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Category Archives: Children’s Books

#33 James and the Giant Peach

I want to take a moment to begin a discussion on believability.

Here’s the deal: Roald Dahl books are not believable.  They are high-fantasy, “who in their right mind could have thought of this stuff?” wonderful-beyond-imagination books.  Am I right?  I think most would agree.  When I sat down to read James and the Giant Peach, I finished it in less than 2 hours but felt as if it took ten minutes to read it because I was so caught up in this giant peach and its inhabitants.  After I finished and put the book down I thought to myself, “That is just a crazy story.  Who would honestly believe that could happen?”  But I want to ask you, my readers, DOES IT MATTER?

I know that some of you like to stick to contemporary or realistic fiction.  Some of you like high fantasy or paranormal.  Some of you prefer dystopian novels.  I value each and every one of your opinions and now is your time to shine.  I truly want to know if it matters to you whether the story you are reading is believable.  Make this post your sounding board, my friends.

James and the Giant Peach

by Roald Dahl

Originally published in 1961

 
 

#49 Frindle

I looooooooooooooooo Andrew Clements.  Did you catch that?  I really do love Andrew Clements’ writing, with so much gusto it is worth mentioning a few times.  My favorite of his books is The School Story, a novel about a kid that writes a novel and has dreams of getting it published.  Other notable books he has are A Week in the Woods, Frindle (obviously), and The Landry News. The great thing about Clements’ writing is that the kid always wins.  In some way or another, whether it be worldly success or intrinsic benefit, the protagonist comes out on top.  This factor is critical in children’s books, absolutely critical to the child enjoying the novel.  No ten-year-old wants to read about another ten-year-old who had to rely completely on his parents to solve a problem or achieve success (Hear that, John Grisham!)  In my opinion, this is why Andrew Clements is a stand-out author.  And why I will keep going back for more of his books!

Frindle

by Andrew Clements

Originally published in 1996

 

5 Great Re-Reads

Adele at Persnickety Snark is hosting the FIVE challenge for this end-of-the-year wrapping up of book love.  I am only participating in a few of the daily posts, and this happens to be one that I am very excited for.  As you should know as a reader of The Literary Wife, I have been reading through the top 100 children’s books, from #100 to #1.  In that, of course, there have been many books that I have read previously.  Here are the top 5 and why I enjoyed the re-read this year:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J.K. Rowling

This book, I believe, is becoming my favorite out of the series. I really enjoy the Tri-Wizard tournament and the new relationships that it brings to the storyline.  I do miss the Quidditch playing, but the action from the tournament makes up for it.

Walk Two Moons

by Sharon Creech

I mentioned earlier on the blog about my experience re-reading the book this year, but I will emphasize it again.  With deep novels such as this one, it is always worth re-reading in order to pick out all the life lessons from the story itself. With such dynamic characters as Sal and her grandparents, there is much to be offered from this novel.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

by Beverly Cleary

I could read this book once a year and never grow tired of it.  Though somewhat dated, the themes still apply today and Beverly Cleary gets you perfectly into the mind and heart of an 8-year-old.  Ramona is a classic character who deserves to be appreciated for many more years to come (though I would prefer it to not be in film format ever again)

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

by Louis Sachar

Reading this book with your goofball husband is way better than reading it just with your serious self.  Check out more thoughts on my re-read of this book here.

Redeeming Love

by Francine Rivers

The first time I read this book, it changed my life in ways I didn’t think possible.  The care that Francine Rivers took with this novel, delving deep into the human heart, as well as the heart of God, make it a profound novel that should be read by anyone struggling with their understanding of who God is.  I try to read this book at least once a year, and every time, I am left amazed.

So, those are my outstanding re-reads of the year 2010.  Any that you care to mention for yourself?

 

#53 The Wind in the Willows

I never thought that I would love a mole, a water rat, a badger and a toad so much.  For those of you not so familiar with this timeless children’s tale, it is a story of the adventures of four animals, all good friends, who live alongside a riverbank.  From exploring the wild woods, to getting each other out of trouble, the reader follows these beautiful, well-written characters as they discover true friendship.  Badger evoked a sense of bravery and kindness in myself, while Mr. Toad just made me want to scream in anger at his arrogance and silliness.  I found myself connecting the most with Mole, beings that he is an emotional animal and easily attached to familiar things.

As the novel was originally published by Kenneth Grahame in 1908, the language and exposition might be a bit outdated and difficult for children to read on their own.  However, if presented as a nightly read-aloud or read together with parents, I believe The Wind in the Willows will easily find itself loved dearly by children, especially for those with a love for animals.  If used as a read-aloud or read-along, I recommend the Palazzo 100th Year Celebration Edition, illustrated by Robert Ingpen.

The Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

Originally published in 1908

 
 

#65 Ballet Shoes

Because I am unashamedly in love with the movie You’ve Got Mail, I am, once again, bringing it to light here at The Literary Wife.  Check out my previous mention here.  Number 65 on our Top 100 Children’s Books list, Ballet Shoes, is also mentioned in my favorite movie.  During Kathleen Kelly’s (played by Meg Ryan) visit to the “big bad chain store,” she overhears a customer asking about the Shoe books.  After realizing the store employee has no idea what the customer is talking about, Kathleen tearfully interjects and lists off her favorites of Noel Streatfeild’s famous series.  For your viewing pleasure this time around, here is a short clip from the beginning of the film.

