Castle Librarian

Much Ado About What?

In Musing, Reading on June 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Much ado was made about Christopher Hitchens’s book recommendations to an eight year old girl, Mason Crumpacker. (click here and here for more) Unfortunately, none of the books are appropriate for an eight year old, no matter how precocious she is.

Here are my recommendations for eight year olds who want to be free thinkers.

1. Make sure you read the originals of children’s classics like Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll, The Wizard of OZ by Frank L. Baum, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. Do not watch the movies and think that you know what these books are about or mean. Do not read adapted or Disney-fied versions. READ THE ORIGINALS.

2. Read a variety of genres. Read fantasy, folklore, historical fiction, science fiction, chic lit, biography, etc. With regards to food, my mother told me I didn’t have to eat something if I didn’t like it, but I did have to try it. Try it all. Read what sparks your imagination and makes you think.

3. Excellent authors I can recommend by name, in no particular order: Tamora Pierce, Derek Landy, Jane Yolen, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and Dav Pilkey.

4. Avoid series books that use a standard plot formula – like Goosebumps or The Babysitters Club. There is no intellectual stimulation in reading the same pattern over and over again. [I’ve changed my opinion about this. Series at this level with 20+ volumes have a purpose for the child who is learning to read. Once they catch the “bug” they need to read voraciously and having a favorite series can fill that need.]

5. Read books for adults as they become interesting to you. If it is a struggle to read and understand, then maybe the time isn’t right, yet.

6. Read books that have been “banned” or at least complained about. If a book makes people uncomfortable, it is probably because it challenges their comfortable worldview. Stretch your worldview. Open your eyes to possibilities.

7. Specific titles I recommend in no particular order:A Series of Unfortunate Events v.1-9 (do not bother with v.10-13 they are poor quality and I suspect written by a different Lemony Snicket than the first 9), Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.

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  1. Oh! L’Engle was an easy favorite when I was 8, though I did end up reading a LOT of books from the Sweet Valley series. It was all the rage back then.

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