Dark is Rising (Amazon link) by Susan Cooper.
October 8, 2001 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Dark is Rising (Amazon link) by Susan Cooper. This book, about an 11 year old boy, was given to me by my oldest sister when I turned 11. Now that I have kids of my own, I look forward to passing this book on to my son when he turns 11. Any other age-appropriate books that stand out in your mind, particularly if given when you were the age of the lead character?
posted by jmackin (103 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lord of the Flies, definitely Lord of the Flies.
posted by gleemax at 6:02 AM on October 8, 2001

Harry Potter. If you have avoided Harry Potter up to now because of his megapopularity, avoid no longer. The books are well-written, intelligent, funny and age-appropriate.
posted by jennyjenny at 6:11 AM on October 8, 2001

haha yeah lord of the flies
posted by h0ney at 6:22 AM on October 8, 2001

Well, jennyjenny, the Rowling books (though quite good) are going to seek the child out anyway: assuming everyone else is going to give copies of Potter to the kid, why not offer something less well-established? Here's one: Robert C. O'Brien's unusual and thoroughly engaging book The Silver Crown. Like The Dark is Rising, the protagonist discovers a strange inheritance on her birthday. The fantasy doesn't go all swords-n-sorcery: it's both gentler and more mysterious, and left a lasting impression on me.
posted by BT at 6:23 AM on October 8, 2001

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I especially loved the idea that you could live off of the money you collected from fountains (not to mention, ya know, the whole 'subvert your parents and live in the museum' thing...;)
posted by brookedel at 6:27 AM on October 8, 2001

BT, thanks for the off-the-beaten path recommendation. I thought more people might have a connection between the age they got the book and the age of the characters in the story itself. Harry Potter is an obvious one as well (also dealing with an 11 yr old). But what of the 8, 9, and 10 yr olds (etc)? Surely there are some stories (fantasy or not) that focus around a child of that age?

Guess I need to dig out my Lord of the Flies book (and I suppose Catcher while I'm at it!)
posted by jmackin at 6:29 AM on October 8, 2001

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I had completely forgotten about this book! I read it when I was about eleven myself, and oh it is lovely. I second your recommendation.
posted by jennyjenny at 6:29 AM on October 8, 2001

Lizard Music, by Daniel Pinkwater. Changed my life.
posted by UncleFes at 6:31 AM on October 8, 2001

John Christopher's trilogy The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire. Based on H. G. Wells' The War of The Worlds, they follow a band of children trying to survive in a world after a Martian takeover.

Additionally, Mark Twain's classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
posted by fletcher at 6:32 AM on October 8, 2001 [1 favorite]

Loved the Susan Cooper series (and have been trying to remember the first title for ages, so thanks for that). How about Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (boys and girls, sailboats, imaginative adventures galore)? And didn't we read the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at that age? Others have posted since I began writing - agree with the John Christopher and how about The Chrysalids by Wyndham?

And for young ones, E.E. Nesbitt.
posted by paperbag princess at 6:38 AM on October 8, 2001

Agreed: Frankweiler is the Good Shit. That scene where they hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art made me want to run away from home (but in a good way, mind you).

How old is Harriet in Harriet the Spy?
posted by BT at 6:38 AM on October 8, 2001

The Chronicles of Narnia
posted by phooey at 6:40 AM on October 8, 2001

I was a nut for John Bellairs. (too bad the font size on that site makes it almost impossible to navigate at higher resolutions...)

Of course I was also a weird kid, and I can't recommend everything he wrote but The House With a Clock in Its Walls and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring were really creepy. I think I re-read them four or five times.

Plus a lot of his books were illustrated by Edward Gorey which to me is a big plus.
posted by jennyb at 6:43 AM on October 8, 2001

I loved Lizard Music, as well as many more from Pinkwater, always a tad odd but fufilling.
posted by dreamling at 6:45 AM on October 8, 2001

I would recommend the entire Dark is Rising sequence: Over Sea Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree.

