It has been another fun month of reading the many, many suggestions for great books for kids recommended by the Booklights gang. Jen started us off with several delightful fractured fairy tales. These are great for children who already know the original versions, as they best understand the humor in the new versions. My personal favorite modern fairy tale is Sleeping Ugly, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Diane Stanley.
And Susan's suggestion of reading a book for a second time that you loved during the first time you read it got tremendous response! The novels/chapter books that were suggested also provided us with a wonderful list of books to read aloud to children. Just because you have a child who is able to read on his or her own, please don't stop that habit of reading aloud. There is little more reassuring to a child than the time spent with a parent over an engrossing story.
Many of the books that were mentioned have also been recorded on tape or digitally. Check them out from your library for the family to listen to as dinner is being prepared or you drive to school.
I love Gina's new Tuesday feature of Show and Tale. I have been traveling in the Pacific Northwest over the past few weeks and have asked folks all along the way about their favorite children's books. Now, you must realize that my southern accent caused a bit of a snigger when I said "Show and Tale!" But I initiated wonderful conversations with the simple question.
One of my favorites was the visit with author Jean Davies Okimoto. She talked about The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack (who later won a Caldecott Honor). Although first published in 1939, this is a very progressive book. Jeanie remembers how she knew this was a tale with a truly feminist perspective. She noticed the ranges of bunny colors and the inclusiveness of the story.
And if you check out Jeanie's favorite children's book, also check out the latest book she wrote, Winston of Churchill: One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming, written by Jean Davis Okimoto and illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell. The book brings forward concerns for the environment in an interesting way for children and their parents.
Next week, I head to Glasgow, Scotland to attend the symposium "Beyond Borders: Art, narrative and culture in picturebooks." I hope to return home with lots of new insights into picturebooks and to be able to introduce some international favorites.
Happy Reading, Ann
I enjoyed Susan's recent post about reading by number. Judging by the comments, lots of people have a strong preference for series books. Personally, I am compulsive about reading series books in order, because I hate having any surprises spoiled. When I read adult titles, I enjoy mystery series. Even though each book might wrap up an individual puzzle, I don't like the character development to be spoiled for me, so I'll rarely read those out of order. And of course for a series like the Harry Potter books, that follows a dramatic arc across all of the books, I think that it's critical to read in order. I tend to prefer the original order in which a series is published over any arbitrary changes to follow chronological order - I'm happy to take in the information in the order that the author intended.
Susan's post got me to thinking about my favorite series reads. For the sake of simplifying the discussion, I'm going to define a series as having more than three books (trilogies are a topic for another day). After mulling this over, I came up with a few simple rules for identifying a series as a favorite. I just ask myself, did I eagerly read through all of the books (either during a short time, if the series was finished when I came across it, or as the books became available, for series that were in progress)? Did I rush out to the store to get any new installments? Did I, if applicable, buy the books in hardcover, or go to the trouble to reserve them from the library? Do I ever re-read the books? If so, then this was (or is) a favorite series.
Using this as a guideline, my favorite series as a child were:
Of more recently published series for children and young adults, I've enjoyed and eagerly read all of the books of:
I may not consider all of these books great literature, though many are. A few of the childhood favorites, in particular, haven't held up for me as an adult. But all of these books met my stated criteria above for favorite series at the time that I read them. I distinctly remember grabbing up multiple Trixie Belden books from the bookstore as a kid. I still have all of my copies of the Maida books. And I'm certain that 40 years from now, I'll still have all of my Harry Potters. Other series are on target for inclusion in future favorites lists, but don't yet have more than three books published (The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins comes to mind, for example). See also the books in my series books featuring adventurous girls post. I'm expecting great things from Theodosia Throckmorton.
In case any of you are interested, I've posted a list of some of my favorite adult mystery series on my personal blog. I can think of several other series (for both adults and children) for which I went through three or five or ten books, but have let the last few books sit, unread. I'm not listing those here.
