Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Classics Considered

Guys, I'm pretty horrible at keeping up with a blog. To think, when I was in middle school, I had no problem documenting my 12 year old angst a few days a week. These days, I can't even manage once a month. Being a grown-up is hard, kids. Stay young.

But, in the sunny side of grown-up land, I don't have school, so I can use my extra time however I like! I've been on a bit of a crafty yarn-spree: a few weekends ago I crocheted two hats in 3 days. I also have a few exciting book and pop culture related crafty wearables to share with you in the coming weeks. I've also been reading a lot. Now, thats sort of a silly statement coming from a librarian, but it's true. I may be stuck in a YA novel rut, but I am zooming through those little guys. While YA books seem to be what garner my attention lately, a recent work project has brought me to think a bit more about the classics of children's literature.

The nature of "classics" in children's literature is different from that in the general Canon. While the "canon" is infamous for housing the works of dead white men & irrellivent subject matters, the children's canon seems much more fluid. While the winning of a major award seems like it should make a book destined for greatness, it isn't always so with the Newbery. I was looking at the Newbery list earlier today, and I noticed the years where beloved classics were given the honor while a now nearly unknown received the medal.

One of the most commonly quoted examples of this is Charlotte's Web (E.B. White) being passed over for The Secret of the Andes (Ann Nolan Clark). Now the latter may be a wonderful novel, but I've never read it, I don't know anyone who's read it, and I've never seen a child check it out. Charlotte's Web is inundated into pop culture. There are cartoons, live action movies, and many editions of the books (with different, colorful covers). Children still read Charlotte's Web, without prompting from teachers, parents or librarians. Some may argue that it is the job of the librarian or teacher to make kids read these "great books," the truly great books are the ones that last on their own, the ones kids want to read. These are the children's classics.

I've read a lot of books, but there are things that have slipped through the cracks, especially when it comes to children's books. People are surprised whenever I tell them what I haven't read. But here is my goal, readers: I'm going to read one of these a month until I finish this list. And post about it (so you may be guaranteed a post a month for a little while).

Charlotte's Web by EB White
Sounder by William Armstrong
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Fudge by Judy Blume
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

I'm going to throw in some "new" classics for good measure:
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

I'm sure I'm missing plenty of kid's must reads. What's on your kidlit must read list? What are some new books you think are destined to become classics?


Jessie M. said...

go ahead with the Dahl books!!! <3

Holly said...

Walk two moons and Maniac Magee are great!! I'll have to go through some of my YA books and give you some suggestions :) My sister and I have been reading a LOT of YA books lately.
Oh, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is great too :)

Alex said...

Maniac Magee is rightfully a modern classic.

I recommend Knee Knock Rise, which I've read about three times. It's one of those timebomb books: the story makes sense and is engaging for kids, and then, when one grows up, one notices that there are deeper themes presented. (Kind of like The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.)