Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Favorite Children's Books, Part I

Several days ago, the New York Times ran an op-ed column on one person's take on "The Best Kids' Books Ever." Although I found the list to be pretty good (I definitely agree with the inclusion of Anne of Green Gables and Charlotte's Web), but like the 2,000+ commenters to the article, I have my own suggestions. Here are a few of them, in no particular order:
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - I haven't had the chance to read all of the books in Baum's Oz series, but this one is so magical and filled with possibility that I don't know if I want to read the remaining books for fear that they won't live up to the first book in the series.
  • Winnie-the-Pooh - Although Pooh and his friends are perhaps best known because of Disney's continued reinvention of them (does the world really need a series where Tigger and Pooh are detectives? Really?) , the original stories (and the first set of Pooh films) are surprisingly funny and sweet, with just a touch of sly humor in places to keep the entire experience from getting too saccharine.
  • Mary Poppins - The Mary Poppins books might come as a shock to those who are only familiar with the Disney film. Unlike sweet Julie Andrews, the literary version of Mary Poppins is far from sentimental or soft. In some instances, she is downright scary. However, she keeps her charges (and us) coming back. She still has magical adventures, but she is decidedly tarter (and more complex) than the film suggests.
  • The Ramona novels - I was a pretty obedient child, but I lived vicariously through Beverly Cleary's rambunctious heroine. Ramona Quimby was an accessible, realistic character who had problems that most children could relate to, such as worrying about her family's financial situation or trying to get along with her older sister. I sometimes revisit the Ramona books, and they always make me smile.
  • Love That Dog - Sharon Creech's book of verse manages to combine allusions to great works of poetry while also maintaining the pov of a reluctant poetry student. Funny, charming, and surprisingly moving, this book is the perfect book for any child (or teacher) struggling to get through poetry.