A while back I posted on The Mysterious Benedict Society. I recently heard from a reader, Erica, who also enjoyed it. I am glad you liked it! Did you figure out the final mystery? I am so curious about that.
Erica was also expressing frustration in finding really good children's books. Since I wanted to respond to her, I decided to do it here.
I love children's books. Sometimes when life just gets to be too much for me and I don't want to tempt myself by getting into an adult book, which might occupy my thoughts for several days, I pick up a young adult novel.
Now I agree with the Erica that there is tons of junk out there. Even award winners are often just plain bad. At best many books are simply trite, meaningless drivel.
Worse yet are the books for young people that aspire to push the envelope. The authors often seem to be saying, "Let's expose these poor sheltered children to the freedom of amoral living." Or those that preach as righteousness a value choice that ought to be personal choice.
Then there are the books that are filled with poor writing. Stilted dialog, run-on sentences, cheesy descriptions. Things that make reading them a chore even when the topic and general plot appeals.
Then there are those that seem to want to fill a young person with angst.
But really there are just tons of great books out there.
I consistently find my favorite children's books among those recommended in the Sonlight Curriculum catalog. As far as curriculum is concerned, I only qualifiedly recommend it. I have used Sonlight for at least parts of the last seven years. Really like some things about it. But not everything. That is a different post, perhaps.
With a very few exceptions, I can pick up and really enjoy any of the hundreds of books we have bought to use with the various curriculum levels. There are some cheesy ones. And a few boring ones. But by and large I love the books that the writers of this program incorporate into their curriculum.
Another recommendation, however, with regard to Sonlight is that you request a paper copy of their catalog. It is much easier to use than the web site, which unfortunately is slow and difficult to use. The catalog includes a brief description of each book and they are organized by historical topic as in American History or Eastern Hemisphere.
Even if you don't homeschool, or if you do but want to supplement your child's current reading material, just having the recommendations available for the various subject areas is so handy.
I know there are other homeschool catalog out there that are probably organized in a similar fashion. Since I have used Sonlight, that is the one I am most familiar with.
Other books I really like for kids are the Tomie dePaola chapter books based on his growing up years in a culturally Irish and Italian urban setting. I think they are called the 26 Fairmont Avenue series.
My friend Laura highly recommends books by Elizabeth Wainright. I have read Gone Away Lake and really enjoyed it.
The Ralph Moody books are great stories based on Moody's growing up years in various localities throughout the country during the early 1900s or so.
The Westing Game was a fun contemporary mystery.
I'm am not really much of a fantasy fan, but I enjoyed the Spiderwick Chronicles. (Did anyone see the movie? I wanted to but missed it at our cheap theater.)
I really like the stuff I've read by Patricia Riley Giff.
And some by Sharon Creech. But she is one who I think tries to push the envelop or make some deep statement on human existance. I like them for me, but would probably not recommend most of them for young adults. Too much emotion or something. Too much troubled youth stuff.
I remember reading Everything on a Waffle and thinking it was kind of fun. But it was perhaps seven or eight years ago, so I should really read it again now that my kids are of an age to read it.
I guess I could go on forever when I get on the subject of children's books. I would be interested in hearing about favorites from readers. Let me know what you and the young adults in your life like to read.