But that made me wonder: what is it that keeps a series from losing my interest? Obviously, I have to care about the characters. No matter how good the plotting is, no matter how interesting the setting, I'm not going to follow characters that I don't care about through more than 2 or 3 books. And the books have to keep surprising me in some way. Humor helps, too, though it's not 100% necessary. But I think that what it really boils down to is that the author has to have captured a world that I want to visit. This world can be anything from an old-fashioned house in the country to a camp for half-blood Olympians. But if it feels authentic, and feels like a place where I want to spend time, and is populated with people I care about, then I'll come back. There's a whole other discussion to be had about series books that have a dramatic arc, and are planned to end after five or seven books, vs. ongoing series that have no particular end in site. That, too, is a topic for another day.
What about you all? What are your favorite series titles? What makes you come back to a particular series time and time again?
This month Color Online asked book bloggers to read and review books featuring people of color. The Color Me Brown Challenge has pulled together more than eighty reviews so far, and hopes in this last week to reach one hundred titles. Well, here are three more:
by Eun-hee Choung
This book comes to Kane/Miller publishing from South Korea, but it could just as easily be set in any of the bustling Korean neighborhoods in America. While her mother is getting her hair colored and styled, Minji follows suit with her own customer a black dog and in her own way. The child’s desire to do grown-up things is universal, and is captured well in this simply worded picture book. The illustrations are engaging, especially when capturing the expressions of Minji and her mom. Enjoyable, lovely book.
The Secret Oliva Told Me
by N. Joy, illustrations by Nancy Devard
Olivia tells her friend a secret, and the friend lets the secret slip out. From there the secret passes along and gets bigger and bigger. In the end, the friend has to tell Olivia the truth and apologize, because it was the right thing to do. The story is good, though I could have done without the rhyming couplets. The cover is gripping with its black silhouettes with white accents against the red brick wall. The silhouette style continues throughout the book with the addition of a red balloon that gets bigger and bigger throughout representing the secret that is also growing. The end of the book includes a section to discuss the story including what secrets kids shouldn't keep. The artwork is simply wonderful, especially in capturing a diverse group of children only in silhouette.
by Pooja Makhijani, illustrated by Elena Gomez
As a little girl turns seven, she watches her mother unpack saris to wear to her birthday party. While helping her mother choose just the right one for the special day, she pleads to wear a sari herself. Knowing that young girls like her aren’t old enough for the lovely garments, she reflects on their beauty. But sometimes birthday girls get special treats, and in this case it is getting to dress up like mama. A sweet book universal in a daughter’s desire to be like her mother whether it's walking in her high heels or wearing her bindi. Reference is made to the mother’s every day working clothes, implying the that the story takes place outside of India. A helpful glossary makes the Hindi words accessible to all readers, while beautiful illustrations bring magic to the story.
A few weeks ago I wrote that I was a little jealous of a young patron who was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Truth be told, it wasn't just that he was reading it for the first time... it was that he was able to read it at all. He had started the series only a month earlier and had already worked his way through nearly all seven books. It was such a contrast from all the years I waited for the entire series to be published.
Would the series have been so successful if the books had been published closer together or farther apart? I don't think it would have mattered. Series books are episodic by their very nature. At one point in time, nearly every series ever published is unfinished... but we tend to forget that when we have the whole series in front of us. For example, I remember mentioning the torturous wait for Harry Potter 6 to my boss at the time. She responded by telling me how difficult it had been for her to wait for the whole Lord of the Rings series to be published.
I think that the long agonizing wait actually made me appreciate the Harry Potter series more. I analyzed, thought about and puzzled over each book for years while waiting for the next one. Each book was a treat to savor, because I knew it would be years before I would get the next installment. (All of this is in retrospect, of course. At the time, the waiting made me crazy.)
On the other hand, there's also the sheer joy of being able to pick up the next book in a series (any series) right away. It lets you continue living in the author's magical world for just a bit longer and it helps with continuity. My mom read the first few Harry Potter books as they came out, but they didn't do much for her at the time. She kept forgetting the characters and plot lines... and reached the fourth book without being quite sure she knew who You-Know-Who was. After all the books were published, she read the whole series together and found it a far more enjoyable experience. The intricacies of the story were much easier for her to follow.
Sometimes, we may not even realize we're reading a series. A teenage patron recently showed me her summer reading log, and I noticed she had given a very low rating to Dark Whispers by Bruce Coville. I asked if she had enjoyed the other two books in the Unicorn Chronicles. She replied by saying she had no idea Dark Whispers was the third in a series... but that it would explain an awful lot.
