Armchair BEA day 5: Children’s Literature

Posted June 1, 2013 by Stormy in Books / 15 Comments

I am SUPER excited for today’s Armchair BEA genre topic, because I absolutely love children, middle grade, and young adult literature. I mean, I review mostly young adult on the blog with a few other genres thrown in, but I really like all children’s literature because I’ve worked with children and literature before and I’ve seen just how much on an impact these books can have. Here’s the prompt from the Armchair BEA website for this discussion:

Our final genre focuses on the younger crowd:  children’s picture books and young adult literature and everything in between.  What are the top 5 (or more) books that every child should have on his shelf?  If you are an adult who reads YA, why do you keep going back for more?  If you are not a reader of these books, think back to your childhood and share your favorites from your younger years.

So let’s take this one question at a time, shall we?

If you’re an adult who reads YA, why do you keep going back for more?

Fun fact: as a teenager, I was a complete lit snob. I read mostly classics, and if not classics, than literary fiction. With a few exceptions for fantasy, I looked down upon most genre fiction and YA fiction heavily. There were a few reasons for this:

  • 1) I was a bit of a snob when it came to reading and honestly DID think YA was something to look down upon
  • I was going through REALLY tough times in high school, and the YA around me was primarily of the fluff variety(not to say that’s bad–some of my favorite YA now). But I didn’t see any “real issue” YA books, though I’m sure they were there, and I just had so much bigger things on my mind. I’d see a book where the main conflict just seem so shallow.
  • I didn’t have access to much YA to begin with. I’m from a small town and I love my library, but there’s just not the funds to bring in a lot of books.

As you can tell, times have changed. Some of the reasons I read YA now are:

  • I can see a younger version of myself in characters sometime. I have enough distance from being in that actual age range where emotional wounds don’t feel tender anymore, but I can still relate.
  • I like how YA seems more hopeful than most adult fiction I’ve read
  • I like coming-of-age tales.
  • I like reading about characters experiencing things for the first time, and there’s a lot of that in YA.

Children’s Books I Recommend

This summer, I got the fantastic opportunity to be a reading coordinator at a summer day camp. All summer, I trained volunteers, paired up children and volunteers, and worked with children on their reading. It was an amazing experience. One day, I had a TON, and I mean a TON of volunteers, and not that many children. So I organized the library since I wasn’t working with any children in that rotation, and then I decided to make a poster of “Books your RC recommends.” A lot of times I’d get kids not knowing what book to picked, so I selected some of my favorites for each reading level. Here are some of them I picked for the slightly older(4th and up) kids:

The Wayside School Books

These books are so fun and can be perfect for reluctant readers. They’re different enough to keep the interest, and since each chapter is a little different, everything feels new each time. I had a kid who LOATHED reading, despite the fact she was really good at it, until she got her hands on these books.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

My FAVORITE childhood book. I mention it often on the blog. There’s never a time I don’t recommend this book. Even reading the Narnia books now, there’s just something very magical about them. The scene of Lucy discovering Narnia for the first time is one of my all-time favorites.

Bridge to Terabitiha

I started reading this for the first time with a kid this summer. And I was so engrossed in the novel that at the end of the day, I slipped the book out of the kid’s folder and into my purse so I can finish it that night, before returning it the next morning. I HAD to finish it. Both the child I read it with & I loved it!

The View from Saturday 

The View from Saturday is written by E.L. Konigsburg, who wrote the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which is a pretty well-known children’s book, but I like The View from Saturday better. It’s written for kids but contains all the elements of my favorite “grown-up” books too. There’s just something about it that lingers with me.

The Dark is Rising series

Like coming of age tales? Battles between good and evil? King Arthur tales and English myths? Here is a series for you. But please, whatever you do, never, ever watch the movie adaptation.

A Wrinkle in Time

This is the book that introduces me to science fiction, and probably also Dystopian elements. I love that L’Engle’s books value intelligence AND emotion.

Winter of Fire

I hype this book A LOT, and I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t out of print people would suspect me of being paid to talk about it all the time, but the reason for it is the book is AWESOME. If you like a great post-apocalyptic story that on the surface is about struggling to survive and a girl’s journey through her world but really has all these underlying themes about gender and class, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up(can typically buy used on Amazon). Also, I like to describe Elsha, the main character, as a Katniss before Katniss. They’re really pretty similar.

Those are some of my children(really most are middle-grade) book recommendations. Really, you can’t go wrong with those(in my opinion, of course).  I think children’s literature can be so special because they’re typically the books that really STICK with us. I know my favorites from childhood have shaped me in a way that most literature I read today just can’t, which is why I love this genre so much, even as an adult.

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15 responses to “Armchair BEA day 5: Children’s Literature

  1. I actually read mostly YA books when I was a teen (and tween), so for me it’s been great to be able to read books for this audience again after a break from it basically while I was in college. I’ve always read books that have the potential to be looked down upon (fantasies and YA books the two main kinds), so I just embraced the fact that my reading tastes may not be the norm a long time ago. I think it’s fascinating how readers like you didn’t really enjoy YA books while you were actually within the YA range and now read them. It certainly gives you a different perspective on things!

    Oh wow having a job where I helped recommend books to people would be ideal (part of the reason – okay, one of the bigger reasons – why I’m planning on becoming a librarian). I love A Wrinkle in Time! And I’ve been meaning to read The Dark is Rising sequence for such a long time now. Hopefully soon!

  2. melissa

    I loved The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I will definitely check out The View from Sunday! Thanks for the tip! Happy reading!

  3. The Narnia books are amazing, I loved them as a kid and I still love them today. I can’t wait to share them with my son when he is older. I need to read Bridge to Terabithia at some point as well.

  4. I went through a bit of a snob phase myself because the YA books I read were The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, so I completely missed the issue YA books until I was a little older. I’m glad I found them eventually though!

    I love so many of those books on your list – I decided to just write about Australian children’s lit so I didn’t get to mention these, but The Wrinkle in Time is SO GOOD!

    my Children’s literature post

    • I think those were the YA books I was around most often too. And I liked The Baby-Sitter’s club when I was young, but by the time I was in late Jr High/early high school, I really wanted books with substance. I know there was YA like that if I had been looking, but it was just easier to write the whole category off.

  5. I was going to put The View from Saturday on my post and then totally blanked until after I had made the collages. It’s such a great mix of quirky and profound. And, unsurprisingly, our local academic trivia competition for middle schoolers LOVED asking about it.

    I also wrote that I appreciate the hopefulness of YA! I think the world is a beautiful place, and I think art can be happy and still be art!

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