House of Hawthorne

My View of Children’s Books Today, Monday.

Posted on: October 10, 2011

I read this article this morning:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/opinion/no-more-adventures-in-wonderland.html?_r=1

and the crux of the piece, I think, is this:

“[T]he savagery we offer children today is more unforgiving than it once was, and the shadows are rarely banished by comic relief. Instead of stories about children who will not grow up, we have stories about children who struggle to survive.”

It cites Harry Potter, The Graveyard Book, His Dark Materials, and of course, the new 800-pound gorilla in young adult literature about survival, The Hunger Games. The writer is the author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and the editor of The Annotated Peter Pan, so she knows the power of books for children. The problem with her article, to me, is that she misses an opportunity to guide parents reading the New York Times to great, fantastical books for kids.

I love The Hunger Games, but as someone who spends her working days at least in part putting books into children’s hands, I wouldn’t put that book in every child’s hands. It seems to me an oversight to talk about Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games in an article waxing poetic about Alice in Wonderland without mentioning her other series, for younger readers, Gregor the Overlander, which was directly influenced by the author thinking about Alice growing up in today’s world. I’m always happy to put those books in the hands of kids that really want to read The Hunger Games but are just a little too young. When she talks about Harry Potter, she says, “The drama of the series begins with the murder of Harry’s parents and turns on an emphatically humorless villain who seeks immortality at any price.” But the series isn’t humorless, and J.K. Rowling saying the books are “largely about death” doesn’t mean that they are not also largely about love.

The major problem I have with the article really is that those aren’t the only books that are available for children! If you’re looking for fantasy with a sense of humor, might I direct you to the incredibly popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series? Or its newer companion series, The Heroes of Olympus? Or the Egyptian version The Kane Chronicles, all three by Rick Riordan. I love to recommend Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, Savvy by Ingrid Law… I could go all day. That’s just fantasy. I’d love for any young girl to read The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, a book I very recently sent to my own nine-year-old sister, along with A View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. Other authors include Gary Schmidt, Jerry Spinelli, Rebecca Stead, Rita Williams-Garcia, Kate DiCamillo, Brian Selznick, Wendy Mass, and believe me, I could go on.

Come to the children’s department in my Barnes and Noble. You will not leave empty-handed, and neither will any youngsters you bring around.

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1 Response to "My View of Children’s Books Today, Monday."

I agree, there are so many worthy children writers that everyone can find their ‘fit’. It’s unfortunate that people view children’s books through just one or two popular series and base all books on that. I’ve read most of the authors you listed.

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