Ballet Shoes

by Noel Streatfeild

Originally published in 1936

 

#73 My Side of the Mountain

I am not an outdoorsy person.  I have never really been camping.  Never would I ever consider living on my own in the wilderness, or even with other people in the wilderness.  When I came to #73 in the Top 100 Children’s Books list, I didn’t think I would enjoy it.  Why would I care to read about a young boy who literally does run away from home and makes a new home in a tree in the woods?  No thank you, ma’am.

Lo and behold, I loved it.  I think it was the fact that I would never in my life do what Sam Gribley do, that made the book so fascinating.  His creativity, bravery and physical toughness impressed me to no end.  I also loved how Sam’s age is never mentioned, just implied that he is somewhere in his teen years.  We don’t meet his family until the end (oops, spoiler), but there is mention that he has a lot of siblings, and does care a lot about his parents.  So much ambiguity in the novel actually made it a success in my eyes.

An interesting note to be made is that, while reading this book, my literary husband said that he loved reading this novel when he was younger and did consider moving to the woods behind his house.  Brilliant, Steve.  Glad you didn’t go through with that one.

My Side of the Mountain

by Jean Craighead George

Originally published in 1959

 

Guest Post: Marketing Classic Children’s Books

In my quest to conquer reading all the Top 100 Children’s Books in one year, I have started to consider the issues and concerns surrounding said books.  As I read classics such as Caddie Woodlawn and The Little House books, knowing that most children these days haven’t even heard of them, I am pained knowing these books are not getting into the hands of the kids that need them.  It is for this reason that I have invited Adi Alsaid to The Literary Wife today, to give his thoughts on marketing these classics.  Adi is an up-and-coming independent author with a degree in Marketing from UNLV.   Enjoy!

The term “children’s classics” is relative to what you were exposed to as a child, how long it’s been since those days when you chose your first favorite book, first favorite TV show. As soon as I hear the term I’m instantly harkened back to mornings spent watching Rugrats and Rocko’s Modern Life and reading Goosebumps to get extra credit points in my first grade class. But of course, these don’t quite qualify as classic children’s literature (or even literature, for that matter…).

I’ve been graciously invited by Amber here at The Literary Wife to explore the topic of classic children’s literature and to try to come up with a few ideas on how to get today’s youth to read classic titles like Charlotte’s Web and The Secret Garden.

The easy way, of course, is to force them. Children tend to do what adults tell them to, especially if you threaten them with poor grades and public embarrassment if they don’t complete their reading assignment. Obviously that’s not the ideal situation, since sucking the joy out of reading is not the goal here, so we’ll shelve the option for now.

I won’t spend too much time introducing myself (you can visit my site www.somewhereoverthesun.com to get to know me a little better), but for the purposes of this post, you should know that I’m a soon-to-be-published literary fiction author and I hold a Business Marketing bachelor’s degree. I’m going to try to use my writer-ly creativity and educational training to come up with a few ideas that may either just amuse you  or hopefully actually get more kids to read some of the classic book titles that children have been reading for several generations.

Movie adaptations are one of the most oft-employed ways that classics become relevant to a new generation. They are a way to generate interest and at the very least create awareness of books written long ago that kids today can enjoy. However, movies can be a part of the problem by fulfilling the need for entertainment and substituting for books instead of leading to them, especially if parents don’t actively encourage reading.

So, how do you market books that were written eons ago (as far as today’s children are concerned) to a young audience with decreasing attention spans and increasing interest in technology? One option is to modernize the classics to make them more relatable, as seen in the recent phenomenon of literary mash ups (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and such).  I’m not against the idea. It’s kind of like a song cover; it usually pales in comparison to the original, sometimes destroys the feeling and mood of what the artist had in mind when creating the work. However, every now and then a new version can be unexpectedly refreshing (think Joe Cocker singing With A Little Help From My Friends).

I’m not sure how I would feel as an author if in a hundred years, someone re-writes my book to include the very amusing social fascination on goldfish, or whatever may be equally as trendy in a hundred years as zombies are now. But at least a reinvention could bring a new audience; one which might discover that if an amusing mash up is interesting, maybe the original is worth a shot as well.

One more option is to try to incentivize parents to purchase classic children’s books. How? For those that already encourage some kind of reading, classics can be packaged with new releases. How about including a coupon for X-amount off of a copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda with each copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

From my time volunteering with children, I know that they’re all about interactive games online. So maybe there can be games that follow along with a book, but to reach the next level, kids have to answer a few questions about the accompanying chapter.

When I was a kid, a lot of my reading happened during breakfast, staring at the back of cereal boxes. How about publishers partnering with Kellog’s and putting a bunch of interesting book covers and coupons for children’s classics on the back of popular, sugary cereal?

So, there you go, Literary Wife readers and children’s books fans. Take your pick: marketing partnerships with companies and current bestsellers, literary mash-ups, selling out to Hollywood or adult intimidation.