I highly recommend The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. One of my favorite books. Her other books (Figgs & Phantoms, The Mysterious Disapperance of Leon I mean Noel) are great as well.
posted by ry at 6:46 AM on October 8, 2001

what kind of link is this?
anyway, here's my two cents.
Silence of the Lambs.
What other book teaches a child to cook and sew at the same time?
posted by bradth27 at 6:54 AM on October 8, 2001

Despite its biblical overtones the Narnia Chronicles are on my list. along with A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. With The Lord of the Rings on the horizon The Hobbit wouldn't be a bad choice.
posted by Qambient at 6:58 AM on October 8, 2001

Encyclopedia Brown
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:01 AM on October 8, 2001

my comic books.. particularly the Books of Magic.
posted by lotsofno at 7:09 AM on October 8, 2001

I love the Dark is Rising series, I read it over a stormy winter weekend sitting in front of the fireplace. It's one of my happiest childhood memories.

Gonna have to pick up the boxed set and a bundle of wood later this fall and relive it!
posted by Mick at 7:10 AM on October 8, 2001

This is bending the topic a bit, but do people have good books about smart kids to suggest? All the books I remember with intelligent protagonists also had superpowers, like Matilda.
Always made me feel like I wasn't so smart since I had no superpowers.
posted by phoenix enflamed at 7:26 AM on October 8, 2001

What did I like as a small person? Well, not many 'childrens' books! But here's some that are 'suitable'. The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, it's just beautiful. The book is about a family tring to get back together after being split up in WW2. Or anything by Rosemery Sutcliffe, particularly The Eagle Of The Ninth (sadly, now out of print). Can you tell that I do history? :-]
posted by nedrichards at 7:33 AM on October 8, 2001

Qambient: Thanks for pointing out "A Wrinkle In Time" and "A Swiftly Tilting Planet", those were two of my favorites. Also, anything written by Beverly Cleary is great for kids. As mentioned here, The Great Brain Series was one of my favorites.

If you get through those, How To Eat Fried Worms and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing were lots of fun. (BTW, I read Tales when I was in third grade, thought I was sooo cool. I think it was one of my favorites).
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2001

The Belgariad series by David Eddings is an incredible series. It positively REEKS with Tolkien styling but is a fast and powerful read.
posted by KnitWit at 7:48 AM on October 8, 2001

Okay, in a slightly different vein...
For turning 30 (oh me, oh my), there's an incredible book from England called Man and Boy. The action begins as 30 rushes madly at the protagonist, and it just sums up a lot of what men (at least this man) go through. Highly recommended for guys entering the fourth decade, and I'd be curious to hear what other ages/genders think.
posted by JoshBerman at 7:56 AM on October 8, 2001

Several of my favorites have already been mentioned (the "Wrinkle In Time" trilogy, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Westing Game) but here's the best one: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
posted by dnash at 7:59 AM on October 8, 2001

The Little Prince
posted by smich at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2001

I spent my childhood reading all the Ramona Quimby books and its various spin-offs (Henry Higgins, etc). I also read all of the BabySitters Club (no shame!) as well as Madeleine L'Engle, CS Lewis (The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe was a rockin' cartoon movie too!) and of course, Judy Blume (everything from Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing to Deenie) and who wrote that book, The One in the Middle is a Green Kangaroo? Was that Judy Blume, too?

Also, The Nutshell Kids. Not just a book but an awesome musical cartoon written by Maurice Sendak and performed by Carole King.
posted by CraftyHotMelt at 8:02 AM on October 8, 2001

Oh, and oops, don't forget Harriet the Spy.
posted by CraftyHotMelt at 8:03 AM on October 8, 2001

Okay, in a slightly different vein...
For turning 30...

There is always the video of Logan's Run
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 8:06 AM on October 8, 2001

This is bending the topic a bit, but do people have good books about smart kids to suggest?

What was the name of the series, the name of the protagonist was "Jupiter Jones" or something like that, he was a brainy kid who got the services of a car and driver by winning a contest, and he and some pals would go around solving crimes and mysteries...? Those were cool.
posted by UncleFes at 8:20 AM on October 8, 2001

secret seven and famous five books by E Blyton were always a fave... as where Roald Dahl - but these could some times be a bit dark
posted by monkeyJuice at 8:24 AM on October 8, 2001

Every child is different. These are books that I read from the ages 10 - 13 (or there about) that worked well for me. Or books that I read later in life, that I wish I had read when I was 10 - 13. Many of these are fantasy, because that's what I liked as a child (and as an adult). Some of them have a British flavour since I was raised in England.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Series of Books
The Tripods by John Christopher
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin
That series by Susan Cooper
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander (includes "The Black Cauldron")
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
The Wrinkle in Time serires by Madeleine L'Engle
The Discworld books by Terry Pratchett (better appreciated when older)
The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings) by Terry Pratchett (this may be hard to get in America, but it's great. Dreamworks has optioned the series for an animated film)

