Stories for Children

Several days ago I was working on homework for my grad school class (at the very last minute, of course.  I'm just as much of a procrastinator as any of my students.)  I suddenly remembered that one of our assignments was to interview people about their favorite children's books, either from childhood or works they'd discovered since.  I sent out a frantic e-mail to about a dozen friends, hoping for the required three responses by that afternoon.

Well, just about every single person wrote back.  Some just listed works, and others were wonderfully illuminating about why they'd chosen them: depth of plot, readability, etc.  And many of them wanted to know about my favorites.  So, continue reading to find out, and be sure to comment with your own . . .

The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) A good friend once said he did a report on this book in elementary school.  The teacher congratulated him on his work, with one caveat: "Read it again in ten years."  No matter how old you are, I agree with this advice.  The langue is simple, but not simplistic; you will be amazed at the complexities that arise with each new stage of your life.  Although I love the whole series, and my favorite is actually The Horse and His Boy, this one was most influential throughout my childhood.

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) A mystery, a newfound friendship, a secret place where no grown-ups (or siblings) could intrude -- and the rewards of manual labor and persistence: all good things to experience, good lessons to learn.  I credit this book with my love of digging in the ground.

Noah’s Ark, Rain (Peter Spier) One friend wrote that she preferred no-picture books, so that children could imagine the scenes themselves.  This is the complete opposite: pictures only, where you get to write the story.  They are wonderful.

The Big Orange Splot (D. Manus Pinkwater) If you've never read this one to your kids, get thee to Amazon and buy it!  It's all about being unique and fearless.  And it may help your daughter decide to do something really crazy a decade later, like enroll in architecture school in the East Village.

The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner) Like many good things, this excellent book should have been allowed to stand on its own, but the siren's call of capitalism proved irresistible.  It's a shame, because I've read many of the sequels, and none measures up to the original in depth or imagination.  It's a story about some orphaned kids who create a life for themselves in an abandoned boxcar -- every child's fantasy: a world without adults that actually works.

This English teacher could keep going indefinitely, but we were limited to 5.  So let's hear from you!