle school, so of course a book about a girl who was partly raised by wolves (in conjunction with the girl who can talk to them — see above) was just about my favorite thing ever. But dolphins were pretty cool, too, as anyone who’s ever bought a Lisa Frank folder can tell you, so that explains the others.