06 September 2009

My Ten Favorite Books From Childhood

Yesterday, I was reading a newspaper article on the ten most influential children's books published between 1946 and 1964. The article mentioned some really good books (including The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Charlotte's Web), and it got me into a nostalgic mood, thinking about my favorite books from when I was a kid. And, since I have a long weekend and some free time, I decided to share them with you. (Forgive me if I sound a little weepy. I'm still attached to my favorites.) I'm going to go in the order that I read them:

1. The Butter Battle Book (Dr. Seuss): Yes, The Cat and The Hat and Green Eggs and Ham are excellent, but this gem was always my favorite Seuss book. It told of the epic struggle between the Yooks (who buttered their bread butter side up) and the Zooks (who buttered their bread butter side down.) I had mixed loyalties. As an avid (and opinionated) butter consumer, I firmly sided with the Yooks, but the Zooks had a cooler name. Loyalty is such a fickle thing, but it's Dr. Seuss - and a rhyming butter war. What more could you ask for?

2. Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery (James and Deborah Howe): Who needs sparkly Edward Cullen? The far superior Bunnicula is a vampire bunny, for crying out loud! Chester the cat knows that something is fishy about the new bunny his family brings home, but Harold the dog isn't so sure. Chester sets off on a quest to prove that Bunnicula is a vampire and becomes determined to dispose of the undead rabbit, as best befits a creature of the night. I still think the scene where Chester tries to dispatch Bunnicula with a steak through the heart is one of the funniest things I've ever read...period.

3. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Jon Scieszka): We all know the tragic story of the three little pigs. How that dreadful wolf reduced their home to rubble with the intent to ingest them. That evil beastly wolf! But it's lies! All lies! Just ask the Big Bad Wolf. Or, if you're afraid to ask him, read his take on the pigs in this hilariously subversive fairy tale.

4. The Indian in the Cupboard (Lynne Reid Banks): When I first read this in school (before I was home schooled), I was expecting to hate it. Toys that come to life? Especially cowboy and Indian toys? That wasn't really something I was into in second grade, but I read this book anyway, and I ended up loving it. Banks' story has just the right combination of fantasy and real life.

5. Matilda (Roald Dahl): Actually, any thing by Roald Dahl is amazing, but this was always my favorite of Dahl's books. I liked Matilda because 1. She loved to read and 2. She was the best revenge taker in all of children's literature. Gentle Matilda may get the short end of the stick from her dreadfully inept parents and horrifying principal, but Matilda knows how to get even...

6. The Island of the Blue Dolphin (Scott O'Dell): This book tells the story of Karana, an American Indian girl who was accidentally left behind on her tribe's California island during an evacuation in the 1800s and lived in isolation for eighteen years. I've always loved survival stories, and this one is full of exciting adventure, but it's also very well-written. Plus, it's based on a true story.

7. Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery): Anne is the poor, mischievous red-headed orphan who nobody wants on the small Canadian island of Avonlea. But the Cuthberts reluctantly take her in and get more than they bargained for in the process. This is such a sweet novel - Anne is just so easy to sympathize with. And Anne reminded me so much of myself when I was her age. (Even though I'm not a redheaded Canadian orphan.)

8. Old Yeller (Fred Gipson): The movie version of this story is great, but the book is even better. Gipson vividly recreates pioneer Texas, and the story of Travis's battle to keep up his family's farm in his father's absence is both entertaining and touching.

9. Wishbone series: OK, I'm technically cheating, by listing a series and not a book, but I would deserve to be banned from reading for the rest of my life if I didn't mention Wishbone's books. These books (and the TV show) are what got me into classic novels. Wishbone introduced me to many of my favorite books and stories - including The Prince and The Pauper, The Purloined Letter, Frankenstein, Kidnapped, and Moby Dick - with a cute Jack Russell Terrier and relateable contemporary stories that were weaved in with the classics.

10. Great Illustrated Classics Series: I'm cheating again...for the same reason as I did with Wishbone. Whereas Wishbone combined lovable canines with the classics, this series consisted of simplified, abridged versions of classic novels with nice illustrations (which were fun to color) on each page. This series also helped get me into classic literature. After reading the Great Illustrated version of Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes, and Robinson Crusoe, I couldn't wait to read the originals.

You know what the great thing about all of these books is? They're still fun to read...even after everyone thinks you've outgrown them. (You can't outgrow good books.)

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