Literature and Illustration for Children and Adolescents
Elsewhere on this blog is a post about my Children’s Book Collection. This post will select several books from that collection which are my favorites.
I often read adolescent literature in between more difficult-to-read-and-remember books. Since I don’t have children at home any more, these books have to come to my attention in other ways. Many I have read since childhood and love to read them again.
The print in most of the adolescent books is larger and the ideas more straightforward. But even simple stories can be written to leave you guessing. That doesn’t mean that the books are without gravity, for that could not be further from the truth. Adolescent books are shorter and so the authors are forced to use their craft to tell the story in a condensed way, while adult books often go on long after the point has been made.
There are many, many books written for young people which are profound.
How could a person read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas without being forever changed?
I could divide children’s books into a million categories but I won’t. I will simply list my favorites and tell you why I feel that way. My favorite picture books, however, will be favorites because of the illustrations, not the stories. Picture books usually have very brief stories or sometimes none at all.
In ten years, I have a feeling that this list might be especially sweet to me. And, if the whole thing seems self-serving to you, you would be right. I consider this blog to be a journal-of-sorts and a reminder of what I loved and valued in life.
Nancy Drew Books by Carolyn Keene. Fiction.
I started reading the 31 original books when I was in grade school. The first one I read was The Hidden Staircase, which was a thriller for a young girl. Nancy and her “pals” as they were called in the books, were portrayed as college-age young women with a great deal of freedom of movement. They drove cars and took trips in “roadsters” and were able to get together after dark to hunt down criminals and solve mysteries. They accomplished everything with perfect hair, pencil skirts well below their knees and heels on their shoes though not the “high” heels of today. They sneaked around after dark and took terrible chances. I was forever shouting in my mind “don’t go down there” or “look behind your back”. She always managed to have just the right tool in her trunk as well as a big flashlight which was required for so much adventure after dark. I learned that a big flashlight is perfect for hitting a criminal on the head so that you can get away. The original set of books had blue covers and the pages were heavy, cream-colored newsprint. Subsequent books were written by other writers and the stories morphed to mirror the times in which they were written. I could tell that was the case by the shiny, illustrated covers of newer stories touting more contemporary topics. I didn’t read anything else of Nancy Drew and her “chums” after the original 31 books. I only owned three as a child but borrowed the rest. My good friend Linda was an only child and she had all 31, which she generously let me borrow with the comment “how sad she felt that I only had three.”
Books About Horses:
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis. Fiction.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Fiction.
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. Fiction.
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold. Fiction.
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. Fiction.
Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry. Fiction.
Little Golden Books:
(I have lots and lots of collected Golden Books. Most are of the vintage years but some more recent books have also caught my attention. Many were published during my own childhood and many were books I read to my children. These are my favorites in no particular order.)
We Help Daddy
This little Golden Book is my favorite. It has been re-published many times. It is illustrated by the wonderful artist Eloise Wilkins whose chubby kids and trademark attention-to-detail are seen in hundreds of children’s books, illustrated over many years. Don’t think that I am the only person in my family who has been in love with this book because it would not be so. From the time our children were tiny, Tom and I referred to this book in a lighthearted way as a model for how to be a good mom or dad. These sweet parents went from project to project without a complaint and included their children in every, single one. They taught their children with limited words and did much by way of example. Sometimes, when we had been blessed with a particularly busy day, and felt like we had accomplished more than we usually did, we would say that we had had a ” We Help Daddy” day. We have watched our children as parents doing the same things. They send little videos of family projects with hammers and nails and visits to special places and little treats which the mommies have made. Each time I read it, I end with the feeling that all is right with the world.
The Poky Little Puppy
Scuffy the Tugboat. Not only do I remember the story and pictures but I had a 78 rpm record which told the story. It was a heavy record with a small hole in the middle. By the time I was finished listening to it, and three little sisters had listened to it, it was scratched beyond repair.
Tootle (The Train). The story from this book was told on the other side of the 78 rpm record where I listened to Scuffy the Tugboat.
The Happy Man and His Dump Truck. Besides my love of the book, I also listened to this story on a record. I still remember it was written and illustrated by Teibor Gergily.
The Sailor Dog. Sailor Dog and Master Dog (next) are the same dog.
Doctor Dan The Bandage Man. I was always trying to find books that talked about children with the same names as those of our children. If there was ever a child who knew about bandages it was our Daniel and this was a book we once bought for him.
Romper Room Do Bees: A Book of Manners. How can anyone forget The Magic Mirror?
The Little Pond in the Woods
The Shy Little Kitten
The Ugly Duckling. Original story by Hans Christian Anderson.
Scamp’s Big Adventure
Hansel and Gretel. Such a scary story for children. I can’t believe that I ever read it to them. Original story by the Brothers Grimm.
Alice in Wonderland. This was a Disney book as were many Golden Books. If you ask me to remember how the cover looked I can see it perfectly.
The Happy Family
Frosty the Snowman. I love the original cover and can’t read the book without singing the song. I had a 78 rpm record of the song when I was a little girl.
