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Monday, February 13, 2006

Kid-lit

Swiping a meme-thing from Mental Multivitamin:

Name three favorite children's series.

1. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. My first encounter with multi-volume epic fantasy. I still re-read this series every four or five years -- and heck, I think I'm due. Come to think of it, 2006 marks twenty-five years since I first read The Book of Three, which was -- as were many books I read as a kid -- given me to read by my mother when I did something naughty enough to warrant having my TV priveleges revoked for a time. She knew what she was doing, too:

MOM: Did you like The Book of Three?

ME: It was great!

MOM: So you want to read the second book?

ME: There's a second book?

MOM: There are five, actually. Plus a few short stories and illustrated books.

ME: Whoa!

2. The "Lewis Barnavelt", "Johnny Dixon", and "Anthony Monday" books by John Bellairs.

I'm lumping these together because they're all kind of similar, although they're all distinct as well. Each features a young kid who isn't terribly athletic and doesn't fit in very well (yeah, I could relate) who forms a friendship with a kind and caring adult just before they go into adventures against supernatural-type stuff. Some of Bellairs's earlier books get pretty creepy, and The Letter, the Witch and the Ring is downright unnerving.

3. The Encyclopedia Brown books. You know, maybe it was my love of these that kept me from hating Wesley Crusher as much as everybody else did on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(I'd also like to mention the Choose Your Own Adventure books, which were just the coolest damn thing in fourth grade. I remember how all of my classmates were united in their opinion that Space and Beyond, the fourth book, was shit. That was pretty funny. And once in a while I still go on Google to see if anyone ever figured out how to get to Planet Ultima in Inside UFO 54-50. These weren't a "series" in the sense of using the same characters or telling one story, but they were a lot of fun for a while.)

Name three favorite non-series children's books.

Hmmmm. Thinking back, a lot of the stuff I remember was from a series. Odd. Anyway:

1. Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry. For "One person at sea" stories, I've always preferred this to The Old Man and the Sea.

2. Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes. I should really re-read this book! It was a school assignment, as I recall, and I found it wonderful.

3. Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. I re-read this one every few years, too. Why this hasn't been made into a wonderful movie is beyond me. (I seem to recall there was a BBC production of some sort, but that doesn't count.) This book packs more sheer delight into its brief length than just about any other book I know.

(And there's one book that my mother had me read that I remember adoring, but I can't remember the title for the life of me. It involved a young girl who goes to spend a summer in a very old mansion, maybe Civil War era, and she begins investigating some kind of mystery regarding the house with the help of her young boy relative, who may or may not have been a cousin or something. Does this ring a bell with anyone?)

Name three favorite children's book characters.

1. Professor Roderick P. Childermass (from John Bellairs's "Johnny Dixon" books). Childermass is your stereotypical cranky professor of literature, who suffers fools with about as much verve as Indiana Jones suffers snakes. Still, underneath his crank exterior is real warmth and strength. He's extremely memorable.

2. Prince Rhun (from The Prydain Chronicles). A bumbling nitwit who later found his reserves of internal strength.

3. Templeton, from Charlotte's Web. In a way, the Gollum character here, whose actions of self-interest nevertheless end up "having some part to play".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually Professor Childermass is a professor of history. His specialty is the Middle Ages.