My Favorite Children's Books
As a child I enjoyed reading books such as Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, Julie of the Wolves, Old Yeller, Where The Red Fern Grows, and These Happy Golden Years. As an adult, I have re-read some of these classics because these books will never go out of style. Remember those days as a child when it seemed like summer would never end? When I think back to that time in my life, I remember it was much easier to find a good book then it is now. Not that books for adults are sub-par, but you have to be a bit more discerning to find a truly good book that has all the positive character traits found in classic children's books. My favorite book from the list is Julie of the Wolves, but the others are also high up there as my favorites. However, if are not in the mood to read a children's book, I suggest you visit my other hub that has recommendations for adult readers.
1. Julie of the Wolves
This book was written by Jean Craighead George, who also wrote other Newbery Medal classics such as My Side of the Mountain. Julia of the Wolves was one of my favorite childhood books because it took place in nature, which is a place I where I spend many hours exploring. I grew up in the San Bernardino Mountains and I would literally go for walks in the forest and get lost among the trees. Sometimes I would even go into the forest and read for hours at a time. The main character Miyax is an Eskimo girl that wants to continue her education, so her arranged marriage allows her to live close to her school. At first this marriage is in name only and Miyax is a typical American teenager, but one day her trust is violated, and she decides to run away from this home. You will have to read the book to find out why she leaves, but I do suggest that parents exercise caution if young children read this books because they will not understand what happened to Miyax. I was twelve when I read the book, so I understood what was happening, but my sister's class read this book in fourth grade and the teacher had to skip certain parts in class because some parents may not have wanted their children to know what happened. Honestly I do not agree with censoring part of a book, but I just caution those who are concerned about a book's content to read it first and make this decision for yourself.
Miyax runs towards San Francisco with the intention of going to live with her penpal. However, she becomes lost and eventually comes to live with a pack of wolves. Life in the Alaskan wilderness allows Julie to commune with nature, and to become reacquainted with the traditional survival techniques of her people. One thing I love about this book is how Miyax is able to accept parts of her traditions that she thought were cheesy before she was lost in the wilderness. The primary message to take away from this book is that we should never be ashamed of our culture or past.
2. Little House on the Prairie
In real life Laura Ingalls Wilder was too young to remember the time her family lived in Kansas Territory, but she was able to reconstruct the story with the help of family memories. This is the most beloved of all the Little House books and the namesake for the show Little House on the Prairie. However, one of the biggest problems I always had with the show was while it is entertaining, it is almost never based on the events that took place in Laura's book. For instance, Laura kisses boys and does many other things she never did until she was engaged to Almanzo later on because the real Laura would have been way too old fashioned to be relatable to teenage kids watching the show in the 70's and early eighties. I enjoyed watching the series and even remember when they announced on the news they would no longer be making the show, but the book is by far superior and based on Laura's real life experiences. I suggest reading the series if you really want to see what happens to Laura because the show failed to explore many of the wonderful stories found in the books.
Another reason I always loved this book was because my mom grew up in Kansas and always enjoyed it herself. I remember that this was one of the first books that she read to us and I always have fond memories of Little House reason. Also, it is humbling to think about how people lived in one room cabins as opposed to the larger homes we have today. In some shows teenagers balk at the thought of having to keep the door to their rooms open, but on the frontier the only purpose of a door was to keep the cold and wild animals out. Some details were changed by Laura in her books, such as she does not mention the death of her brother, but for the most part her books are a faithful recollection of the events that took place in her childhood.
3. The Long Winter
This is another book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in for the Little House series. In this volume we hear about the day to day activities of Laura and her family surviving a very long and cold winter with minimal supplies. This book made me appreciate the modern conveniences we have today such as snow plows, grocery stores, and especially snow days from school when I was a child reading this book.
4. Little Town on the Prarie
In this book Laura describes the long awaited spring after the struggles of the very hard winter her family went through. It is interesting to hear about how Laura was willing to study hard so that she could become a teacher, even though she did not want to do this and was only wanted to help raise money. By working as a teacher Laura would be able to make money to help pay the tuition for her sister Mary to go to a school for the blind, so there was no time to slack off and play around in her life. The next time you complain having to do something simple like load the dishwasher, you should think about how many people did not have the luxury of free time like we do today.
