Thursday, February 21, 2013

Five Memorable... Kid/Young Adult Books

I've been busy with a number of things, and if I don't have something that begs to be written, then most of the time nothing gets written! But that's not what I want to happen, so I decided to have a little "filler" standing topic. "Five Memorable... Fill in the Blank."

There are those of us who really like lists. Going over lists is almost like going over deposits to your savings account for the satisfaction they give. (Almost. And don't ask me why, I don't know!) So I decided to start with one of my favorite topics, Kid and Young Adult books. I believe there is a crucial age when children learn to love reading books. When good books at the right reading level are made available and time for reading is encouraged, a reader is born.

And I reserve the privilege of calling something "Young Adult" or "Kid"  if I was a young adult or kid when I read it!

Two On An Island

Something wonderful landed on my desk at school in the 3rd grade; a Scholastic Book Services leaflet and order form full of marvelous paperbacks for kids, and with prices that fit in with my pocket change, 15 to 25 cents. Each book for sale had a brief description and a picture of the cover. Over the next several years, the leaflets faithfully arrived, and the prices mercifully did not increase too much. Two on an Island was one of my favorites.

Any fantastical situation throwing a couple of siblings and their dog into a bad situation can be thought up out of a writer's head. Maybe conjure up a sorcerer, a dragon's egg, an enchanted dog, treasure waiting to be dug up, but as entertaining as these stories are, they aren't REAL to a kid. They are fantasy. To read about these typical kids, a bickering brother and sister who, on the spur of the moment, dash off for a little rowboat ride out to a sandbar and then become marooned, is to imagine without much effort a similar thing happening to you.

While the dangers they face; illness, dehydration, maybe even death, are part of the interesting and exciting plot, the real story is of their changing relationship in which they begin to really care for each other.

As a bickering sibling, it was difficult to imagine any other relationship with my sisters and brother, but this book gave me a glimpse into what was possible.

When Worlds Collide

What can I say? One of my most favorite SciFi books ever. My wonderful mother used to take us to the library about once a week during the summer, usually the Exeter Library, but sometimes the Woodlake Library. That was where I ran across this gem. It was written a long time ago, I think in the 30's, but a good idea and good writing hang around through different fads and changing science. OK, so some of the writing was a little over the top about populating a brand new, brave new world, but I skimmed over the tedious parts. They made a movie about it, which wasn't bad. But the book is better. Plus you can find out what happens later in After Worlds Collide. With all the technology, this book was also about people and relationships and how they responded to the "The End of the World."

A Wrinkle In Time

Another Scholastic Shot in the Dark, hoping it was as good as the brief description. Boy was it! It is just wonderful to have strong female protagonists in good books for kids. Meg is the only one who can rescue her father and her clever little brother from the evil "IT" of the planet Camezotz. Apart from the fact that I found Meg a bit whiny and complaining, it was easy to imagine myself in her place, being the strong one. At that age, I didn't try or even want to try to look for deeper meanings in books; I just wanted the plot to move along. But in spite of that way of reading, the meanings and symbolism in good literature insinuate themselves to promote a deeper  way of thinking as time goes along, I believe. Again, the story of relationships drive some of the best parts of the tale.

The Black Stallion

As a young reader, I thought I knew what I liked and what I didn't like. Since I was not a horse-person, I knew that I did not like horse books. My sisters were horsey-people, and they had a pile of horse books. I wasn't even tempted. Since I wasn't really all that fond of dogs either, I also knew that I wouldn't like dog books, like Irish Red, Big Red, Lad of Sunnybank Farm, Lassie, etc. 

So in one swoop, I dismissed Black Beauty, Tall and Proud, National Velvet, Misty of Chincoteague, etc. And then one day I came across The Black Stallion. What piqued my interest in this book? Maybe the cover, maybe the description on the back. I was a sucker for marooned stories. So I asked my older sister if I could read it. Sensing an advantage, she gave me a condition for reading it. I had to learn all the parts of the saddle. I still remember that those little round leather cut-outs with the dangling thongs through the middle were called the buttons. Perhaps having to work for it made it that much sweeter. But of course, as any Walter Farley fan would guess, I read it straight through and changed my outlook on all books horsie, and even other categories, like doggie and western.

Swiss Family Robinson

There are a lot of reasons I am adding this book to my list of five. But it's probably not the one you think.

This was a great little book, at least the abridged version was, one that I got in the third grade through Scholastic Book Services. Another marooned story, right up my alley! And the dad had all sorts of knowledge that put to use all the plants and animals they came across. Not to mention the incredible resource of a fully stocked ship, with only their family to plunder its contents before it sank off the reef it had grounded upon. I was amazed at the bounty of the large island they made their new home on. The only other contender to a sought-after storybook geographic location is the African land of the Great Anthropoid Apes who raised Tarzan. Alas, as I grew older and became more knowledgeable, I realized that the mismatched bounty of the island was just as much a fantasy as the giant boa constrictor that swallowed their donkey.

The reason I am including it is the lesson it taught me. When I first attempted to read it in the third grade, it was beyond me and I put it away as being too hard, and unpleasant to try to struggle through. That feeling stuck with me whenever I looked at it, but being a good bookhoarder, I kept it. Next year, in the fourth grade, I found myself without a book to read and picked it up, not expecting much. Surprise! It was easy! It was good! It was exciting! I really liked it. So what I think of when I see that book is that a book is not really static, in spite of its solid cover and unchanging typed pages. It changes as we do, it exists as we do, our minds meet it where we are at the time and it becomes a part of us.

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