Feb. 14, '14
Happy Valentine's Day!
Today is a perfect day to begin as a UCW blogger, because I love children's books!
Seemingly simple stories of children's lit are filled with mixtures of classic archetypes, whimsy, the joy of the ridiculous, and commentary on social structure, even while often under the guise of short sentences or rhyming verse. MG and YA categories often tackle the most difficult social and emotional issues head on—more so than adult novels, I'd argue. (And life is really just high school played out less openly, right?)
As a writer I often go back to my favorite children's books to review how that author dealt with arc, character, setting, or language. When I'm knee deep in writing my own story it helps me to go back to the classics. I re-read and ask myself, 'What unique characteristics make this book timeless and how can I bring that to my own work?'
Here's a Valentine to my Favorites:
Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner - A. A. Milne
Milne is a master of character and social commentary. Yes, we all know the Disney version, but have you actually read the original Winnie the Pooh? My fave is House at Pooh Corner, but you just can't have one without the other. (Having enjoyed the recent UCW post on audiobooks, I should say that the Peter Dennis readings of these—available on iTunes—are excellent. And Dennis is the only person authorized by the Milnes to do public readings, so that's saying something.)
A Time to Keep - Tasha Tudor
Tudor is one of my favorite illustrators. Jann Brett's highly detailed borders evoke Tudor's work. And Tudor is a great storyteller about times gone by. I never got over the idea of having a glowing birthday cake floating down a river at night.
Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
This is a classic princess tale of a girl rising up from orphanhood. But the best thing about Anne's story, of course, is the dichotomy between her over-inflated "romantical" view of life and the real-world scrapes in which she inevitably—continuously—finds herself.
Bear Snores On - Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Can you even get over those adorable illustrations?! And the language is scrumptious:
An itty-bitty mouse,
creep-crawls in the cave
from the fluff-cold snow.
The Lottery Rose - Newberry Award-winning Irene Hunt
This is one of the most poignant books from my childhood. I found it in the school library when I was in fifth grade and chose it because the title was "romantical" (thank you, Anne). What I found instead was a book that dealt honestly with child abuse. It made me aware of what writing is capable of doing ... and that beauty in the written word can come from handling ugly truths.
I hope this literary valentine list will add a new book to your reading library.
Send your favorite book a valentine by commenting below!