Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nick Kristof's Best Kids' Books Ever column

On July 4th, New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about his favorite children's books and invited readers to do the same. He also interviewed his three children to learn what their all-time favorites are.

Kristof received over 2,000 responses; apparently thousands more than he typically receives for his political columns. On his blog, he wrote about the overwhelming number of replies as well as how passionate people clearly are about the stories which helped form them into the readers they have become. Check out his columns and blogs.

Many responses reminded me of the healthy helpings of Roald Dahl, Ellen Raskin, Katherine Paterson, Madeline L'Engle, Beverly Cleary, and Laura Ingalls Wilder that nourished my childhood. Turned me into the book nerd that I am. I was struck, however, by the seeming lack of familiarity with more recent works and treasures. Aside from frequent references to Phillip Pullman's works, award winning authors and some of my personal favorites like Cynthia Rylant, Richard Peck, Jen Bryant, Rosemary Wells and Kevin Henkes were overlooked. Most surprising was that there was eerily no mention of this year's Newbery Award winning The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, an author who has attained rock star status (and for good reason.)

While his selections are interesting, Kristof seeming lack of knowledge of current authors in the field of middle grade and young adult literature seems strange. Tell me what you think of his choices, his children's choices, and those of his readers. What are your most treasured childhood books and why? Have you read any recently published books for children and young adults? If not, why?


BJW said...

Excellent post Amy!!

I like his picks for the most part, I especially appreciated his son Gregory who chose the Jim Kjelgaard books. Loved those, still do. Don't hear about them very frequently. My favorite was Lion Hound but I also loved Big Red, Irish Red, Son of Big Red, Desert Dog, etc.

I could go on for ever about which books I love(d). I love the responses Nick Kristof got. There's so many and every list I make, I also realize I've left off ones I love.

I'd put LOTR right up there at the top of any list. Harry Potter right behind. Charlotte's Web, Wind in the Willows, very good choices. The Great Brain books are fun.

That's not even getting started on picture books.

BJW said...

Amy I also loved Madeline L-Engle, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl and, reluctantly at first, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Great post.

Amy Baskin said...

Ben, thanks for your input. I love all of the books you've listed and you've made me want to check out Big Red again.

As for picture books, well that's just a whole other can 'o' worms which I hope to open soon.

Anonymous said...

Of course I have levels of books that I LOVE.

Picture books? Most Patricia Polacco, The Giving Tree, Flossie and the Fox, What Pete Ate from A to Z.

Chapters for young readers? Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little, Ruby Lu Brave and True, Ramona the Pest, My Fathers Dragon. Ivy and Bean books, Matilda.

For older readers? Leon and the Spitting Image, Maniac McGee, The Giver, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie of the Wolves, The Princess Academy, Hatchet , The Watsons go to Birmingham - 1963, Where the Red Fern Grows.

I think I could go on and on.....

Shelly said...

I'm the anonymous! Shelly!

aucuba said...

Thanks for sharing this with us Amy. I liked Kristof's take on children's books as literature to be read aloud. It's been a while since I've read to children, so I forget that sometimes. I'm not familiar with some of Kristof's choices, but I like the "Wind in the Willows" quirky characters. I also like Twain. I remember "On to Oregon" as "Seven Alone"--perhaps a different version of the same story? I was a bit impatient with Anne of Green Gables initially, but she grew on me.

I agree that people should also keep an eye on the new books. Some of them are astonishing in their new perspectives, a world that the authors of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew could hardly have imagined.

While not mind-blastingly fresh, I do like two relatively recent books: "Old Little Beard and Young Big Beard," and "Click, Clack, Moo." Both of them are whimsical, and address assumptions that people have about power, size, etc. I also like "The Grouchy Ladybug." It talks about feelings and accepting people even when they are grouchy.


Jeremy said...

Hey Amy, I dig the blog! I'm a bit late to this topic, but may I just say that Charlotte and I re-read Charlotte's Web for about the fifth time recently, and I now consider it one of the best books ever written - for kids or adults.

The language is so spare, so humane. I found myself amazed even at his shortest thoughts: "Darkness settled over everything." Few writers have the guts to be so concise. And Charlotte's valedictory passage - "You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world..." As Dr. Dorian would say, "Remarkable."

- Jeremy M.