I was considerably older than the recommended age group for Harry Potter when I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Frankly, at that time, it had been years since I perused a children’s book just for pleasure and this was no exception. I was planning to read a bit, get a feel for whether or not my second grader would enjoy it and then read it to him or not, depending on how those first chapters went. I finished the book in one sitting and have since re-read it numerous times. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, I’m an avid fantasy fan and the Harry Potter books are excellent, fun fantasy. But I am surprised. I wouldn’t think that a children’s book, which Sorcerer’s Stone most certainly is, could keep my attention.
Since then numerous children’s stories (books written for readers 9-14 years of age) have nabbed my interest. I picked up The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders expecting a young adult read. The story, which is about a mysterious chocolate shop once run by sorcerers, was skewed towards younger readers. Still, magic and chocolate? I couldn’t resist. The tale was cute and fun, a lighthearted easy read that I found perfect for an afternoon at the pool. My only regret after reading it was that my children were too old for it and too young to have the confidence to ignore the recommended reading age. That has been one of the great things about adulthood – I am the perfect age for whatever book I feel like reading.
For example, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I missed reading this sweet story as a child but after hearing about it in You’ve Got Mail and then learning that a movie was being made with Emma Watson from the Potter films, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did as it is a wonderful tale about three young girls determined to do the family name proud. Anyone who was ever a little girl with a dream can relate to it.
I donated a copy of Ballet Shoes to a book drive and got to chatting with another mom who has loved sharing the books she grew up with with her children. She has also loved using her kids as an excuse to read some of the young reader books on the market. The Percy Jackson books were a big hit with her family and she admits she enjoyed them almost more than the kids did.
Those of you who watch The Big Bang Theory will know that Amy Farrah Fowler, one of the lead characters, loves the children’s book Little House on the Prairie. Amy is not alone. Numerous moms have told me that this is one of the first books they read aloud to their elementary school children and that one reason for that is because they themselves want a chance to re-read the book.
Perhaps my favorite of the young reader books I’ve read, behind the Harry Potter series, is Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Ms. Funke is a wonderfully lyrical writer who creates an incredible magical world in which stories can be brought to life by reading aloud, villains can be defeated by determined little girls and those we love can be rescued with the power of imagination. An absolutely awful movie was made of it but the book itself? Just about perfect.
Artemis Fowl is a series created for junior high students that many adults, myself included, love. Artemis is a 12 yr. old criminal mastermind who hatches a cunning plot to rob the Faerie of their gold. His plan? To kidnap one of their kind and then wait for the ransom to arrive. Unfortunately for him he kidnaps Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance) Unit. Holly’s not the kind of girl to take this kind of insult lying down. Soon Artemis finds himself in the middle of a boat load of magical mayhem.
My latest young reader obsession is the Thrones and Bones series by Lou Anders. I finished the first novel, Frostborn in a single afternoon. In this book we meet Karn, a young man who is being prepared to take over the family farm Norrøngard. This is not a destiny of his own choosing as Karn’s big desire is to travel, have adventures and play his favorite board game Thrones and Bones with a whole host of new people. But when strangers come to his village flying mysterious creatures known as wyvern Karn starts to realize that there just might be people out there he would be better off not meeting.
Enter Thianna. A young woman who is half-human, half- frost giant she is wholly out of place wherever she goes. She is too short to be taken seriously in the giant community; Too freakishly, frighteningly tall to be easily accepted by the people of the human community. She meets Karn at a trading festival held at Dragons Dance and falls into a surprisingly easy camaraderie with him. Which is a good thing because when they find themselves separated from friends and family as they fight off two groups of people anxious to kill them it will take their combined wits to battle dragons, trolls and the undead and make it back home again.
In book 2 of the series, Nightborn, Karn finds himself kidnapped by a wyvern and delivered to the dragon Orm. Orm tells him Thiana was on a mission to get a magical horn when she mysteriously disappeared. Determined to help his friend, Karn takes off for the city of Gordasha where he makes friends with a deadly elf, finds Thiana and lands himself in the middle of a war. Together they encounter numerous new and exciting creatures, save an empire, and rescue a forgotten king. I loved meeting the new character Desstra, seeing new parts of the realm and watching Thiana and Karn grow as characters.
It’s my firm belief that a good book transcends age and language, politics, gender and every other barrier to deliver a story that delights the reader. What about you? Do you have a favorite book for young readers that still appeals to you as an adult? Have you picked up any children’s books as a grown up? Which books from your childhood were you most anxious to share with your children?