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