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3BoT Vol. 5: My Three Favorite Children's Books

Thursday, February 2, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 5: My Three Favorite Children's Books | Faith Permeating Life

The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more information about Three Books on Thursday.

I've been recommending a lot of nonfiction in past months, so I wanted to switch it up and share some very different recommendations: children's books!

I'm not sure exactly what makes something a children's book vs. a young adult book, but according to the Scholastic Book Finder these are all around a 5th to 6th grade reading level. Still, these are books that I've enjoyed re-reading as an adult. And that's saying something, as I rarely re-read books, since there are so many ones I haven’t yet read!

Here are my top picks for books enjoyable to kids and adults alike:

Matilda by Roald Dahl
#1: Matilda by Roald Dahl
I don't remember exactly when I was introduced to Roald Dahl's books, but I became an instant fan and had read most of what he'd written by the time I finished grade school. Matilda remains my favorite, and is also one of the few cases in which I like the movie just as much as the book. Matilda is an extremely smart girl whose intelligence is completely ignored by her parents and her school's headmistress, both of whom abuse their positions of authority to belittle Matilda and make life miserable for her. Rather than feeling bad about herself, she finds clever ways to get back at them, typically by causing them to humiliate themselves in front of others. The book is silly and fun while dealing with heavy topics like bullying, self-esteem, and right and wrong.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
#2: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
If you love clever wordplay as much as I do, then you will likely find this book an absolute delight to read. Milo is bored with his life until the day a tollbooth shows up in his living room, and driving his toy car through it transports him into another world where he ends up on a quest to rescue the princesses of Rhyme and Reason. The comparisons to Alice in Wonderland are inevitable with all the fanciful characters Milo meets, but the book has its own flavor altogether. Stitched throughout are reminders about having a worthwhile life -- being curious, paying attention to the world around you, spending your time on meaningful pursuits. Yet all of these are woven into a fun, clever story. Even re-reading it, I find unexpected twists on nearly every page. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges:
"How are you going to make it move? It doesn't have a–"
"Be very quiet," advised the duke, "for it goes without saying."
And, sure enough, as soon as they were all quite still, it began to move quickly through the streets, and in a very short time they arrived at the royal palace.
I can't read that without smiling. Seriously, I love this book a ridiculous amount.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
#3: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
OK, how could I not include Harry Potter on this list? Truth be told, I read the first two books when they first came out and didn't find them engaging at all. But then I started dating Mike, who doesn't read much but was a huge Harry Potter fan, so I decided to give them a second chance. Somewhere around the third or fourth book, I fell in love and haven't looked back. Rowling is truly brilliant. I recently re-read the entire series and discovered details she snuck into the first two books that don't become important until the sixth or seventh book. She planned it all out that intricately, and it shows, especially the deeper you get into the story. There are so many good messages to these books that it's impossible to name them all: dealing with peer pressure; the importance of friendships; the power of love and sacrifice; why people should be judged on their abilities and not their family background; the destruction that thirst for power causes; the emotional turmoil caused by a loved one's death; how even great leaders are human and have flaws. And on and on. My favorite book is probably the sixth one because of the relationships that develop: romantic relationships, but also the mentor-mentee relationship between Dumbledore and Harry, and the friendships forged by the DA that expand the Harry-Ron-Hermione triad. (Unfortunately the sixth movie was the worst one because of some key points they screwed up!) I believe these books are popular for a reason: They are thoughtfully written and resonate with our life experiences.

Have you read these books? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? What are some of your favorite children's books?

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  1. I loveddddd The Phantom Tollbooth. I actually reread it at the beginning of last summer and, like you, I love it just as much now as I did when I was a kid. The clever wit that Juster uses in the book is just fabulous.

    Another one that I read in school that I loved was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It's a fascinating book.

  2. I agree with #2 (Matilda never resonated with me, and I only read and enjoyed HP as an adult). I would also include "The Giver" on my list. I also have a few books that left me with mental images that I can't get out of my head because they were so fascinating: "House of Stairs," "A Wrinkle in Time," and "The Girl Who Owned a City."

