Friday, January 22, 2010

Childhood Magic



I have a special place in my heart for books that feature a kid who reads and loves books. Any story that extols reading is aces in my book, but those that encourage and celebrate it for kids are especially fine. Since one of my duties is going up to the local elementary school and reading to the pre-K through 3rd grade kids, I've been spending a lot of time reading kids books (everything from picture books to YA) to find new stuff to share. I've been lucky enough to find some real gems, some old favorites that hold up well and some new finds that more people should be familiar with.

How long has it been since you read Madeline L'Engel's classic A Wrinkle in Time? Trust me, friend, that's too long. L'Engel's story of some special kids who band together to rescue their missing father is a stunner. A Wrinkle in Time has lost none of its power to amaze and enthrall. It's funny, heartbreaking, and pure magic.

How about Roald Dahl's Matilda? Dahl is a master of stories with all of the magic and humor and cruelty of childhood left intact. Mean headmistresses, awful parents, a kind teacher, and a very special girl combine for a tale of neglect and special powers that only Dahl could tell.

More recent but no less worthy is Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted, which is a great take on Cinderella with a fabulous teen protagonist and a lot of humor. Girls especially will identify with the smart, funny, and very competent Ella.

On another level entirely is Marcus Zusak's extraordianary The Book Thief. The story of Liesel Meminger's life in Nazi Germany is narrated by Death himself and is a testament to the power of books to help us through hard times.

But perhaps the bookiest book of all is Cornelia Funke's amazing Inkheart. The story of a man (who binds and repairs books by trade) who reads aloud so well that he actually brings forth characters from the book he's reading and the book-loving daughter who tries to save him is so saturated by a love of books and reading that it practically drips from the pages.

So please, folks, give these books a try, or even better, share them with someone you know who can't get enough of the written word.

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