105 Ways to Give a Book

Thursday Three: Chapter Book Classics

Along with my top ten picture books, I submitted my top ten chapter books for the SLJ's Top Children's Novels poll. Since I have some write-ups, I thought I'd share a few of my selections today. Again, I was surprised that I wasn't finding the love for newer titles, but was going back to my own childhood books as favorites. I think I have some attachment issues to work out.

by Sydney Taylor

All of a Kind Family A classic about a poor, immigrant, Jewish family living in New York City in the early 1900's. The book is about the everyday - chores, market trips, make-believe games - mixed with a helpful and healthy dose of Jewish traditions. It's historical fiction at its finest, putting the reader in the world while celebrating the time period. As for why love this book, well, it's because the joy that the girls had in choosing what to spend a nickel on outweighs most of the excitement I could imagine then or now. It made me crave a dill pickle from the barrel, which is just crazy.

Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilders

Little House on the Prairie While this title is not actually the first book in the series - that would be Little House in the Big Woods - this is the one that really kicks it off, letting the reader get to know Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa as they travel and set up a homestead on the prairie through difficult times. When I was a kid I loved the first books in the series, finding the other ones boring, but as an adult, I think that the later books are better written, with stronger characterization and plotting. The early books have extensive descriptions of scenery, food, and house-building, which makes for some slow reading.

A Little Princess
by Francis Hodgson Burnett

A Little PrincessHere's a book about triumphing in the face of adversity, and keeping a positive spirit and nature throughout tough times. When I was young, I read it, lost it, didn't remember what it was called, and for some reason didn't seem to ask anybody, but kept looking for the book for years. I remember the joy of finding it again, on the shelves of a bookstore, and going home to read it again and again. Sigh. I loved this book as a kid, but reading it again as an adult I couldn't capture that same feeling. That's okay though, because my childhood memories of the tale completely trump my adult sensibilities and it still feels a little bit magic to me.

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Mrs. Silverstein said...

Oh, fantastic choices! I think what made me love all three was the descriptions and the deprivation: for the girls in all three books, a stick of penny candy or a hot roll are more exciting and delicious than anything I've ever eaten. But Sara Crewe goes way beyond that for me--she's an emotional and moral touchstone. I love her notion that everything is an accident, and that perhaps even the nicest people may be found lacking in times of adversity. It really helps give me perspective.

Julie Hedlund said...

I hadn't heard of the first one, but the second two - YES! Made such a difference for me in my life.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Love every book here!

Even in Australia said...

The first one is on my list too and holds a special place in my heart as I grew up in the same neighborhood as the characters, just 70 years later, or so. Little House is just not up my alley but in reading them to my daughter I agree that they improve as you go along - we're currently on book 3, On the Banks of Plum Creek. (I find it also helps if we intersperse them with other chapter books... I think it might kill me if I had to read all of them in a row.)

Lisa Yee said...

I LOVE all of those.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I would add Little Women to that list. The same kind of excitement.
I love these books

Genevieve said...

I love All-of-a-Kind Family and A Little Princess deeply (and quite like the Little House books, but not as much as an adult as I did as a kid - I do think The Long Winter is brilliant).

What else was on your list? After much internal dispute, I ended up leaving A Little Princess off of mine on the grounds that it's sure to be on the final list anyway, but some of my other votes (Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Wednesday Wars) might not get there and I wanted to give them every chance. But I'm still torn, because if you asked me my 10 favorite chapter books and I wasn't thinking strategically, Little Princess would most definitely be on the list. Like Mrs. Silverstein said above, Sara was a touchstone for me.