Children's Books by Roald Dahl
posted by kcalder at 8:26 AM on October 8, 2001

The Pigman by Paul Zindel
posted by BlueScreen at 8:29 AM on October 8, 2001

On Enid Blyton...
I recently re-read some Famous Five books, and they were terrible. Some books are good no matter what age you are. I think as a child the characters and stories in the Famous Five series appealed so much to me that I ignored how poorly the books were written.
posted by kcalder at 8:29 AM on October 8, 2001

Jupiter Jones was a character in the Three Investigators series.
posted by bradth27 at 8:31 AM on October 8, 2001

I loved the Prydain Chronicles when I was a kid, but I haven't read them since, so I don't know how they hold up. And of course there's The Lord of the Rings.
posted by owen at 8:32 AM on October 8, 2001

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Jo Rowling listed Pullman as having the most influence on her work.

Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain

Anything by Ray Bradbury
posted by jazon at 8:34 AM on October 8, 2001

I read the Neverending Story when I was in the fifth grade and loved it. It was my first "big" book and I felt all cool and shit for reading it. Just don't let them watch those movies -- they are not as good as the book.

For a thirteen-year-old girl (or boy, I guess) I'd recommend Are you there God, it's me, Margaret which got passed around surrepticiously among my peers starting in the fourth grade. It's a little dated but is eye-opening for a kid, I think.

I also second all the L'Engle books mentioned above. Those were great and I read them again and again.

I remember that I was signed up for some sort of book club at some point where I got award books (Newbery?) that were a little oddball at times but always really good: The Wheel on the School which is about Dutch kids trying to keep cranes returning to their town and Caddie Woodlawn about a girl growing up in the new west and riding horses with Indian friends and saving the town.

Do they still do that thing in school where you can order books throughout the year?
posted by amanda at 8:48 AM on October 8, 2001

Owen, The Prydain Chronicles do, in fact, hold up rather nicely, I think. There's an element of tragedy in them that gives them a weight many other adventure-series novels lack; nothing like the epic scale of Tolkein, but more psychologically real.

As far as the Dark Materials books go, I'd be cautious before giving them to an 11-year-old. They're intellectually complicated and pretty grim (at least The Golden Compass is). I guess it depends on the child.

It's interesting the extent to which fantasy and fantasy series makes up a big portion this community's collective experience of great reading as kids. Does this say more about children's lit, or more about this community?

By the way, one more vote and then I'll shut up: Tove Jansson's completely charming Moomintroll books.
posted by BT at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2001

I second Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
posted by physics at 9:05 AM on October 8, 2001

'the nose knows' by (insert author here) features a clever title character. he has no super powers other than a larger than average nose. sorry, can't remember author's name, set in us, as i remember it.

well, what about the 100 most complained about list, this would make a start...

for the 30 year old - how about some james hawes (not the badly received 'rancid aluminium')?
posted by asok at 9:12 AM on October 8, 2001

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was always really cool.
posted by bluefly at 9:13 AM on October 8, 2001 [1 favorite]

Totally forgot about the Tripod series, thanks for reminding me. Great Series, just loved it.
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2001

Oops! Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
posted by bluefly at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2001

I'll third the Pinkwater recco, I never read Lizard Music but really enjoyed several of his others. Also ditto on "Rats of NIMH."

If you think you have a proto-geek on your hands, Clifford B. Hicks' "Alvin Fernald" series is worth a try, as is "The Mad Scientists' Club." (A new edition of the latter is being published this month, it's apparently been out of print for some time.)
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on October 8, 2001

Um. . . a link to a BOOK? Does anyone else find that deliciously ironic? I mean, this IS a weblog, is it not?
posted by UrbanFigaro at 9:22 AM on October 8, 2001

Emily of New Moon and other books by LM Montgomery are wonderful. And The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright is part of a terrific series about the Melendy family who grow up in a wonderful old mysterious house in the 1940s. (Some "girly" books to balance out all the SF here. Not to say that girls don't read SF at all. You know what I mean.)
posted by jfwlucy at 9:23 AM on October 8, 2001

I would recommend The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. Wonderful stuff
posted by scotty at 9:23 AM on October 8, 2001

i read a lot of stephen king at a young age (junior high)...somehow the nightmares had a thirteen-year incubation period. :(

before i warped my fragile little mind with IT and the like, i was a big fan of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. thanks, mom.
posted by brigita at 9:24 AM on October 8, 2001

I loved Lynne Reid Banks's books Indian in the Cupboard, Return of the Indian, Secret of the Indian, Mystery of the Cupboard. I think i got IITC when i was about 10 and i'd read every one after wards.

