The Power of Children's Books

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
UPDATE 09/18/2007 11:15: edited and shortened.

There has been a lot of talk about Harry Potter in the newspapers but the piece I liked the best was this Times Select piece (again, free for .edu emails, which made me laugh and almost made me cry It was one of the best defenses of children's literature I've seen in a while. Not that it often needs defending.
"Though Harry Potter's birth preceded our 9/11-conditioned era by a number of years, Julia discovered him at precisely the time that she learned of the downing of the twin towers. She learned of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and (despite my best efforts) Adolf Hitler at just the time when she was deepening her understanding of the dark Lord Voldemort. Just as I took refuge in Pa Ingalls's house precisely at the time, in the mid-1970's, when the anxieties of being a "tween" overwhelmed me, Julia found solace behind the thick walls of Hogwarts when she most needed protection.

Nine can be a tough age under any circumstances. But in our age, with the family room TV beaming in not just Britney but news of falling bodies and beheadings, a series of books in which small-bodied Good defeats disembodied Evil can be just what the doctor ordered.

Whatever terror Harry experiences is controlled terror; it has no life outside the page. Villains, too, are not immortal once you break beyond the bindings of J. K. Rowling's realm. What greater comfort today — what greater source of power — for a child who has lived through airplanes becoming missiles, the Washington-area sniper, and now, daily storms that she takes as a sign of deadly global warming, than to have the ability to shut the book and walk away?"
The article got me thinking about the books I would want on my children's bookshelf. It's a fun game. Here are the ones I thought of so far. As I search on Amazon for these books, I see more and more that I loved. I consumed books so quickly, that it's impossible to write down all the books I loved. The list is inevitably truncated.

Ok, I am posting a new post for chapter books, because the list got too long.

Happy Reading.

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