I have truly enjoyed diving into the depths of my past and bringing up old memories. Reading has been an integral part of my life and has brought so much insight, joy and imagination to my world. 2. A favourite book of mine, growing up, was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. When I read that book, my experiences as a child, a sister and girl living in the 20th century seemed to pale in comparison with the March’s games, activities and experiences. While reading I could go to other place and time and live through the joys, triumphs and sorrows of the four March girls.
A present favourite of mine that I have read four or fives times is Charlotte Bront’s Jane Eyre. I first read it in my grade 12 literature class and have read one other time for a university class. The other times have been for pure enjoyment of the text. I was delighted to see a quote from Jane Eyre in our course reader and the impact that that quote has on our view of children and their literature. The quote is as follows, “What must you do to avoid going to hell?” to which Jane replies, “I must keep in good health and not die.”(pg. 9 Purely for Love in our Course Reader) The honesty and unabashedness of children is embodied in that quote and I love it and wish that adults could be as forthright.
Although I have very few of the books that I read as a child there is one that I remember very well and I still have in my possession. I sometimes use it when I’m teaching a younger set of students. It is called Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile written by Bernard Waber. It is a wonderful story about a crocodile who lives with the Primm family. They live a happy, peaceful co-existence until the neighbour, Mr. Grumps, gets Lyle sent back to the zoo. Lyle is extremely homesick and isolated because he doesn’t act like the other crocodiles. Lyle manages to escape in time to save Mr. Grumps and his cat from their burning house. Friendships are formed and Lyle goes back to live with the Primms again.
Upon reading and using this text recently, what I find I really love about this book is that children are meant to feel emotions when reading this book. They think it’s funny that Lyle lives with a family, they detest Mr. Grumps and his cat, they are sad when Lyle leaves for the zoo and they can relate to his awkwardness when at the zoo with the other crocodiles. Children feel a sense of justice when Lyle breaks out and elated that he saves the villains of the book, because they know there will be a bond between hero and villain and that Lyle will be able to go back home. When I read this book to children and get those responses, I can imagine myself going through the same emotions and emitting the same responses when I was a child.
Bibliography: The few books that come immediately to my mind are ones that I have used in my classroom and ones that I have suggested to my students. Most of my selections will be geared for ages 8-18 year olds, but as I learned in this week’s readings, maybe age categories for books are constructs made up by publishers and bookstores in order to sell more books, thus my selections could be for any age group.
1. Adams, Pam. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Whispering Coyote Press. 1999. A playful and illustrated rendition of the classic song that I remember from when I was a child. If you sing the song while you are reading the book, the child remembers the words and eventually will sing along with you. 2. Barrett, Tracy. Anna of Byzantium. Delacorte 2000. Anna, the future heir to the Byzantine Empire, is an intelligent, yet stubborn and wilful girl. After her title is wrenched from her by a male heir, she plots to get revenge and her rightful place back.
3. Cabot, Meg. The Princess Diaries. Harpercollins Children’s Books. 2000. The first in a series of novels for teenage girls. It is a bout a girl who lives with her single mom until she finds out that her biological father is the Prince of Genovia. The girl goes to visit her father and realizes that she, a very unlikely princess, must turn herself into princess material. 4. Colfer, Eoin. Artemis Fowl: The Artic Incident. Disney Books. 2004. Artemis Fowl is a child detective/genius who, through many adventures, solves crimes and saves people. In this book, one of many in the series, Artemis saves his dad who has been kidnapped by the Russian Mafia.
5. Gliori, Debi. Pure Dead Brilliant. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. 2003. The third of a series of books surrounding the Strega-Borgias’ family and their strange accumulation of monster friends. This story transitions between the present day StregaSchloss compound and an ancient search for the powerful Chronostone in 127 A.D. 6. Harrison, Michael & Christopher Stuart-Clark. Editors. One Hundred Years of Poetry for Children. Oxford University Press. Oxford, England. 1999. A collection of well-known and well-loved poems for the younger (and older) set. This collection includes a full range of themes and types of poems.
7. Michaels, Anne. Fugitive Pieces. McClelland & Stuart. Toronto, Ontario. 1996. A young boy is rescued from the tragedies of World War II and brought, eventually, to the safety on Toronto. Although he is plagued with the memories of war-torn Poland, he begins to make a new life. Is a difficult novel to read, but can be attempted by senior high schoolers. 8. Sanchez, Alex. Rainbow Boys. Simon and Schuster. 2001. The story of three teenage boys who have come to the realization that they are gay and the trials they all have to face in school and at home. I have never seen a book of this kind that is very open and honest about the struggles that some teenage boys have to face.
9. Stouck, David & Myler Wilkinson, Editors. West by Northwest. Polestar. Victoria, B.C. 1998. A collection of short stories written by British Columbian authors. Emphasizes to children and youth the importance and presence of regional authors. 10. Yee, Paul. Dead Man’s Gold and Other Stories. Illustrated by Harvey Chan. Groundwood Books. Toronto, Ontario. 2002. Ghost stories about Chinese immigrants in North America. Chilling tales of memories from their home land that follow them to their new home.