Amanda- yeah they still have the schoolastic book clubs in the schools. I loved those book clubs, along with with the annual book fair my elementary and middle schools would set up in the gym.
posted by ewwgene at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2001

of course, must second - Prydain, LM Montgomery (I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables!), Narnia, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, E. Nesbitt, Mrs. Frisby et al

Will add to that:

anything by Paul Zindel or Robin McKinley. Beauty, in particular, was a lovely book - yes, a smart girl w/out superpowers, tho in a fantasy setting.
posted by epersonae at 9:36 AM on October 8, 2001

Someone already answered the question about Jupiter Jones (A: Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, though Hitch shows up only rarely), but I must second that selection. Those books are great , and I recently found my complete hardback collection (though I seem to remember some later --- and lesser --- paperbacks in the early 80s).

For other non fantasy/sci-fi choices, I highly recommend Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain (which inspired me to run away from home... twice), Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows (which made me bawl my eyes out every time I read it), and (sadly, sadly out of print) Don Moser's A Heart to the Hawks. The last one is more for teenagers. It had a PROFOUND effect on me and probably resulted in the strong feelings I have about the environment and the dangers of overdevelopment (and girls, too, there's a lot about girls... and smoking grapevine). I just recently found (and ordered) a used copy, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it soon. I hope I'm not disappointed, as is sometimes the case when I re-read favorite books from earlier in my life.

As for the already-mentioned stuff, I heartily second (or third): All the Madeleine L'Engle A Wrinkle In Time-related books, the Harry Potter books (I'm 32 and I've read them all...twice), and the Great Brain.
posted by sjarvis at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2001

I am so sorry to here that the Where the Red Fern Grows is out of print. I also use to reread it, once a year or so, and would cry every time. I hope I still have my copy.
posted by mmm at 9:58 AM on October 8, 2001

fletcher took my idea. the white mountains by john christopher. my first exposure to it was through a serialized comic adaptation in boy's life magazine. to this day, i enjoy the book even though i understand the analogy. under the martian rule of the novel, adulthood brings with it a ceremonial "capping" that subdues childish thoughts and replaces them with a mature complacency.

a few years after i read them, probably 1985, our local PBS affiliate started running a BBC series on saturday nights after doctor who called the tripods. based on the christopher trilogy, they were brilliantly done, despite the limited BBC effects budget. would love to see them again....
posted by grabbingsand at 10:02 AM on October 8, 2001

The Children of Green Knowe, Peter Boston
Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
the Danny Dunn series, Jay Alexander and Raymond Abrashkin
Half Magic, and other magic books, Edward Eager
The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha, Alexander Lloyd
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
Bridge to Terabitha, Katherine Paterson
The Girl With The Silver Eyes, Willo Davis Roberts
House of Stairs, William Sleator (everything by William Sleator, actually)
The Forgotten Door, Alexander Key
{Escape|Return} to Witch Mountain, Alexander Key

It's good to see that so many of my favorite books as a kid have already been mentioned. Especially the Dark is Rising sequence. I loved those books to death.
posted by hades at 10:04 AM on October 8, 2001

I remember really liking Wilde's "The Happy Prince". Of course, that may explain my rather bleak outlook on life at times. I also loved Watership Down, though I'm not sure if any of the rabbits were technically my age.

When I look back at the books that I really enjoyed as a child, so many of them feature escapism that I can now see how much the books provided an alternate vision of the not terribly happy circumstances of my parents' decaying marriage.

I lost myself in the world of Piers Anthony's Blue Adept series, in Marion Zimmer Bradley's The House Between The Worlds, Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series. When I read Bradbury's October Country stories, I could smell the night wind and longed to be there.

