Book Recommendation Request For: 2 middle-aged people with grown up children, but still like to read classic children’s books aloud.
Interests: History, nature, sailing, science
Favorite Books: Books by Thornton Burgess, Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
I think a mark of a good children’s book, especially one deemed a classic, is that it can be enjoyed not just by its intended child audience, but by adult readers as well. Parents and teachers know that it makes big difference whether you like a book too when you are asked to read something over and over. Here at The Carle we are a bunch of avid children’s book readers, not just because we’re educators, booksellers, or parents, but because we just plain like children’s books. So I’m extra excited to share with you titles of classics (and destined-to-be-classics) that you adult readers out there might like too. Not only do they make great family read-alouds but they’re the kind of books you’re going to want to return to again and again.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome is the first title in this great old-fashioned adventure series. Written in the 1930′s, this book has it all, especially for you sailors and nature lovers. The four Walker children are on summer vacation, exploring Wild Cat Island – sailing, fishing, camping – and finding adventure wherever they go.
Many of you may have already have a copy of this one on your bookshelf, but The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, is worth another visit. The adventures of Rat, Mole, Badger and wild Toad, is old-fashioned British humor at its best. The dialogue makes this one especially fun to read out loud.
For a more modern book with that same classic feel is Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks. It’s another summer adventure story – this time with four lovable sisters let loose to create mischief on a giant estate in the country. Although it was written in 2005, it seems truly timeless and would make a great summer vacation read.
For lovers of Sarah, Plain and Tall, I would recommend Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust. It’s another prairie story, this time during the Dust Bowl of the 1920′s, told in a collection of poems. The words are sparse but the language is beautiful and the images create a powerful story that will stick with you for a long, long time.
And let’s not forget that there are beautiful reissues of your favorite classics by publishers all the time. Of note is Dover’s newest version L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This edition replicates the 1900 original with color plates and spot illustrations by W.W. Denslow and new deliciously retro cover for the faithful Oz fans. Another new favorite is the Classic Illustrated Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland compiled by Cooper Edens. Decorating the original Carroll text in a wonderfully large format are beautiful illustrations by artists such as Arthur Rackham, Willy Pogany, Peter Newell, and Maria Kirk among many others. Definitely worth a look.
There are just so many classic books, new and old, that we love to return to again and again. The Secret Garden, Tuck Everlasting, The Phantom Tollbooth… I love to see when customers rediscover a book from their childhood that they loved so, so much on our shelves. Their entire face lights up and they just have to tell someone about it. For me, that’s the power of a classic. They’re meant to be shared.
What are some of your can’t-live-without-classics? For a great comprehensive list of favorite middle grade chapter books, check out Fuse #8′s Top 100 Children’s Novels. Her readers have voted and Fuse #8 has been revealing the favorites one by one. You’re bound to find a few books that you always meant to read but never got around to. Now’s the time!