I think the books that we read and love become a part of us. I've been quietly putting these children's books on my new husband's nightstand as a way of giving him a little window into my literary roots (I was a prolific reader as a child — often caught with a flashlight under the covers).
Since he's one of the two guys who runs Flashlight Worthy, he's more than willing to oblige me. But then again, that's not so much of a surprise, because he loves books almost as much as he loves me.
by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ilon Wikland, translated by Joan Tate
A Swedish classic — darker than Pippi, but with more substance and heart. Two brothers abruptly leave the mortal realm and travel through the afterworld together. On the surface it seems like an adventure story, but I also see it as a charming love story between two brothers. It reminds me of The Lord of the Rings — the journey may be long and hard and very scary (also fun), but the most important thing is that you get to make the journey in good company.
by Nancy Willard
Nancy Willard is poet who also writes amazing novels. I read this as a teenager and I fell in love with her words. Like The Brothers Lionheart, this is also about two siblings and about death, but in a completely different way. Think magical realism set in Michigan.
by Madeleine L'Engle
As I write this list, I realize that there was an escapist element to my childhood reading, but then again, isn't that the definition of children's literature? This book is a classic. I loved all the Anne of Green Gables, All in the Family girly-type books. Then I read this and it was truly amazing. It is, in my world, the original and the ultimate girl power, sci-fi novel. The best part? There are sequels.
by Judy Blume
I can't tell you exactly what the plot of this book was — something about an annoying but hilarious younger brother (that would be "Fudge"). The reason I can't recount the exact plot is because all I remember is laughing so hard that I thought my sides would split. Then I gave it to my parents to read and they laughed so hard that they cried. (Editor's Note: This is the sequel to the equally wonderful Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.)
by Adam Gopnik
I picked this book up because I had been following Adam Gopnik for years. This is far from the literary criticism or social commentary that you might read in the New Yorker, but the articles he's written about his children give you a hint at his tremendous capacity for immersing himself in the world of children. In the case of this book, he does just that — channeling a little boy named Oliver living in Paris. Just as quickly and easily as he brings you into the world of Oliver, he opens up a fantasy world in which a delightful adventure story unfolds. (Oh, and actually I read this as an adult, but if it were published earlier I would've read it as a child.)
by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel
I still think about the scatterbrained housekeeper Amelia Bedelia and her many misunderstandings. This book plays on children's tendencies to take things literally and misunderstand idioms or common phrases. Amelia Bedelia actually draws the drapes rather than closing them, she puts the chicken in a little outfit when she is told to "dress the chicken," and she puts prunes on the sticky-out parts of the top of the hedge rather than "pruning the hedge." For me, these are jokes that never get old. I guess I should be thankful for the fact that my sense of humor has never grown up.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Sarah Steinberg
I'm a physician/scientist with a humanities background. As a kid, I read constantly... which was quite helpful in participating in my elementary school's MS Read-a-thon every single year. I recommend a Read-a-thon to any parent whose kid takes to books over sports.
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