"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, December 19, 2011

I've Been Reading 'Classic' Children's Literature

About a month ago the question at Top Ten Tuesday was: What books have been on your to-be-read-pile the longest? Among my list of ten books were Anne of Green Gables and The Giver. I took quite a bit of grief by my blogging friends that I hadn't read those two "classics" in children's literature. I decided right then and there to remedy that situation immediately and while I was at it I decided to add The Phantom Tollbooth to the list. It has been a delightful month of reading wonderful, creative, touching, thought-provoking stories.  

The Giver by Lois Lowry was originally published in 1993. It won the 1994 Newbery Award and has been a mainstay in middle grades English classes ever since. It is one of the most highly banned books of the 1990s but I wonder what parents find so reprehensible in it. The dystopian society in which Jonas lives certainly is a cautionary tale of what might happen if we (society) try to control every aspect of citizen's lives. Perhaps that is what the book-banners don't want kids to hear.

One day as I was walking through the library holding The Giver in my hands a boy approached me to ask a question. When he spied the book he stopped what he was saying and said instead: "The Giver? That is a great book." I agree and I'm glad that it is still read by many middle-grade kids today.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Juster Norton. A delightful book that was originally published in 1961. Norton, who was a city planner and architect, was avoiding his assigned work on a book about those topics and found himself writing stories that could be described as modern fairy tales or adventure stories. When he realized that he had something special in these stories he collected them together, added Milo and the Phantom Tollbooth, the thread to draw them together. Milo, a bit of a slacker-boy, is able to enter the special land, where lessons are taught without preaching, through the phantom tollbooth that magically appears in his room one day.

My daughter Rita and I listened to The Phantom Tollbooth in the audiobook format. It was narrated by David Hyde Pierce, better known as the actor who played the Dr. Niles Crane in the sitcom Frasier. His narration was spot-on, his voices varied and funny, and his timing was impeccable. We both enjoyed the listening experience very much. Rita, an elementary teacher thought that it should be read in every 5th grade classroom. As a high school educator, I think that there is a lot in the book for older teens to appreciate. In fact, Juster indicated that he gets letters from the same kids who reread the book as they grow. These kids tell him how much they appreciate aspects of the book that they didn't notice when they were younger.* I think the book is truly timeless and can be appreciated by individuals of all ages. If you haven't read this book, or haven't read it for a long time, you are missing a rare treat. Get to it!
* I got these little tidbits of information from Juster's interview on the last disc of the audiobook.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery was published in 1908. One would think that I, of all people, would have read this book before now since I am also an Anne with an e, like Anne Shirley. In fact when people ask me how I spell my name I usually say "Anne with an e like Queen Anne or Anne of Green Gables." My daughters tell me that they think I read the book to them when they were young, but I only recall certain scenes, which I probably saw on the Anne of Green Gables mini-series. So I consider this my first time reading it.

As much as I liked it loved it, one thought kept running through my head as I was reading it---I hope that elementary teachers don't read this aloud in their classes today.  I fear that it would turn off each and every boy in the class. Am I alone in this estimation? Anne Shirley is a wonderful character,  one of the best literary characters ever. But this is a girl book for sure. If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear from you. I just can't imagine it holding the attention of the boys I know, even those who like to read. Enough said on this topic. I did adore it and I am very happy that I finally read it.


  1. What a delightful reading week(s) you've had!! I loved The Giver and The Phantom Tollbooth - and would LOVE to hear David Hyde Pierce narrating!

    I've never read Anne of Green Gables either - really must get to it.


  2. Oh these are all great and bring back many happy childhood memories.


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