recess radio program

8/02/04
100 Best Books for Children
    by John Cech

The summer is getting along, and the children around you have probably played those favorite videos and video games at least a million times. And if they’re played out and swum out and malled out, then it may just be the time for books to be left, strategically, around the house or cottage or the car for your youngsters to find – quite by accident, of course. But what books can we choose to make the most strategic use of those reading opportunities? Anita Silvey – the well-known critic and advocate for children’s literature – gives us a solid place to begin (well, actually, scores of them!) in her recently published 100 Best Books for Children. She chose this core group of books based, in part, on interviews with parents, teachers, children, and experts in children’s literature. These were works that, in her words, "had truly made an impact on children; they were special in a way that other books might not be."

And what a wonderfully balanced, truly engaging selection it is – from standards for young children like Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar to more off-beat or unusual selections for older kids.

You’ll find terrific chapter books (like Ramona the Pest and Little House in the Big Woods) and engrossing novels for older readers (like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game). And then there are those powerful reading experiences like Lois Lowry’s The Giver and possibly the best wizard book of all, Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea .

Ms. Silvey includes a short essay with each title to briefly describe the book’s plot or premise, as well as to provide valuable insights into its publishing history and its reception among children. Kate DiCamillo’s novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (that’s the name of the dog who plays the title role in the book), won numerous awards, including those that are conferred by children themselves, one of whom gave the book one of its most ringing endorsements : " If Winn-Dixie weren’t a book, I’d marry it." And your children will find, I think, if they start (and hopefully continue) reading through Silvey’s fine list, that they’ll have nothing to lose but the summer boredom that may have descended on them.

Copyright 2004 © John Cech

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