One of the problems with reading a book of literary criticism at the same time one is reading a book to a child is that instead of (or perhaps in addition to) understanding the book better, one also might read unwanted criticism of the book. I just finished reading The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis to my daughter; at the same time, I am in the middle of reading The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventure in Narnia by Laura Miller, in which she says The Horse and His Boy is one of her least favorite books. You will have to read Miller’s book in order to find out why, but I’ll give you this hint: C. S. Lewis wrote in the earlier part of the twentieth century, and Miller wrote her book recently. If you remember anything about the Calormenes in the Narnia book, you may able to guess Miller’s objections. My teenage son guessed on his first try.
In the first chapter of the Miller book, Laura Miller poses the following question:
Do the children who prefer books set in real, ordinary, workaday world ever read as obsessively as those who would much rather be transported into other worlds entirely?
So here’s my challenge to you. Did you read books in Category A as a child or Category B? Or perhaps you read ones in Category M (M is for mystery). If you want, describe your own category.
- Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis
- Oz books by L. Frank Baum
- Half Magic and other books by Edward Eager
- The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Laura Ingalls Wilder books (Little House on the Prairie)
- Anne of Green Gables and other books by L. M. Montgomery
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Note that Anne, Harriet and Jo of Little Women all had vivid imaginations. They just didn’t travel to other worlds.
- Nancy Drew books
- Hardy Boys books
- Encyclopedia Brown
Aside: when do kids start reading science fiction, especially those that later become fans (or addicts)? Is it pre-teen or in teen years?
Here are some modern day versions of Cateogy A. Have you or your children read any of these?
- His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
- Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
- Books by Lemony Snicket about the Baudelaire children (Series of Unfortunate Events)
- Bartimeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Perhaps, as my rabbi friend remarked on Facebook, your favorite book is none of the above; rather, the book was begun again this past weekend (i.e., the Torah).