What Are Some Of Your Favorite Children’s Books?

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Continuing this series on favorites authors and books, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of beloved children’s books.

Without further ado (with apologies to Shakespeare), here are my three offerings:

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Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Published in 1883, this tale of adventure and pirates is not only a wonderful read, but also it is an excellent book to draw in reluctant readers.

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Next on my list is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unlike his adult British mythology–The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit is a lovely adventure story that was aimed at children. It is an excellent introduction to the world of fantasy.

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Last on my list, which I am sure is highly incomplete, is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Winner of the Newberry Medal for best children’s books, this tale deals with a young orphaned boy who is raised by the ghosts and other otherworldly creatures in a cemetery. It is delightful!

So, I ask all of you: what are some of your favorite children’s books?

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An Underground Library Society Guest Post by A.L. Kaplan

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I want to thank A. L. Kaplan for participating in my call for readers and writers to become members of the U.L.S.–The Underground Library Society.

Please visit her wonderful site: alkaplan expression through writing

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A. L. Kaplan

I’ve been going back and forth on which book I would choose to become. Two of my favorite books growing up were Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell. Both are about young girls forced to survive on their own. They also both find themselves in their situations because of people not native to their homes.

Miyax, also called Julie, is a 13-year-old Eskimo girl. Forced to marry another teen, she runs away and finds herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Through observation and the knowledge learned from her father, learns how to join a wolf pack.

In Scott O’Dell’s book, twelve-year-old Karana is stranded on San Nicolas Island for eighteen years. It’s based on the true story of Juana Maria, who was rescued in 1853. Her village was devastated by seal hunters. Those who survived, were relocated to California, where they later died from disease.

These books sparked my love of wolves and nature even though I didn’t realize their influence until I was grown. It’s important that these stories not be forgotten. They are a reminder not only of nature’s beauty, but that all people and cultures have value.

With these influences, I guess it’s not surprising that my writing leans towards young people surviving on their own. The main character in my short story, Wolf Dawn, is sixteen. Maya, from Mark of the Goddess is thirteen, and Tatiana is eighteen.

 

Island of the Blue Dolphin: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0038AUY8M/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

Julie of the Wolves: https://www.amazon.com/Julie-Wolves-Jean-Craighead-George-ebook/dp/B00X3NIVX4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1535746111&sr=1-1&keywords=julie+of+the+wolves

 

Star Touched: https://www.amazon.com/Star-Touched-L-Kaplan-ebook/dp/B071WQJNM8/ref=sr_1_1?s=software&ie=UTF8&qid=1535746163&sr=8-1&keywords=star+touched

 

“Mark of the Goddess” In a Cat’s Eye: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M2YXDWE/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

 

“Wolf Dawn” Young Adventurers: Heroes, Adventurers, and Swashbucklershttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1940758076/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i3

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A Guest Post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society, by Jennie Fitzkee

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Thank you to Jennie Fitzkee for her guest post for the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society. She deals with a book that is easily misunderstood as being racist, and she details that the story is really about India and not African-Americans. It is important to make the distinction between perception of racism and actual racism, as Jennie does.  Now for her post:

In 1899 Helen Bannerman wrote a children’s book, Little Black Sambo, after she and her husband had lived in India for thirty years.  Helen was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she fondly remembered those years in India.  The classic story is about a little boy who outwits tigers in the jungle.  I dearly loved this story when I was a child, particularly the tigers turning into butter when they ran in circles around the tree.

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The boy’s name is Little Black Sambo, his mother is Black Mumbo, and his father is Black Jumbo.  That is perhaps (most likely) the root of controversy and the banning of this book.  Over the years people have projected the story to be about blacks in the south.  Different versions were published, even a board game.  The degradation of blacks was both sad and appalling.

 

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And so, it was banned in many places over the years.  “A typical pickaninny storybook which was hurtful to black children.”  Those were the comments and reasons for banning the book.  When I heard the story as a child, I also thought the characters were blacks from the south.

 

Fast forward to 1996.  Fred Marcellino, an artist and illustrator, read the story.  He said, “There are no racist overtones.”  And there are none.  Zero.  It’s merely the perception because of the names of the characters.  So, Fred illustrated a new edition of the book.  He did not change one word of the text.  He simply changed the names of the characters to be authentic to India – Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji.