Even now, as the threat of war looms, and my heart of hearts wants to turn away from the inhumanity, I am turning to the Territories with King/Straub and Black House. In fact, my reading has always been shaped by escapism I suppose. I love to settle into Iain M Banks' Culture novels, and Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of The World is one of my all time faves.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:18 AM on October 8, 2001

The series An Unfortunate Series of Events by Lemony Snicket. These books are very fun and slightly subversive, as all good kid's literature is.
Also, Walk Two Moons or anything else by Sharon Creech. Creech captures how damned hard it is to grow up these days but it is still fun to read her books.

Of course a good kid's book is also a great read for parents!
posted by Danf at 10:18 AM on October 8, 2001

When I was in 4th grade, I started reading Nancy Drew mysteries and Trixie Belden mysteries. I had a thing for the Arabian Nights and fairy tales. 5th and 6th grade found me obsessed by the Lives of the Saints, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, the Iliad and the Odyssey, (kids' versions), Greek and Roman myths and legends. By 7th grade, I was reading Out Of The Silent Planet. I always read ahead of my age group, so I don't know about age-related, but I'd definitely recommend the Hobbit, (save LOTR for later), Harriet the Spy, Wizard of Oz, (it's a book, remember?) Alice in Wonderland, Ender's Game, Harry Potter series, Catherine Called Birdy, the Podkayne of Mars series by Heinlein, Little Women and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. By the way, WTF is wrong with links about books?
posted by Lynsey at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2001

Duh. "The Fountainhead."

Great call, UncleFes, on "Lizard Music," btw.
posted by davidmsc at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2001

My son loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.
posted by bjgeiger at 10:24 AM on October 8, 2001

William Saroyan's "Summer of the Beautiful White Horse" from My Name Is Aram. It starts:

One day, back there in the good old days when I was 9 and the world was full of every kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.

...and just gets better from there.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2001

Barnes and Nobles still has Where the Red Fern Grows.
posted by
bjgeiger at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2001

This is seriously old-school, but in the smart kid adventures vein, I read a whole bunch of Homer Price books by Robert McCloskey. They're set in the 30's, small-town America, and I have no idea why these appealed to me but I remember they did (along with the Great Brain series that was mentioned elsewhere).

It's amazing how well these stories must hold up -- the covers on those Great Brain books look nothing like the more contemporary ones I read, and from the descriptions I see that the stories took place in the 1900's (perhaps a little earlier than Homer Price -- smart kids were prized at the turn of the century?), but I never remember the stories seeming dated to me at all, when I read them as a child.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2001 [1 favorite]

Wizard of Earthsea even though the hero doesn't stay a child for long and Enders Game most definately.
posted by Wong Fei-hung at 10:46 AM on October 8, 2001 [1 favorite]

Some of my favorites:
- The Mad Scientists' Club (and New Adventures Of) by Bertrand Brinley
- The Alvin Fernald series by Clifford B. Hicks
- The Danny Dunn series by Jay Williams
- The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Not age-matched, but similar great fiction for developing minds:
- The 21 Balloons by William Pene DuBois
- Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
posted by skyboy at 10:52 AM on October 8, 2001

Wow...what a response! thanks! And I'm more than a little surprised how many others knew the Dark is Rising series (I too am contemplating getting the boxed set, but my DiR hardcover has an inscription from my sister that could never be replaced). Figured that was an obscure book that nobody else had gone through. Did I mention my son's name is William (Will)? I reopened the book this week and I think I'll be getting the rest of the series soon. It's so cool reading it and seeing the same images I had when I was 11, or remembering the images I saw then (make sense, kind of hard to explain)

Thanks for the long reading list I now have to wade through.

RakDaddy, that intro is tantalizing.

Ah, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden. I worked my way through those as a youngster (anyone else have (much) older siblings, and see your taste in books and music influenced by that?)

And, "WTF is wrong with links to books"? Exactly!
posted by jmackin at 10:54 AM on October 8, 2001

Oh yeah...

What about Matthew Looney?

And I identified pretty well with the screw-up Skeeve in Asprin's Myth Adventures.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:00 AM on October 8, 2001

I have to say, Ender’s Game is a book I enjoyed a ton. Absolutely fantastic. I had no desire to read any of the subsequent books, in fact I didn’t want to, but Ender’s Game is awesome.
posted by gleemax at 11:04 AM on October 8, 2001

I really liked The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub around the time that I read it (when I was 13 or 14). The main character was roughly the same age, and although it had some creepy/adult moments, it fell in line perfectly with my adventurous/dark side.