I've also talked to people who claim not to mind reading out of sequence. There are kids who will read whichever book happens to be on the shelf at the library. For some series, it really doesn't matter which order you read them in. Usually, I just recommend reading the first book published before reading the rest. But I always wonder about kids who read, for example, Harry Potter #6, then #2, then #7. Are they getting anything out of the books? Does it make any sense?
On the other end of the spectrum, I frequently see kids who love to read in order. No matter the series, whether it's the Magic Tree House or Geronimo Stilton, they want to read every book according to its number. For these kids, there's nothing more valuable than a good series database.
Sometimes, the numbers themselves aren't entirely straight forward. Let's take the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder as an example. When I was reading the books, they were numbered in this order: #1 Little House in the Big Woods, #2 Little House on the Prairie, #3 Farmer Boy... etc. That has since changed, and the current numbers on the sides of the books are: #1 Little House in the Big Woods, #2 Farmer Boy, #3 Little House on the Prairie.
I had a young patron tell me recently how much she had enjoyed Little House in the Big Woods, but #2 (Farmer Boy) made her stop reading the series. Sometimes, I think in the quest to be chronological, publishers can sometimes leave a good story by the wayside. As for how to number the series, I think this list is the best.
How do you like to read a series? Slowly and methodically over time, or in one big gulp? In order or out of order? Has chronological numbering versus publication date ever been an issue for you in a series you've read? Have you ever waited for a series to be fully published before you started it?
Today's Show and Tale comes from Kathleen, a mom who picked Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny. Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd, well loved for Goodnight Moon, created another classic with this sweet tale.
"It's a wonderful way to let your child know that you'd search to the ends of the earth for her," Kathleen said.
Have you read The Runaway Bunny? What are some other comforting books that you and your child love?
I've run across several recent posts from around the Kidlitosphere about encouraging young readers. I thought that I would share some of them here today.
At Moms Inspire Learning, Dawn Morris has a post about learning from Cinderella. It's actually a two-part piece, but the second part is the one that talks about books and reading. Dawn recaps the reasons why she feels "that reading is the most precious gift you can give to your child", and explains "if your daughter plays with princesses, you might be concerned that she'll focus on outer beauty alone. However, if your child reads a lot, she'll be a lot more likely to focus on the interaction between the dolls instead." I have to tell you, when I was a kid, I played with a set of US President figurines whenever I was at my grandparents' house. I didn't know anything about the Presidents, but I made my own paper dolls (of girls) in similar sizes, and just made up my own stories using my paper and plastic figures. For me, a reader pretty much from birth, it was always about the interactions.
Speaking of playing, the Book Chook (Susan Stephenson) has a nice two-part post about Literacy in the Playground (part 1, part 2). Susan notes: "Recently, I became concerned that some of the games (that kids play on the playground), particularly the skipping and clapping chants and rhymes, are not as prevalent as they used to be. I know there are many kids who enjoy them, or would enjoy them if they had access to them, so I decided to search for, and publish some." With help from friends around the Kidlitosphere, she shares a variety of suggestions (games, chants, etc.).
At Literacy, families and learning, Trevor Cairney suggests chapter books for younger children (for family read-aloud). He starts with tips on identifying whether or not your five to seven-year-old is ready to listen to chapter books, and then gets into reasons why reading chapter books together is a good idea. I especially liked this bit: "chapter books will enable you to build an even richer shared literary history with your children. Shared books will become part of your shared history within the family, and more broadly, they will help to connect your children to a literary culture that others will share with them." I think that people who don't have that shared literary culture miss out on things.
Bianca Schultz of The Children's Book Review recently published a lovely guest post from Andrea Ross of Just One More Book!! Andrea, mother of two book-loving daughters, writes from a parent's perspective about "the ways reading aloud to our children benefits ourselves as parents, our families and our relationships with each other." That's right - she focuses not on what's in it for the kids, but what's in it for the parents. For example: "The cuddly intimacy that it prompts is an obvious but overlooked benefit of taking time each day to read aloud to our little ones - regardless of how big said little ones may be!" I consider this a must-read post for parents.