 

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I read this book all the time in my classroom of preschoolers.  They revel in chanting the words of the tigers.  They love the book as much as I did as a child.  We do play performances about this book.  Really!

And of course, tigers live in India, not the southern states in America.  So, shame on those naysayers and book banners.  They should have known better.

I vow to memorize the words to this classic story.

Thank you Jennie for the post, and welcome to the U.L.S.

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Happy Anniversary to JK Rowling and Harry Potter!

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It has been 20 years since the publication of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. This extraordinary book and the entire Harry Potter series engaged the minds and imaginations of millions of readers around the world. I love this series, I teach it in several of my college classes, and I recommend it to anyone who has not read it.  It is also a book that can give the gift of reading to those who have not embraced the joy of reading. So, if you have not read this wonderful series, or if you have and love it, catch the express train to Hogwarts and have a great time!

Happy Anniversary and congratulation to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter!

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Neil Gaiman’s The View From The Cheap Seats: An Early Recommendation

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I do not usually recommend books before I finish them, but I will make an exception now. I have begun reading The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, and I am taken with it. In this book, Gaiman discusses a variety of topics, including books, reading, and writing, and he does it with great perspective, wit, and insight.

Here are a couple of selected quotations from this book:

 

“We writers–and especially writers for children, but all writers–have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were–to understand that truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.” (13)

“Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. ‘If you want your children to be intelligent,’ he said, ‘read them fairy tales. It you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.'” (15)

 

As I said, I have barely begun this book, but I am thoroughly enjoying it, and I recommend it highly. Read his book to explore a great writer’s thoughts on writing, books, fantasy, and more.

 

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Neil Gaiman on Books

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Unfortunately in the world of books as well as the larger world, human beings often create artificial divisions.  In his “Newberry Medal Acceptance Speech,” following the text of his wonderful novel The Graveyard Book, Mr. Gaiman speaks to the question of what books to read.

He says, “It was as if some people believed there was a divide between the books that you were permitted to enjoy and the books that were good for you, and I was expected to choose sides. We were all expected to choose sides. And I didn’t believe it, and I still don’t.

I was, and still am, on the side of books you love.” (Gaiman 320)

I agree with this brilliant writer completely: read and cherish the books you love.

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A Conversation With Neil Gaiman

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I just returned from an event from the Living Writers series at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA called “A Conversation With Neil Gaiman.” Muhlenberg College is an excellent, small liberal arts college with a thriving English Department, and this event was featured in coordination with a class on Living Writers that is offered typically every 3 years.

I was delighted to find out about this event and to be able to attend it. I teach English Literature at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, which is the adult degree program.

Mr. Gaiman, sat in conversation which the host, Professor Francesca Coppa, and he spoke at length about his career as a writer and about writing itself. This talk offered something for a wide variety of people, including scholars of literature, writers, and readers of Mr. Gaiman’s work. I include myself in all three categories.

I was especially interested in his view on not being branded as one kind of writer. He has written fantasy, horror, children’s novels, graphic novels, and short stories, among others. He deals with a wide variety of topics and ideas in his works, and that appeals to me greatly as a writer.

Mr. Gaiman discussed his treatment of mythology and his refusal to be put into one box in his writing. I think this is a huge problem for writers today, because we are encouraged to brand ourselves for marketing so that readers know what to expect. I certainly understand the need for marketing, but it can potentially damage writers to be viewed as writing just one kind of work or restricting themselves to one specific genre or type.

I am a writer of speculative fiction, which really can be applied to all fiction. I am a writer of  horror, YA fantasy, and will be writing a romance novel, several historical novels, and a thriller.  These ideas are in my head, and I will explore them all. I hope being a diverse writer will be my brand.

Mr. Gaiman is certainly a talented, skilled, and accomplished writer of a wide range of material.  If you have never read his work, you should. My favorite work of his is American Gods, which I have taught in several classes. Among his other work is–Coraline, the Sandman Series, and The Ocean at  the End of the Lane. Read his work!

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