At this time of year while I relish all the new books that come out over the Holidays, I find myself going back to my favourite books. Many of which I have read over and over since grade school. So I thought I would share a few of my favourite books and hope that it might inspire you to go back and read one to your children, or even inspire a last minute holiday purchase.
Two of my all time favourite books both had movie adaptations released this year. The first should be no surprise to anyone who is a fan of epic fantasy:
1) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is a perennial favourite in my family. The Hobbit is a simple adventure tale with much less fighting than you see in the movies (which borrow from two other books by Tolkien: The Simalrillion, and The Book of Lost Tales) The Hobbit was written to gather interest in Tolkien’s larger book The Lord of the Rings and was written with a much younger audience in mind. If you have a child of any age who loves dragons, and dwarves, elves, with a simple hero, this is the book for you. I did read this to my five year old, but the spiders of Mirkwood did make her afraid of spiders for about a month. So while my nine year old loved the whole story, some judicial parental editing might be needed if you choose to read this to someone younger than six. There are several picture adaptations of the Hobbit that are suitable for younger children though.
From Dragons, we go to space. My second favourite children’s’ book I heard about in fourth grade when a classmate did a book report on it.
2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. This is probably Mr. Card’s best work, and he often tried to recapture the passionate response this book created with mixed results. The other books that came after this one just are not as good, though the character Bean’s story “Ender’s Shadow” does a good job. This book deals with complex issues that have to do with both how many children you are allowed to have, to children fighting a war using what amounts to a fancy video game. What is remarkable is that Mr. Card wrote this book before video games and electronic monitoring devices were prevalent in our society. Ask anyone who has read this book what they like the best and it probably will be the Battle School. The Battle school is reminiscent of any of the major Military Academies, just in space, and just like at Annapolis or West Point the kids are grouped into teams / companies of upper and lower classmen where they fight as a team for points and rank at the school. This is a book suitable for middle-school and older due to violent and crude bullying, some pretty disturbing sequences, and lots and lots of military strategy and fighting. ~ “The Enemy’s gate is Down”
Now, it is still a fiction book, and has a bit of fantasy, but it also captures a bit of Lawrence of Arabia.
3) The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (a Newbery Honor book) This book is one I found in my own school library, and any time I wanted an adventure story about a lady hero, this is the book I chose. It has swords, lots of horseback riding across the desert. A desert that is described a lot like the Sahara and the nomadic tribes that live in far North Africa, down to the colonization by a surprisingly British (called “Homelander”) outpost. The land is called Darria and our hero is a young woman called “Harry”. This is a wonderfully well written story about a woman who has a destiny, but uses her own strength and resourcefulness as well as a good horse and a brilliant sword with a mind of its own to save the day. There is a strong male hero character named Corlath and there is a bit of magic or Kelar in the story, but predominately it is about using your wits and those around you to overcome impossible odds. Suitable for about eight years old and up.
I will continue my list in my next post. Again, happy reading, and have a wonderful break! ~L