Monica Edinger (who blogs at Educating Alice) recently linked to a New York Times Papercuts Blog post about surviving school summer reading lists. Julie Just reports: ""Summer reading? Good. Assigned reading? Bad." That's how Lisa Von Drasek, a children's librarian at the Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan, sums up her criticism of many summer reading lists: they're simply too short and too weighed down by good-for-you classics." I thought that this paired well with a recent guest post that our own Pam Coughlan wrote for Foreword Magazine's Shelf Space blog about summer reading. Pam said: "To me, a Summer Reading List is a selection of books that parents and kids might not otherwise know about pulled together in an easy format. So when those kids and parents come to the library and are looking for something to read--and they do ask that vaguely--the parent and librarians can direct them to some vetted books that will hopefully hold their interest." I also liked Pam's conclusion: "I believe in Summer Reading and lists and prizes. And I believe in lazy reading and informal book clubs and finishing the latest Gossip Girls book. There's room for both."
At Parents and Kids Reading Together, Cathy Puett Miller shares tips on making up for lost time, and getting into the habit of reading together when kids are older (10+). She begins: "Some families, in the midst of their whirlwind of life, never really got into the reading together habit when your children were young. It's so easy to become distracted and deal with what is most urgent rather than what might be more important. I often hear families say, "we just don't have time". First of all, let me tell you -- it's not too late. Make a conscious decision that this is a forever gift you can give your child."
At Throwing Marshmallow's, Stephanie also has a post about encouraging late/reluctant readers. It's a short post, but it includes a nice summary of "links to provide additional support for allowing your child to come to reading on his or her own timetable (something especially important if you have a right brained learner whose "normal" timetable is different from what is traditionally expected in school.)"
And finally, though not a new article, I would like to draw your attention to Elizabeth O. Dulemba's Coloring Page Tuesdays. Each week, Elizabeth makes a new coloring page available for free download. She encourages teacher, librarians, and parents to share these pages with kids. A classified archive of past pages (e.g. holiday-themed pages) is available. You can also sign up to receive weekly email alerts about newly available pages.
Have you run across any useful articles about raising readers this week? I would love to hear about them.
With the end of summer upon us (Wahhhh!), here are some going-to-school picture books.
Splat the Cat,
by Rob Scotton
A fun, clever book that will be appreciated by a wide range of readers. Scotton, of Russell the Sheep fame, brings his humorous and fantastically off-beat illustrations to the world of cats plus a mouse. Splat is worried about his first day at Cat School. If you’re not sure that he’s really worried, look at his big, wide eyes. He tries to hide, and stall, and even hang onto the gate, but his mom gets him to school. There he learns that cats chase mice. Hold it! Splat has a pet mouse! That he brought to school! This isn’t going to be good for anybody. But of course it is, and all the cats learn a new lesson. All-around wonderful book.
Jake Starts School
by Michael Wright
When we last saw Jake, his parents were trying to get him to sleep by going everywhere around the house with him. Well, Jake is still having separation issues at school, where he cannot let go of his parents. He literally clings to them through the whole day, making the seesaw hard and bathroom breaks impossible. The teacher is finally able to engage him with a book with the same name as his dog, and Jake finds his school groove. Bright and wacky illustrations fit the silly and sometimes strained rhyming text. (“There it was, Room Number 1/where Jake would join his class./It looked so big, he felt so small,/he passed a little gas.”) I can't call this my favorite book, but kids will enjoy the silly take on starting school.
Keisha Ann Can!
by Daniel Kirk
This isn’t Keisha Ann’s first day at school, but she shows how it’s done with cheer and confidence. She catches the bus, waits in line, passes out paints, shares with classmates, and takes turns. This book represents an interesting and needed approach to going-to-school literature by focusing on the positive. I also liked that the girl was African-American, as I would like to see more children of color in books. Newest reports say that 44 percent of children in the United States are now minorities. Perhaps we might want to show more of them in books. Not just for them, but so all children can see kids of different races featured in stories. Keisha Ann Can! is simple in language, making it best for the preschool or first day of kindergarten crowd.
Last week I asked this question: "What children's book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?"
The question struck more of a chord than I ever could have imagined. Between responses on Booklights, Facebook and Twitter, my question was answered over 600 times! Being a curious person, I had to find out which books were mentioned the most. The numbers listed next to the titles refer to how many times that book or series was mentioned.