Also, anything Bradbury, as recommended above. Also Chronicles of Narnia.
posted by almostcool at 11:05 AM on October 8, 2001

I racked my brain and came up with "The Chocolate War", by Robert Cormier, in which the main protagonist is a fifteen-year-old boy. Anyone else read this? I think I was about twelve or thirteen when I read it.
posted by msacheson at 11:06 AM on October 8, 2001

Trying to stop nastiness.
posted by gleemax at 11:08 AM on October 8, 2001

Mmmmm, makes me want to go to the library in my old hometown, where I worked in the children's dept. during high school, and just wander aimlessly thru the stacks.

okay, here's a description of a book I remember reading, but can't remember the name of....

girl named Rebecca (possibly a strange spelling thereof) uses a mysterious telescope to go into another world. I remember it (vaguely) being strangely terrifying...haven't seen this book since 4th grade (1984/5).

any ideas?
posted by epersonae at 11:08 AM on October 8, 2001

Regarding dark children's books. I had the opportunity this summer to talk to Arthur Levine, the editor of both the Harry Potter books AND Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, and I asked him about the darkness of both series.

He responded that he believes that only adults think that children are happy all the time. "Childhood is filled with fear and darkness, even in the happiest of families," he mused. I tend to agree.
posted by arielmeadow at 11:21 AM on October 8, 2001

As an aside here, since we have been metioning Bradbury, the dedication to his Hallowe'en Tree:

“With love for Madam Man’Ha Garreau-Dombasle met twenty-seven years ago in the graveyard at midnight on the Island of Janitzio at Lake Patzcuaro, Mexico, and remembered on each anniversary of the Day of the Dead.” — Ray Bradbury, author of The Halloween Tree

Has been something of a puzzle for me. My grandfather was the last Garreau-Dombasle as far as I know, and this Man'ha Garreau-Dombasle seems to have been a distant relative and practitioner of various witchcraft things.

I tried to email Bradbury in a couple of places with no success.

Anyway, that book is a good one for kids, especially with Hallowe'en coming up. And don't forget to make your kids watch The Fat Albert Hallowe'en Special.

"You know why we're here! Lay the treats on us!"
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2001

Ok, so it's really more of a little kids' book (I think I got my copy sometime around age 4), but "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson has long been a favorite. (Though it's a bit disappointing that the big toothy beastie is no longer on the cover of the book.) Nearly 30 years later, I still never leave home without a purple crayon.
posted by aine42 at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2001

When I was 8: Stuart Little, E.B. White
When I was 10: Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
When I was 12: Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
When I was 18: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
When I was 25: The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

There was a lot of pulp in between and after all of those, (I have an embarrassingly complete Stephen King collection, for example) but they are ones that I come back to over and over. I'm still looking for "the book" of my 30s.
posted by theMargin at 11:40 AM on October 8, 2001

Tamora Pierce's "Song of the Lioness", "The Immortals", and "Protector of the Small" series. These YA fantasy novels all feature a female lead character that grows from a late pre-teen to an adult over the course the books. They're also set in the same world so there is considerable continuity between the books.

Alan Dean Foster's "Flynx" novels are SF but are as fantastic as any fantasy novel.

And a hearty recommendation for "My Side of the Mountain".
posted by dragonmage at 11:47 AM on October 8, 2001

Watership Down (mentioned above) is great, but Plague Dogs (by the same author), although a good novel, is NOT good for overly-sensitive kids (it's about two dogs who escape from an animal-testing lab, if that gives you any idea) and it's a harder read.

I absolutely have to second the Dark is Rising series.. I read through those over and over again

For the 10-12 year old girl (or boy, i suppose), Anne of Green Gables is good, as well as the slightly older A Girl of the Limberlost

Fantasy's fun to read, but I'm thankful that my parents gave me so many different books. Even though none of my friends were reading them and I felt absolutely persecuted when my mother would suggest them, once I started reading I couldn't put them down.
I think when a child feels that they can identify with kids growing up in different times and places it gives a greater interest in history and other cultures.
One of the ones I remember best (9-12, maybe) is The Good Master by Kate Seredy, about the author's childhood in pre-WWI Hungary. I remember the illustrations vividly.. we had an old musty hardcover edition that smelled horrible, but I would take it to bed, cover my nose, and read all night.
posted by smt at 11:50 AM on October 8, 2001

asok: The Nose Knows is by E.W. Hildick, and was part of a series about a group of kids by who solved mysteries. I read several (The Nervous Newsboy, The Phantom Frog, the Snowbound Spy, etc.) as a kid. Not particularly earth-shattering, but still entertaining.

