by A. A. Milne
I still hold onto a memory from fifth grade where a teacher saw me reading House at Pooh Corner and complimented me on choosing such a challenging book. These days we think of Winnie-the-Pooh as a preschooler thing, an idea pushed forward by the whole Disneyfication of the characters. It’s a crying shame. The watered-down versions of the classic books ruin our appetites for the real thing. Fight back by reading aloud the true version with its melodious language, gentle illustrations, and sophisticated story-telling.
Jenny and the Cat Club
by Ester Averill
When New York Review Children’s Collection republished this book among other classics, I felt like I had found an old friend. I can’t say that I had been searching dusty old bookshops for a copy. To be honest, I had forgotten all about this book until I saw the cover. And there was Jenny, the shy black cat with the red scarf. Oh, how I had missed her! The story follows a shy little cat who wants to be part of the Cat Club and finds friends, adventure, and courage in their world. This book and the other Jenny books are perfect read-alouds for the younger set because the language and plot are simply — yet wonderfully — done.
by Michael Bond
Paddington Bear has also received the Winnie-the-Pooh treatment in recent years (what is it about bears?) with a ton of simplified boardbooks and adaptations. Again, you need to go back to the original to capture the heart of these stories of a bear found at a train station who goes on to make every day into exciting adventures as he bumbles along. The tales are wonderful for elementary school children, but the old-fashioned language and references can make reading the books a struggle. As a read-aloud, however, it’s magical.
(This post was previously published at PBS Booklights.)
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