105 Ways to Give a Book

Thursday Three: Chapter Book Classics II

Here in the midst of SLJ's Top 100 Children's Novels countdown - and by the way, do not miss it! - I'm waiting for some of mine to show up on the list. As I said in an earlier post of three of my selections, I was surprised how "classic" I went with my own suggestions. I've read so many fantastic books over the last ten years, and yet when faced with picking ten favorites, I go old school. In a way, it goes to show the problem with these lists when sentiment is so hard to overcome. Maybe we should start by having equal representations from different age groups so that their nostalgia will be, you know, current.

by A.A. Milne
Winnie-the-PoohIt's obvious that the nostalgia factor is so high on this title, though perhaps the years of Disneyfication of Pooh may be taking a toll on this impeccable, imaginative classic. After years of making the characters preschool fodder, the original stories have all been lost in the shuffle. Kids who are finally old enough to appreciate the sophisticated language and nuance, have tossed aside Pooh as baby books. It's a crying shame. The only advice I have for new parents, is to own the classic set and ban any and all Disneyfied versions with a fierceness usually reserved for smoking near the baby. Do it for the children.

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Alice in WonderlandHere's a book that is entirely about imagination, and by that I mean one that gives the reader's imagination a complete workout as she visualizes the worlds and events of the story. It's one of the reasons that I see it as a perfect one to read aloud to a younger child who can freely imagine the scenes in this fantastic adventure without working through some of the harder text. ('Twas brillig, and the slithy toves...) There will be time later to come back and work through the annotated books to learn of the political implications of the verses and all that grown-up stuff. But for childhood, it's just fun to follow the white rabbit and see where he leads you.

The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
The Bad BeginningIt is a stretch to put the Series of Unfortunate Events as a classic, but I think it's just a matter of time. This title is where the Baudelaire children first become orphans and are placed with Count Olaf, who will soon become the villain in their long tale of woe. The wit and wordplay in the books bring in the fans, along with the ever-more-complicated mysteries that grow deeper with each title. What I still find interesting about this book over ten years, is that it tends to get a love it or hate it reaction. While the Amazon ratings for The All-of-a-Kind Family were overwhelmingly five stars with a handful of low ratings, the ones for The Bad Beginning come in at about a 6:1 ratio for the book. Unusual for a book of this caliber.

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