I wasn't exposed to Enid Blyton until I lived abroad for a year and discovered some British children's authors that I had never heard of before. One of my favorites was Helen Cresswell. I remember laughing out loud constantly while reading the 'Bagthorpes Saga', a series of books about an eccentric family of geniuses (lunatics?). The first 4 or 5 books (Oridinary Jack, Absolute Zero, Bagthorpes Unlimited, Bagthorves Vs. The World, can't remember any more off the top of my head...) were terrific. They appear to be out of print in the US, but Amazon UK seems to have them.
posted by ry at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2001

whoa, i didn't know robert c. o'brien wrote mrs. frisby and the rats of nimh. z for zachariah creeped me out. definitely going to check out the silver crown. thanks BT!

interstellar pig.
posted by kliuless at 1:20 PM on October 8, 2001

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Island of the Blue Dolphins were huge favorites earlier in grade school. A bit later I really enjoyed the Earthsea books from Ursula LeGuin. I actually met Ms. LeGuin several times much later on and I have to say she is a wonderfully warm and supporting person as well as an insightful writer and compelling storyteller. I get the feeling from her work that she understands both men and women at a very deep level.
posted by cakeman at 1:20 PM on October 8, 2001

I also remembered Jean Fritz's American history books. Really well-written stuff that (and I'm sorry if I sound cliche) made history come alive.

And, smt, thanks for reminding me about The Good Master. I loved that one, too.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:23 PM on October 8, 2001

The Once and Future King by T. H. White. Not only is it the charmingly eccentric modern take on the Arthurian legend, but it starts from the perspective of a young, not-too-terribly-smart boy called the Wart (Arthur), and follows his struggle to understand the forces of time, hope, belief, despair, doom, evil and good, while all the while endowed with less than adequate tools. If nothing else, you'll never forget this book, and it may change the way you look at humanity.
posted by schampeo at 1:30 PM on October 8, 2001

The original Duncton trilogy by William Horwood was great, although the first book, "Duncton Wood", is far superior to the following volumes. It is probably the last book to unexpectedly make me cry and also doesn't seem to be available through amazon (com or co.uk). Colour me very surprised.

On a lighter note, the Barmy Jeffers series (starting with "Barmy Jeffers and the Quasimodo Walk") was great page-turning entertainment. It also appears to be unavailable. Was I alone in liking these books?
posted by MUD at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2001

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner. Both dark fantasy of the kind Susan Cooper writes - marvellous books, although I may be biased having been brought up near the setting of both novels (Alderley Edge in Cheshire).

In fact, any Garner novel can be recommended for older children or adults - the astonishing Strandloper, however, is adults only.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:53 PM on October 8, 2001

The protagonist Karl Rossmann in Kafka's novella Amerika is sixteen years old... and this work is probably the "lightest" of anything of Kafka's: a fine introduction to the oeuvre (get them started young, y'know). ObLink.
posted by letourneau at 2:08 PM on October 8, 2001

Oh man. Enid Blyton.

At no point in my life have I craved "lashings of ginger beer." Well, maybe "whilst on a cycling tour for my summer hols".

blah blah kidnappers blah blah adventure blah blah.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:30 PM on October 8, 2001

Geez, now I want to bury myself in the library for the next year or so and relive all these books...

Anything by Louis Sacher, particularly the Wayside School books. I haven't read his new one, Holes, but it's won approximately seventeen zillion awards.

Also, almost more for adults than younger children: the sequel to Harriet the Spy, The Long Secret. It's disturbing, almost bleak - and yet it makes its point in the end. I didn't understand much of it when I was younger, but upon re-reading I was very surprised how thought-provoking it was.
posted by brookedel at 3:09 PM on October 8, 2001

Argh, or Louis Sachar, even. Also: Pippi Longstocking, anyone?
posted by brookedel at 3:11 PM on October 8, 2001

For the masses: Does anyone remember a book about a kid who starts writing computer programs that simulate the real world? I think he was living away from home, maybe in college. His programs get more and more complex and eventually he is able to simulate time travel. He soon realizes that he can use the same equations to develop time travel in the real world.
The plot then degenerates into a race between himself and government agents or something. But the initial premise is great. I haven't heard of this book since grade school (early 1980s).
Sound familiar to anyone?
posted by Mapes at 3:13 PM on October 8, 2001

"Needle," by Hal Clement,
any of the Heinlein juveniles except Podkayne (yuck)...my personal favorite was "The Star Beast,"
all the Edward Eager books,
The Black Stallion & The Island Stallion series (I don't remember the author's name),
anything by Daniel Pinkwater...