Peter and the Wolf. When I hear the Peter and the Wolf symphony by Tchaikovsky, I see the pictures from this book in my mind, especially the wolf tracking Sasha the Duck !
Uncle Remus Stories (1947). This is a banned book. That means that pressure was brought to bear on publishers to quit publishing it because of its depiction of the South and black people. I did, however, order the DVD of the Disney movie before it was unavailable anywhere but Amazon. I have a couple of versions of the story in book form.
A Dragon in a Wagon and Other Strange Sights
The Little Golden Mother Goose. (1942)
Prayers for Children
Five Little Firemen
Dr. Squash the Doll Doctor
Miss Tillie O’Toole and the Wonderful School
Baby Farm Animals
The Very Best Home for Me
Here Comes the Parade (1942)
The Happy Family (1941)
The Taxi That Hurried
Uncle Wiggly. I also had a board game inspired by this book.
The Train to Timbuktu (1951)
Uncle Mistletoe (1950s)
Tommy’s Camping Adventure. Our first two children were boys. We read this book to them over and over.
So Dear To My Heart
Donald Duck’s Toy Train
More Wonderful Books for Adolescents
Sounder by William H. Armstrong. Fiction.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. Fiction.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien. Fiction. Many of these books are here because my children read them and so did I. When my grandchildren in Arizona added a pet to their menagerie, it was a beautiful rat which they named Mrs. Frisby. When we visited, I was taken with this wonderful animal and no one, least of all me, would have believed it. I held her and stroked her little head and touched her tiny fingers. She was delightful. She crawled on my shoulder and sniffed my hair and nibbled on my ear.
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Fiction.
Sara Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan. Fiction.
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Fiction.
The Giver by Lois Lowry. Fiction.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. Fiction. A fascinating look at the making of porcelain in China.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Fiction.
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. Fiction.
The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Fiction.
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski. Fiction. I love the illustration of Lois Lenski. I have collected most of her books in editions printed as second and third editions. They include: Judy’s Journey, Prairie School and Houseboat Girl. I have many others which I won’t list which were made more recently into bright and happy “board books” for little ones. They are in the playroom.
Stone Soup by Heather Forest. Fiction.
The Touchstone by Robert Louis Stevenson.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Fiction. I have read five books by Ms. L’Engle but can’t say that I have enjoyed them or would re-read them. It seems that I am in the minority. Oh, well.
Jacob I Have Loved by Katherine Paterson. Fiction.
The Tales of Despereaux by Kate Di Camillo. Fiction. One of many books I have read by this author.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Fiction.
Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie. Fiction. From the minute I saw the illustrations of Ms. Hobbie I was stricken. Through the years I have bought her calendars and embroidered little pieces of muslin with her little girls in bonnets stamped on them. I have several books of her drawings and sayings. I LOVE Toot and Puddle.
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Fiction
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Fiction. I have taken a great deal of good-natured grief from a couple of my adult children for my love of The Snowman. When my grandchildren were very small, I put the movie on the TV often when they came to play because I loved it and found it to be so calming. Obviously the adults did not share my attachment to it but the children did. I used to say to the grown-ups “you don’t have to watch” and I always asked the children before I played it if they wanted to watch it? Grandpa loved it too. He especially loved the scene at the beginning where the man walks through the snow and into the dark woods. He said it evoked all kinds of pleasant childhood feelings in him about boots, exploring and sudden snow storms. I think the children loved it because there were no words.
Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary. Fiction.
And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss. Fiction. Dr. Seuss’ first book. The title of this book, the first published by Dr. Seuss, has become a euphemism for exaggeration. Grandpa and I have both used it a million times (exaggeration) to describe sometime that has gone to far in its explanation. In my mind, without turning a page, I can picture each of the fantasies Homer experiences. Love this book.
The Witches Garden by Ruth Chew. Fiction.
The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. Fiction. My favorite illustrated version of this wonderful story is by Chris Van Allsburg who wrote and illustrated The Polar Express and Jumanji, among others. It is one of the playroom books that grandchildren often chose to hear when it was reading time.
Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers. Picture Book. Fiction. This is the wonderful story of a lost penguin who finds a little boy, who reluctantly helps the penguin to get back home, only to discover that the penguin doesn’t want to be home but wants to be with the little boy. The book is beautifully illustrated and the short movie made from it is beautiful as well, with a perfect musical soundtrack. The book is followed perfectly in the animation and my favorite scene is where the pink Octopus rescues the boy and the penguin and all of their belongings and gently places them in the boat. I have other Oliver Jeffers books and love his style of illustration.
The Rising Tiger by Kate DiCamillo. Young Adult Fiction. This is one of several books by this author which I have read. It has been written for young adults and is not a long book. It is an adventure with a moral. Ms. DiCamillo also wrote Because of Winn-Dixie.
The Poems of Eugene Field. My favorite poet who writes for children and of children. That is hard to say because Robert Louis Stevenson is also a terrific writer of children’s poetry.
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Fiction. I love the illustration as much as the stories.
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. Fiction.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Fiction, Picture Book.
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. Fiction. Picture Book.