5. These Happy Golden Years
This is my absolute favorite book out of the Little House series because it covers the time when Laura becomes a young adult. In this book we get to see Laura become a teacher and witness her romance with Almanzo come to fruition. At first Laura was not thrilled about dating Almanzo, but she changed her mind when he does not come to pick her up to take her home from her teaching job one weekend. Over the next two years Laura begins to fall in love with Almanzo, and he finally proposes marriage when she is seventeen. Yes, I know I am giving away the ending on this one, but I highly recommend reading this book if you have not heard of it before. As I said before the Little House books are far superior to the television series.
6. Old Yeller
This book was written by Fred Gipson about a boy named Travis and how his family adopts an older stray dog christened Old Yeller. This dog becomes a faithful companion for the boy and this is a great story for any animal lover to read. I remember crying when I read this in the seventh grade, but I also remember the happy parts of the book too. My seventh grade English teacher sure had a sense of humor because she remarked that Old Yeller was pretty busy after we read the passage about how he impregnated a neighbor dog.
7. Where The Red Fern Grows
This is another story for animal lovers written by Wilson Rawls. The main character Billy has to save up for two years before he is able to buy two coonhound pups that he decided to name Old Dan and Little Ann. One good thing about this novel is it shows children how the Great Depression was not an easy time and people had to work hard for the few things they had. I always feel people appreciate the things they have to work for, so this book contains many good lessons about work ethics and taking pride in ownership. I cried at the end of the book, but the end also offered hope with the symoblism of what the red fern represented. Read this book if you want to find out why it is called Where The Red Fern Grows.
8. Anne of Green Gables
This charming novel was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. There has been a new resurgence of interest in Anne series with the publication of the book Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson, which I have heard is a very good book, but I do not plan on reading this one. Usually I am willing to read any book that has received good reviews, but nothing seems to interest me in Before Green Gables because it was not written by Montgomery, and thus she is not the Anne I have known in my imagination.
Anne is an orphan girl that has been a ping pong ball all of her life, but one day she is mistakenly sent to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert who had requested a boy. Matthew quickly falls under the enchantment of Anne, but Marilla is a little harder to convince. However, Marilla will come to see much of herself in Anne, and they will form a strong mother daugther relationship over the years.
Anne's character is spunky because she stands up to Gilbert Blythe in a time when girls were supposed to be seen and not heard. Honestly, I really enjoyed the part where Anne breaks a slate over Gilbert's head, and I think he liked it too, because it shows for the first time in a somewhat old fashioned book that women will not always be submissive. They do not have to put up with the teasing of boys and are able to do "unlady" like things from time to time. Of course she gets in trouble with her teacher, but at least we know she has the ability to question something that was not appropriate on the part of a fellow student. Although I love the Little House series I was always disappointed that Laura's parents discouraged her from fully standing up for her rights, especially when her little sister Carrie was being bullied by Ms. Wilder. Yes Anne's character is fictious and Laura is a real life person, but the former was based on many of the real life experiences of Lucy Maude Montgomery. With Anne we see the beginning of a new century when women are still wives and mothers, but for the first time a larger group of women aspire to be educated before settling down. Ironically Laura was a teacher and never received her high school diploma because she was getting married. I was always mad about felt her teacher she have given it to her anyway. Laura passed a difficult examination that allowed her to teach in an isolated community while taking two months off from her studies, but her teacher still held her accountable when she came back to school. Anne experiences much more freedom in that she is able to have a childhood, study, graduate from high school, becomes a teacher, and then is able to go to college to receive her degree. Laura's idea of women's rights was to tell a friend that she felt being married at 13 was too young, which was considered liberated in the 1870's when it was not unknown for people in their early teens to get married. With children's books we see the progression of women's rights and the change of social times. Each children's book offers a unique insight and glimpse into the author's world. So the next time you read a book with your child, or the next time you read a children's book if you are still young, it is interesting to notice the differences and similarities in each historical area. There will always be childhood bullies and childhood friends, except some kids have slates and others have ipods. I prefer a slate over an ipod because I do not like to put earplugs in my ears, which is probably the reason I have an affinity for old fashioned children's books.