The countdown of the Top 100 Children's Novels is on hold as the amazing author of the list, Betsy Bird, gets Internet access at her new apartment, and I am on pins and needles waiting! I don't blame her as she's a nice person, good friend, and deserves some time off to move her earthly belongings from one place in New York City to another, but it's so hard to wait when the results have been so interesting. Sure, a few of my choices have made it on and I expect a few more will before this show is over, but the real fun is seeing what other people thought of as their favorite books. Fascinating.
As I've gone through the countdown, I've seen many other titles that I could have chosen, but here are three books that I listed that have made it so far. What do you think?
by Sydney Taylor
At #79 we find this classic about a poor, immigrant, Jewish family living in New York City in the early 1900's. The book is about the everyday - chores, market trips, make-believe games - mixed with a helpful and healthy dose of Jewish traditions. It's historical fiction at its finest, putting the reader in the world while celebrating the time period. As for why love this book, I must quote myself for what I wrote for the countdown: Because the joy that the girls had in choosing what to spend a nickel on outweighs most of the excitement I could imagine then or now. It made me crave a dill pickle from the barrel, for goodness sakes.
The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket
Coming in at #71 is the first book in this Series of Unfortunate Events. Here the Baudelaire children first become orphans and are placed with Count Olaf, who will soon become the villain in their long tale of woe. The wit and wordplay in the books bring in the fans, along with the ever-more-complicated mysteries that grow deeper with each title. What I still find interesting about this book over ten years, is that it tends to get a love it or hate it reaction. While the Amazon ratings for The All-of-a-Kind Family were overwhelmingly five stars with a handful of low ratings, the ones for The Bad Beginning come in at about a 6:1 ratio for the book. Unusual for a book of this caliber.
Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilders
I'm actually surprised that this book is already making its appearance at #42, making me wonder if any other books in the series will show up later. While this title is not actually the first book in the series - that would be Little House in the Big Woods - this is the one that really kicks it off, letting the reader get to know Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa as they travel and set up a homestead on the prairie through difficult times. When I was a kid I loved the first books in the series, finding the other ones boring, but as an adult, I think that the later books are better written, with stronger characterization and plotting. I used The Long Winter in my mother/daughter bookclub and the girls there all thought the book was too slow, and most of them had given up on the series earlier because they were bored by the books with their extensive descriptions of scenery, food, and house-building. In fact, while my generation loved these books, personally I've yet to find a kid who also adores them - which may explain the lackluster place on the countdown.
If you click on the links in the reviews, you can read the extensive write-up done at Fuse#8 at School Library Journal. To be totally upfront, I also selected Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin which made the list at #81, but if I extol the virtues of that book one more time I going to be suspected of getting some kickbacks. Also, you might wonder where Harry Potter is, to which I guess Top Ten. Right?
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