Friday, August 14, 2009

Recommendations for Nerdlets: 10 Anomaly-Worthy Authors for the Child of Your Loins

Subtitle: Books You Will Be Happy to Read With/Before/After/Instead of Your Kids

Second Subtitle: This Will Be a Long One

Hi, I’m Margaret. I choose my purses based on how many books they can hold, and I am an Anomaly. I let some people preview my introduction post, and there have been a lot of requests for this topic, so here goes. This is a bit weird to write about because I have no kids, but I figure the more “younguns” turned to the ways of literacy and imagination NOW (ya know, the Dark Side), the more good books there will be for the rest of us read in our old ages—muahahah! I’m not going to give age estimates, because some kids read earlier than others. If you’d like your kid to be a reader, I do recommend a children’s book club from a very young age (I recently found Pickles the Fire Cat is still in publication, which I remember fondly from my own book club an unspecified number of years later) and a subscription to a kids’ magazine such as Ranger Rick. Be sure to vet magazines first—a lot of the ones I’ve looked at recently in bookstores are mostly ads.

If you have any geek-cred at all, you’re going to be well aware of the classics: Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series (a little dated but great for budding Arthurians); Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave et al.; C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe series (if your kids want to watch the movies, PLEASE have them read the books first); Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series (These were some of my favorite books as a new “double-digit” [I was traumatized by the thought of never being a single digit again], not least because I shared a name with the first book’s main character. Actually, I haven’t read these in years—bookstore trip!); Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (I’m making an exception to my no-books-to-movies rule to gush about Tim Burton [one of my favorite directors] and Helena Bonham Carter [one of my favorite actresses—she has THE most interesting face ever] making this movie adaptation.).

1. Terry Pratchett: Tiffany Aching series Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
Featuring the Nac Mac Feegles. Set in the Discworld, which is a place we ALL need to visit. If you (the adult) haven’t read Pratchett, please proceed to the nearest library or bookstore and enroll in remedial literary education now! Der kin onlie be one tousand!

2. Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The first book is The Lightning Thief.
The first one was amazing. Rick Riordan also writes mysteries set in San Antonio, so I was familiar with the name. But these are a wonderful surprise—I will definitely be buying and reading the rest.

3. Neil Gaiman: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (picture book), Coraline, and The Graveyard Book

Gaiman is also one of my personal favorites. Coraline is a bit dark, as is The Graveyard Book, but Gaiman’s adult books, including Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods, and Good Omens (the latter in collaboration with Terry Pratchett) run the gamut from steampunk-esque to fairies to Norse gods to the Apocalypse. Stardust also turned into a fairly decent movie.

4. Garth Nix: Keys to the Kingdom series. Mister Monday is the first one (and the only one I’ve read so far.)

For some reason these remind me a lot of the Tuesday Next books by Jasper Fforde. Not as good as Rick Riordan imo, but still worthwhile.

5. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (picture books): The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Science Verse, Math Curse
My cousin was the Queen of the Children’s Book Section at her bookstore (no kidding—I think she had a tiara!), and she turned me on to these. The first two are skewed versions of classic nursery stories and the last two are introductions to math and science. Anything from these two is guaranteed high-larious.

6. Lloyd Alexander: Chronicles of Prydain series: Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, Castle Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King

These deserve to be with the classics, but not a lot of people seem to have heard of them. Kids who have read Harry Potter and/or seen the Peter Jackson LotR movies will definitely see parallels. Gurgi was SOOOOO my favorite character—munchings and crunchings? Black Cauldron was also made into a cartoon that is pretty dark and scary from what I remember.

7. Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer: The Phantom Tollbooth

One of the few I did not read as a child. Still a damn good read for a 30-mumble.

8. Maurice Sendak: (picture books) Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There

Really anything by Sendak is worthwhile, although I am EXTREMELY dubious about this live-action WtWTA movie that I’ve seen trailers for. Can’t help thinking it’s going to be Bad and Wrong. And oddly, I just read that the movie Labyrinth (which is a favorite) is based on Outside Over There. I particularly remember this book b/c it’s one of the few Sendak books with a female protagonist, and I wanted a baby sister to rescue.

9. The Dark Crystal (movie)

Okay okay not a book (though it can be found in book version), although Jim Henson and Frank Oz deserve their own hall of fame for the ignition of my generation’s imagination. But this is such a wonderful movie for all ages. I was talking to a teenage friend in WoW recently and told her to go watch this. She came back the next week and was ranting “How did I miss this when I was little? My parents are so fired!”

10. Richard Peck: Ghosts I Have Been, The Ghost Belonged to Me, The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp

I loved these as a kid, especially the feisty female protagonist.

(Honorable Mention)Florence Engel Randall: The Watcher in the Woods

Please do not confuse this with the Liparulo books. Sadly, I’ve read that this is now out of print.
(Honorable Mention)Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl series

The first and second ones are a fun mix of fairies and tech, with an evil boy genius criminal mastermind. I’ve heard that the series slacks off a bit later on.

Anomaly Staff Writer
Subscribe to Anomaly via iTunes

Thanks to Weslea, Anne, and Harriet for additional suggestions, even if I haven’t used them.


Maulie said...

Great list! My son (11) how read a couple of the Patchett books, and really enjoyed them. He watched the BBC release of The Color of Magic and decided "books are always better than the movies." Atta boy. My daughter (9) is also becoming quite the voracious reader as well, one of her recent favorites was Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World.

I have to ask though.. No Orson Scott Card? My son actually got in trouble for reading Ender's Shadow in school.. something about it being an "adult book." What a shame.

spaltor said...

ALL excellent, excellent recommendations. But, I'm going to keep my commends to Pratchett, my favoritest ever, and second the motion that anyone who hasn't read him should be locked in a room with the Discworld series until death from hysteria.

But anyway, there's more kid-appropriate Pratchett includes the Diggers/Truckers/Wings books (or The Bromeliad Trilogy to some, and The Nome Trilogy in the UK), and the Johnny Maxwell series: Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny and the Dead, and Johnny and the Bomb. Excellent.

Anonymous said...

Margaret, I totally forgot to include the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne when we were discussing this topic. They are a great mix of fantasy (time travel) and historical facts. They are terrific books for the younger reader (starting in about 2nd grade, and the stories usually appeal to all elementary grades). I'm not sure what the reading level is. My 2nd grader still needed a bit of help with the words, but the stories are good and kept her reading in spite of the difficulty.

Feathers44 said...

Excellent plan. I've just grabbed my copy of The Wee Free Men form the bookshelf and handed it to my daughter. Let's see what she makes of it (and the interesting pseudo-Scots spellings).

Archangela said...

M- I am so impressed and inspired by this list. Even though I have only so far produced a future nerdBOY, I hope to increase his and my reading through your recommendations. Awesome. Thank you. I hope to see you soon too. --And Maulie, my husband was reading OS Card and Steven King in 6th grade. Good for your son.