  3. Good books! I love it! If you really want to go for little little kids, The Monster at the End of this Book is always a winner. One of my favorites as a kid was Midnight in the Dollhouse. It was about a girl living during the Civil War who broke her hip and had to be in bed for 6 MONTHS as it healed. So her family got her these little dolls and a doll house - but of course they are magical dolls who can walk and talk! And naturally they save the day. :)

    Other children's classics: American Girl books, The Secret Garden, and A Little Princess

  4. Yay Matilda! I've seen so many mentions of it lately.

    I get an email about book news and information for publishing people called Shelf Awareness. Here's part of yesterday's edition, an interview with author Nelle Davy, who mentions Matilda: http://www.shelf-awareness.com/issue.html?issue=1656#m14839

    I read something else recently about it, too...but now I can't remember where THAT was.

  5. @Sarah
    I've never read The Westing Game, but one year in school all the kids in our grade who weren't in the gifted program read it, so I heard enough about it to know the twist/ending without ever reading it. Maybe I'll still read it someday, but I have a feeling knowing what happens will take some of the fun out of it.

  6. @Missy
    I read House of Stairs on your recommendation in high school, and it's stayed with me too. I think The Hunger Games will stay with me the same way, in the way it touches on the base instincts of people in a way you don't normally want to think about.

    I did like A Wrinkle in a Time a lot also, but it was never quite one of my favorites.

  7. @Emily Hornburg
    I've never heard of Midnight in the Dollhouse! The description reminds me of The Indian in the Cupboard--did you ever read that book or that series? That was another favorite of mine.

  8. @Rabbit
    What a coincidence! It makes sense that it would be a favorite of writers and book lovers, since Matilda kind of initially finds her oasis from her family in books.

  9. Matilda! Such a great book.

    And of course I love HP, too. But the sixth book is actually my least favorite- I thought it just seemed like it was setting up for the seventh book, which is my favorite.

  10. I don't see the other entries. Is it maybe because I'm on an iPad?

    I love The Phantom Tollbooth! We read it in school in sixth grade and did a number of related projects, including drawing our own map of a punny land.

    I can't believe the NON-gifted kids in your school read The Westing Game--it's a mind-bender! I think you should read it, if only for the characters.

    Unfortunately I was scared off Roald Dahl by reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was too young for it and was frightened by part of it--a girl swelled up somehow? My 7-year-old received The B.F.G. for Christmas, and we voth loved it, so we'll be checking out some more Roald Dahl books!

  11. @Katie
    To each her own when it comes to HP, I guess! I liked the seventh book but felt like the character interactions, which are my favorite part, were sparse, which was understandable given the plot but still made it less enjoyable than some of the other books. I thought they did a fabulous job with the 7th and 8th movies, though.

  12. @'Becca
    Ah, thank you for catching that--somehow the box to display the links was unchecked even though I copied the settings I used in previous months.

    I guess I will have to check out The Westing Game!

    I can definitely see how Roald Dahl's books could be scary if you're too young; they can be pretty dark. The Witches was another one of my favorites growing up but it scared me a lot. The BFG is a great one; I need to re-read that. I suggest checking out Matilda next, and also watching the movie if you haven't already seen it--they captured the spirit of the book well, and I might like it even better than the book, which is saying something! :)

  13. I have to admit, I've never actually read Harry Potter. I read the first few pages of the first book and was a bit bored. However I've been told by some people that they found that too but a bit later in the book it got much better and they were hooked. I may have to bite the bullet at some point and give it a go!

    I have also read Matilda several times - probably my favourite Roald Dahl book.

  14. @Lozzz123
    It seems a lot of people had a similar experience to mine with the Harry Potter books. I wonder if it has to do with the age you start reading them; it seems like the language in the first two books is geared toward much younger readers than the later books, so I don't know what my experience would have been if I'd been younger when I first read them. In any case, yes, I definitely recommend giving them another try!

  15. I feel like I reference The Phantom Tollbooth several times a year, and rarely does the person on the receiving end know what I'm talking about. I was beginning to think I was the only one to have read it! It's a favorite of mine. And HP goes without saying. :)

  16. @lifewithabean.com
    I know, I feel like most people haven't even heard of The Phantom Tollbooth! Mike hadn't, but I insisted he read it immediately because it is full of puns, which are his favorite things ever. (Like you know the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland? Where every other thing the guide says is a bad punny joke? He was in heaven when we went on that.) Actually, right after I finished re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth I learned that a friend of mine is directing the musical version at a local high school! So that's pretty awesome and I'm excited to see it.

  17. Matilda was MOST DEFINITELY one of my favourite books as a child. I probably read it at least 30 times during the 4th and 5th grades.

  18. @Tabitha
    Wow, I think you have me beat! Definitely a fun book to re-read :)


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