The Black & Island Stallion series don't hold up for me now but I still reread the others whenever I need a lift.
posted by realjanetkagan at 3:48 PM on October 8, 2001

Wow. I read Dark is Rising when I was eleven and my name happens to be Will S-. You can imagine the impression it made.

Later, in college, When I was introduced to the woman who would be my first love, the first words she said was "Oh, you're name is Will, just like in the Dark is Rising." She then went on to recite the first two stanzas of the book's poem. I was caught hook, line and sinker.

I pawned Dark is Rising, the Narnia Chronicles and Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydan (The Black Cauldron, The High Kind, etc) off on my nephews when they were 10-going-on-11. I intend to keep molding their minds with books as they grow older.
posted by Neologian at 4:04 PM on October 8, 2001 [1 favorite]

A lot of the books mentioned are past Newbery medal winners and honor books..
(the Ramona books, The Grey King and The Dark is Rising, The Black Cauldren and The High King [Lloyd Alexander ], A Wrinkle in Time, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond...).

Do you think the Newbery and other awards are good guides for parents in general? Or do you have other sources for finding good stuff?
(Yes, I know that's what librarians are great for!)
posted by smt at 5:45 PM on October 8, 2001 [1 favorite]

do you have other sources for finding good stuff?

Well, one thing I find that works very well is to post the question at this site.
posted by kindall at 5:48 PM on October 8, 2001

actually, some time ago, there was an article on Salon harshing on the Newberry Awards.

libraries & librarians are good; very, very good. asking other people you know, like on MeFi, is good too. I think every group of nerds & nerd-like people will have a set of books that they loved as children.

harder, I would think, would be finding new kid's/YA books. (I wish my friend Matt would finish his book already, so I could start pushing it on everyone I know!)
posted by epersonae at 5:54 PM on October 8, 2001

heh. Yeah, kindall, that seems to work pretty well.

Er, I did mean outside of this site... Or is this list the final authority on the Great Children's Books of all time? :-)

What I should have asked is 'are there any books or websites that are good guides for finding good/age appropriate books OTHER than metafilter? '
posted by smt at 6:00 PM on October 8, 2001

Try this site:
California K-12 literature,
and visit any of the library weblogs,
like librarian.net and
or even Biblia the Warrior Librarian
for more ideas.
posted by Lynsey at 7:46 PM on October 8, 2001

Try this site:

posted by
Lynsey at 7:48 PM on October 8, 2001

You should look at some of the graphic novels of the French and Japanese... try Tin Tin, Asterix or Lucky Luke for fun.

My favorite kids book of all time: The Witches of Karres.
posted by Kami at 8:13 PM on October 8, 2001

Kami, I second Witches of Karres, even tho I didn't read it until I was in college. All the kids I've foisted it on loved it. Other books by James H. Schmitz are actually currently in print. Grab 'em while you can .
posted by realjanetkagan at 8:33 PM on October 8, 2001

What a neat thread. I discovered SF when I was 12, and Asimov, Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles was the first SF book I ever read), Sturgeon, Van Vogt, Heinlein and the like all kept me happy. I liked Tolkien around the same time, that's the fantasy series I liked best. Karres was in there somewhere too, excellent. A year later I'd subscribed to the SF Book Club and got Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, Ubik by Philip K. Dick, the Dangerous Visions anthology edited by Harlan Ellison. and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin all of which blew my mind. Appropriateness for 11-year-olds is quite variable though. And the much of the stuff I mentioned first is outdated now, in ways that might irk today's 11-year-olds.
posted by aflakete at 10:09 PM on October 8, 2001

Hubble's Bubble by Elaine Horseman. Fifty of the finest squids UK sterling to anyone who can find me a copy.
posted by Dan Brilliant at 6:16 AM on October 9, 2001

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