Friday, November 28, 2008

Reading to Kids

Over on the Pink Heart Society blog this weekend I wrote about the joy of reading to children. It's one of my favorite things to do -- and I miss having children around to read with on a regular basis.

I'm thinking, though, that with Skype becoming a regular part of my life these days, that the day isn't far off when I might get to read distant grandchildren a bedtime story via computer.

What will I read them? Several of our family favorites are over on the Pink Heart blog. But there really wasn't room there for everything. And there won't be here, either. But I promised to list a few more just in case anyone wants a good shopping list for kids' books this holiday season.

I'm leaving out the stuff on best seller lists now. You can all find those front and center at every bookstore you go into. The ones I'm talking about here might have been best sellers in their day -- or maybe there were just really good books to read and share. We loved them, anyway. I hope you do, too.

Frog and Toad were big hits at our house. All the books about Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel went through several paperback incarnations here because they got worn out from so many readings. Finally I went to hear Mr Lobel speak at a children's literature seminar and bought autographed copies of F&T -- one apiece for two of my children. He drew them each a Frog or a Toad inside with his inscription. What a Christmas treat that was.

I mentioned several Russell Hoban books on the Pink Heart. But I didn't mention How TOM Beat Captain NAJORK and his Hired Sportsmen. If you haven't read it, do. Tom is a terrific hero. Utterly competent in a completely do-it-my-own-way fashion. No wonder I love him -- he's the quintessential McAllister hero!

Hoban's The Little Brute Family and The Stone Doll of Sister Brute are fun reads, too.

We've worn out copies of Clyde and Wendy Watson's wonderful Father Fox's Pennyrhymes and John Burningham's Mr Gumpy's Outing. Both of them are a delight to read aloud, as is Wanda Gag's Millions of Cats which is older than I am, and the fabulous, rollicking A Roundabout Turn by Robert H Charles (the L Leslie Brooke illustrations are fantastic, too) which is older than my mother.

People who live where we live thoroughly enjoy curling up on cold winter nights and reading Virginia Burton's Katy and the Big Snow and Ezra Jack Keat's The Snowy Day. I suppose kids in warmer climes would like it for the novelty. We like it because we're warm when we read it and we know what it's like outside!

When we traveled we brought home kids' books from where we went. The favorite by far were the Ivor the Engine books that came home from Wales. We all become great fans of Ivor and his engine driver, Jones the Steam.

For older kids, you might track down the wonderful Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively, any of the many books of K M Peyton (I defy you to read Pennington's Last Term -- in UK, Pennington's Seventeenth Summer without cracking a smile). And if you have a horse-mad child on your list, Peyton can help there, too. Or you can go for the Black Stallion books or Misty of Chincoteague.

Want a little US history? Start them young with Jean Fritz's books. She's written quite a lot since we read And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? Now you can cover a lot more ground with Shh! We're Writing the Constitution and Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? and others besides.

Move on to Newberry winner, Johnny Tremaine, and later classic My Brother Sam Is Dead. Or try to find books by Patricia Beatty (libraries may still have them -- and they definitely should) like How Many Miles to Sundown? and Who Comes to King's Mountain?

Want a little mystery, a little satire, a little sly humor? Try Buffalo Arthur or any of the other Arthur books by Alan Coren or try Sid Fleishman's McBroom stories.

Read Mark Twain's "The Literary Offenses of James Fennimore Cooper." To kids? Yes, to kids. My sixth grade teacher read it to our class and we were laughing so loud that the teacher next door had to come in and tell us to be quiet.

Want serious stuff? Read Katharine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia, Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time, Gary Paulsen's Hachet. Immerse yourself and your listeners in Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series, the Narnia books of C S Lewis, or Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden.

I could go on. And on. And on. I won't because the revisions still need to be finished.

But tell me some of your favorite books from your childhood. As I said on the Pink Heart, Gunnar is teaching Micah and Mitch how to pick winners (not always successfully as a lot of treats -- and a lot of slips of paper are getting eaten in the process), and they will be picking a winner on Monday from the commenters here and on the Pink Heart to get a copy of my new book, Antonides' Forbidden Wife. Be the first in your neighborhood . . .

Mitch and Micah, I fear, take bribes. So I'm not letting them read the comments.

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Anonymous Rose said...

My niece has me reading cinderella or the little mermaid every time she visits. l love to read to her and although she knows the story by heart she still listens attentively. I bought this crown to put on when ever we read the story. l can see l will be passing on my harlequin and silhouette to her later on.

29 November, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

What fun, Rose. It sounds as if your niece will grow up to love the Harlequin and Silhouette books because they spring from that same root story. I love the 'crown' touch. Thank you for reminding me about the 'classic' tales as well as the others.

29 November, 2008  
Blogger Margaret McDonagh said...

Books - a favourite topic, along with heroes! And oh, how blessed to be given the gift of reading from a very young age. From then, no matter where you are or what life throws at you, you will always have books.

Have you ever come across Little Beaver and the Echo, Anne? So sweet. One of a more recent generation of young children's books. Having no contact with children myself, the gap between the books of my childhood and all that have come since is huge, and I must have missed out on some corkers. I found Little Beaver completely by chance for a friend's very young daughter and she loved it. Gorgeous pictures, too.

I don't have many books from when I was very young, aside from collecting up the Pooh books again, but from a bit later in age and in no particular order, my favourites included the Anne of Green Gables stories, Famous Five, Secret Garden, the pony books by the Pullein-Thompson sisters, Mary O'Hara and Ruby Ferguson, the adventure books by Willard Price and the Sue Barton books by Helen Dore Boylston.

Even writing down the names brings back a lifetime of memories.

Mags xx

29 November, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Mags,

Thanks for adding your faves. Anne Gracie just hooked my granddaughter on Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree books. I suspect the Famous Five may be next. Will have a look for some of the others as well. I haven't heard of Little Beaver and the Echo, but it sounds like a book to check out. Thanks for the suggestion.

29 November, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SKYPE is great isn't it. I speak to all of my family on it regularly as well as friends scattered all over the globe. Being able to see them at the same time is great.

Being Welsh, Ivor the Engine brought back lovely memories for me. Growing up I read anything and everything. My favorite part of Christmas was when our local church handed out books on Christmas Eve, and evey year out parents made sure we had a book in our stockings.

Hope Gunnar is doing better.


30 November, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

What a wonderful church to give out books, Chris! I love getting books as gifts and I love giving them as well. We live somewhat in the back of the beyond and getting to bookstores was tricky for years. But now, with the advent of online bookstores, I'm within a few mouse clicks of virtually any book I want. Very dangerous!

Gunnar is, sadly, not doing well at all. But we are doing the best we can. Thanks for the good thoughts.

30 November, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anne, I'm sorry to hear that Gunnar still isn't doing well. Poor thing! I'll keep him in my thoughts.


30 November, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Thanks, Chris. Every good thought helps.

30 November, 2008  
Blogger Liz Fielding said...

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes was always a fav in our house, although usually on Sunday mornings with everyone in bed together sharing tea and toast. My favourite was the Ant Eater who ate the Aunt...

Just one of those trans-Atlantic pronounciation things :)

Chris, Ivor the Engine is just sooo great!

Liz (also in Wales)

01 December, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Liz, will have to check out Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. Sounds fun. And I totally agree about Ivor. We wore him out. Just thinking about him now, I'm smiling.

01 December, 2008  

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