The top ten children's books readers would most like to read again for the first time are:
10. The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls and the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (7 times each). I'm a huge L.M. Montgomery fan, I'd love to read some of her books again for the first time. In the Anne of Green Gables series, the one I'd pick is Anne of the Island.
9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (8 times) At least half the respondents on this book said they prefered the French version.
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (11 times). I just found my old dog-eared copies of these terrific books. What wonderful memories!
6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (12 times). I actually just read this for the first time last year. I wish I had discovered it when I was a child.
We've reached the halfway point, and are starting to climb into the big numbers.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (22 times). A perfectly written book. It's amazing what an effect Harper Lee has had on so many generations. I read this book in high school, although I recently had a mom (who hadn't read the book) try to convince me that it was appropriate for her third grader.
3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (25 times). This book ranks high on every children's book poll I see such as: "What's your favorite book from childhood?" or "What's your favorite Newbery book?" The answer is always A Wrinkle in Time. Interesting side note: did you know that this book was rejected by over two dozen publishers before it was finally accepted?
The numbers jumped way up for the last two, both of which are series.
2. The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (38 times) Great, great books. I remember my first time reading these very vividly. Frodo was climbing up Mount Doom and my mom came in and asked me to clean up my room. I recall telling her in a passionate voice that I had read hundreds and hundreds of pages just to get to that point and I couldn't stop. I had to know what happened next. Fortunately, she took pity on me.
And the books that were mentioned the most... (drum roll, please):
1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (41 times) As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I couldn't agree more, but I was surprised that Harry beat out Frodo.
I was on the edge of my seat for every single Harry Potter book. Whenever I thought I had figured it all out, Rowling took her story in another direction and surprised me every time. She made me gasp, cry and laugh in a way I never have while reading a book. It was an unforgettable ride.
But as much as I loved that thrilling, spine tingling first time, it was in the re-reading where I discovered the true magic. Rowling planned out all seven books before the first one was even accepted for publication. All the books are full of subtle, deftly hidden clues and wonderful misdirection that are a delight to discover. For more about the joy of reading a favorite book over and over, check out Jen's excellent post on the subject.
Now, on to the runner-ups. Although they didn't make the top ten list, here are the children's and young adult books that were mentioned multiple times. They're in alphabetical order by author.
-Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
-I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
-The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
-Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
-Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
-Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
-The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper
-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
-James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
-The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
-Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
-Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
-Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
-The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
-From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
-Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
-The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
-Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
-The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
-Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
-A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
-Heidi by Johanna Spyri
-Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
-The Polar Express by Chris vanAllsburg
-The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
-Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
-The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Several adult books were also mentioned, but they were far outdistanced by the votes for the children's books. If you're curious, here's the results:
-The hands-down winner was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
-Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Watership Down, The Princess Bride and Mists of Avalon tied for second place.
-1984, The Foundation Trilogy, Gone with The Wind, Interview with a Vampire and Of Mice and Men came in third place.
All in all, the answers to this question were absolutely fascinating. Here's a few of my favorite comments:
"My third grade teacher read it to us aloud, and every time I read it, I can still hear her sweet voice. I wonder if she has any idea how she affected us." (Charlotte's Web)
"I would love to read Goodnight Moon with my mom and dad again for the first time."
"I can actually vividly remember hiding under the covers when Lord Voldemort made his appearance." (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)
"I've read A Wrinkle in Time and A Christmas Carol more times than I can count, but nothing compares to the moment I discovered those worlds. They were more real than reality to me."
"I remember one hot summer when I was about ten reading about life in the Alps. I was hooked." (Heidi)
"To be a child again and reading on my father's lap." (The Princess and the Goblin)
"The first book that got me really excited about reading was at about ten years old: The Silver Crown by Robert O'Brien. Nothing compares to that first book you can't put down."
"I can't leave out the first book I remember checking out from the library: The Fuzzy Duckling.
"I'd like to return to fourth grade so I could hear my teacher Mr. Orr read The Thief of Always out loud again. That was an incredible experience for me."
"So if for one more time, I could be a riveted six-year old, I would like to go sit in my father's lap, and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone just once more."
Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful comments and experiences.
The best part is yet to come. That will happen when you find a book on this list you've never read before and try it for the very first time. Or better yet, when you read it to a child and watch them experience it for the first time.
Welcome to Show and Tale, a new Tuesday feature from Booklights. Each week, we'll be asking a quick question about books: your all-time favorite, your current read, the bedtime story your kids ask for every night.
