Posts Tagged ‘potential spawn’

Despite the titles of the past two blogs, I have no desire to force a gender on my kids. This is something Jim and I have gotten into over the past few days; as you might expect, he’s got some pretty solidly thought out ideas about why and how a kid should be raised up without feeling like they need to like princesses if they are a girl or trucks if they’re a boy–or even to feel like they have to be a girl or a boy.

So: here are the third of three sets of books I will read my children.

1. My Father’s Dragon. This is actually a set of three books–My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland. They’re very simple, and very sweet. The illustrations are black and white, very round-cornered and old-fashioned. There’s one or two seriously pleasing maps and a cat who talks, and a baby dragon named… well. I won’t spoil it for you. It is absolutely perfect to read as a going-to-bed book.


2. The Children of Green Knowe. So far as I have been able to find out in the past fifteen years, I am the only person who has read this book. It’s a very beautiful, very quiet, very English book. It’s hard to say much else about it, because part of its strangeness is what the reader slowly realizes. I first heard it read out loud, and done right, it’s utterly enchanting. Plus, I refuse to remain the only person who has ever read this.

3. Redwall. Every child should be given the chance to drool over imaginary meals they will never, ever be able to recreate. And repetitive plots are soothing to small children, and this series is particularly prone to going over the same territory over and over. Plus they’re a blast to read out loud–so many different voices to do! And at least one of them was a major family bonding episode for my parents, brother, and me; we took a long car trip and listened to Cluny the Scourge take over the Abbey. Perfect.

4. Peter Pan. This is the book I would choose to read to a sick friend my age, to a kid I was babysitting, to my own child. I have a recording of it that I listen to on a regular basis. For those of you who have only seen the movie–read the book. It’s a spooky, strange, surreal and beautiful book; I want my children to dream of Neverland and look out the window for Peter and the second star to the right. I want to share that experience with them.


So there you have it. A round dozen book I consider to be indispensable to becoming a lover of books at a young age. There are dozens more, of course–I was a brutally focused reader even as a child, and I have so many books I loved and was touched by. I don’t have the time, or the space, to possibly cover them all.


But I invite you to share your lists, if you have them.


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I don’t know that I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m the oldest child in my immediate family (and the oldest girl among the cousins, but that’s another entry). I have a brother who is twenty-two months my junior. When I was much younger, I used to watch my mother read with and to E; I was much more my father’s child, and a more independent one in general. I’m too like my mother for anyone’s good.

Anyway. Continuing the list.

1. The Wind in the Willows (thanks to a commentator for reminding me of this one). We had a handsome and very small version of these with great pictures. These books are at the heart of my love for badgers and talking animals, although they definitely weren’t the only books that grew that. I love the simplicity of their names and the absolute weirdness of their adventures; Rat (Rattie to Mole) was my favorite. Frog cracked me up. I like how he always gets his comeuppance; a good lesson for a rambunctious kid.

2. Continuing a theme, Frog and Toad are Friends is one of my most wistfully beloved books. I remember hardly anything about it, but I remember the look and feel of it, and it’s a good story for children wondering if they’ll ever have a best friend. If my son is anything like me, and like my brother, then he’ll want that reassurance until he gets his confidence up. Plus, then he and I can watch the weirdest movie ever together, and we can have a nice little bonding moment when he has nightmares. Just like I did.

3. Winnie the Pooh. There’s not even anything to say here. Everyone should have this read to them. It starts a love for poetry early, and a joy in language, and encourages imaginary friends. I want my son to have an imagination as big and complicated and vivid as his mom’s.

4. Speaking of imagination… The final book on my list this evening (though I’ve got more coming up) is Alice in Wonderland. This is a nice segue book for a kid who’s starting to read by himself–read him Wonderland, and let him work his way through Looking Glass alone if he wants to. Plus it has such a wicked archaic gleefulness to it, such an investiture in total nonsense; kids have a streak of that anyway, and I want to urge him to keep that through to adulthood.

Four more to come later this week.

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…Well, and my son too. My dad read me the  Narnia series as a kid, and it remains one of my most treasured memories. But as a girl with a lot of aunts, I see the mother-daughter relationship play out in my family constantly, and it’s something I want to take my place in.

And so: a partial list.

1. The full Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and then backing up and proceeding chronologically. You can say what you like about the Christian undertones (and overtones and overall tones), but you miss those as a kid. All you hear is the talking animals and the epic fights and the children who become kings and queens. And it’s a simple-language book, for the most part; the words aren’t obsessively complex. And it takes a while–seven books will carry you for a long time.

2. The full Little House on the Prairie series, read from the yellowbound and yellowing copies that belonged to my mother when she was my age. When I took a Children’s Lit class, every girl in the room had memories of wanting to be like Laura. (And despising Mary.) I want my kid to be linked to me and my mother and her mother through these books.

3. Black Beauty. This is an extremely hefty book for a little girl; I was less than seven when my mother started reading this to me. It’s full of pain and suffering and appalling treatment of animals, but it’s beautiful too. It’s singlehandedly responsible for my early love of horses, and at the root of my desire to work in an old-style English stable; I own three copies. The biggest and heaviest is the one my mother read to me, because of the handsome pictures; someday I will sit in my bed with my daughter and give her her first lessons in horsemanship from that book.

4. Matilda. I will of course keep all the Dahl books in the house, but I have a soft spot for this one. The first way I experienced Matilda was on tape, and it’s wonderful to hear out loud, because it can be light and lovely for Ms. Honey and roaring and wicked for the Trunchbull, and deeply twerpy for Matilda’s parents. Preferably I’ll read to her out of my elderly copy, and she’ll read along in hers if she wants to. I never fell asleep without being read to when I was under eight.

I’ll be along with more later. It’s a long list.

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