We're starting out with a simple but hard-to-pick-just-one question: What's your favorite children's book and why?
Here's what the winners of our recent book giveaway at the BlogHer conference said:
Cindy picked Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus from Mo Willems. "My 2.5 year old loves it because she gets to say 'NO, PIGEON' on every page."
Susan picked Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?. "It shows moms and dads working in and out of the home."
And Miss Lori, a familiar face to preschool fans of PBS KIDS, named her favorite, The Giving Tree, in this chat with Supersister Kristen:
So what's your favorite and why do you love it? Tell us below for a chance to win free books from Booklights.
Last week Susan wrote about the gift of reading a wonderful book for the first time. She asked readers: "What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?". This post inspired a host of thoughtful and (sometimes) nostalgic responses. The next day, Pam wrote about three of her favorite summer books and asked readers to share their favorites. These posts, in part (along with a post by Charlotte from Charlotte's Library), inspired me to re-read one of my own favorite books, one that is for me the very essence of summer: Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright. I previously listed Return to Gone-Away as one of my favorite children's books, and just reviewed it here. Re-reading Return to Gone-Away last week made me think about something that is, in a way, a mirror image Susan's post. It made me think about the joy that comes from re-reading an old favorite, one in which each character and scene are already familiar.
I was only a few pages in to my re-read of Return to Gone-Away when it literally brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't the content of the book that made me weepy-eyed. It's that I was so happy to be back reading this particular book that my emotions just bubbled over. I can only think of a few books that evoke tears from me, just from being themselves. Return to Gone-Away is one of them. Two others are The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key and Listening Valley by D. E. Stevenson (my all-time favorite book, published for adults). (You can read about some of my other favorite re-reads here.)
I love everything about these cherished books. I love the language, especially when I read particular sentences that I remember verbatim. I love the characters, and the way that they remind me anew of the things that make them special. I love re-visiting my younger self, remembering earlier reads of the same book. I literally give these books a little pat on the cover when I see them on my bedside table - I'm unable to rein in my affection. And why should I? These are the books that made me who I am.
When I read new books, I generally require a considerable amount of plot. The more complex and suspenseful, the better. But I'm reminded by Return to Gone-Away that the books I already love, the books that I read over and over again, don't need suspense at all. The re-reading experience, for me, is all about revisiting beloved characters and settings. It's about visiting old friends. It's about a personal connection between me and the particular book. I don't want the opportunity to read these particular books again as if it was the first time (as Susan discussed). Part of what makes these particular books special for me is the incremental appreciation I've built up over dozens of readings.
I like smiling when Mrs. Blake says, on page 1 of Return to Gone-Away "We'll have to think of a new name for that house right away", because I already know the outcome. I like already knowing whether or not Julian will find the missing safe, and whether or not the rope in the old dumbwaiter will break. I like shaking my head on page 9, because Foster's behavior is just so typically Foster.
This affection for particular books is more than just taking comfort in familiarity (though that's part of it). I don't think that you can just pick any old random book off the shelf, and re-read it once a year for 20 years, and have the book become meaningful to you (though that would be an interesting experiment). I think that there has to be something already in the book that makes you want to re-read it every year. Something that connects you to the book. For those books, the ones that you love enough to revisit throughout your lifetime, the connection just gets stronger every year.
This isn't to say that I disagree with Susan about the wonders of reading a great book for the first time. I envy every single person who hasn't read The Hunger Games yet, because they still have it ahead of them. And I know that sometimes childhood favorites don't hold up at all. But I also think (and I'll bet that Susan will agree) that there's something very special about re-reading a favorite book, one that is loved, in part, because it's so familiar.
I'd like to believe that everyone has books like these, books that they can turn to for comfort reading on bleak days. Books that remind them of where they came from, and what mattered to them when they were younger. Parents, what books will bring tears to your children's eyes when they're 40, because they're so happy to be back reading the books again? Will it be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? The Penderwicks? The Lord of the Rings? Clementine? Will the teens who have read Twilight seven times already re-read it as they get older? Will reading Twilight when they are 60 help them to recapture that feeling of falling in love with a book at 12? I hope so. Because me, I feel blessed to have my favorite books as part of my life. What do all of you say?