Monday, February 14, 2011

Six Grownup Books for Kids

Oliver has books that I love reading to him. I probably love them more than he does. Oh, he loves them anyway, but there are parts of the book that just fly over his head. The language is just a bit too mature for children's ears. Or the books touch on themes - remorse, jealousy, sadness, longing - that he doesn't comprehend yet. Not yet. Not consciously.

I think it's entirely possible that he likes these books because they speak to him, the way songs in another language speak to me. Even if he doesn't understand everything that's being said, he knows that he's being told something important.

Anyway, these are the books that I secretly love to read him. I love the language. I love the moods and the emotions. I love that they feel real, honest; the way those formulaic books about Clifford and George and Franklin never do. They are written as literature, not as "kiddie books." The writer knew how to tell a story with engaging characters, compelling plot turns, and believable dialogue. Those are the books that I hope he still loves years from now.

Here are a few of my favorites.
One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all.With a long, rusty nail they tried to make a hole to peep through. "It is only a question of patience!" said Tillie. But after working an entire morning they gave up, exhausted, without having made even a dent in the hard stone.We didn't breathe for a whole minute. That dog just blinked. Then, slowly, he looked up with sad and patient eyes. Then, slowly, he looked up with sad and patient eyes. He blinked again, like he was giving it a second thought. Then he stood up, shook himself, and began to walk - like he was old and tired - toward the end of the garden.There was a little rabbit hutch there, and next to the rabbit hutch was a little run with chicken wire all around it. My dad sat on the grass, in the chicken wire run, reading his newspaper and eating a carrot. He looked a bit lonely, and he had grass all over his trousers.A few months later, Emily Brown and Stanley were lying fast asleep in bed, dreaming of all the adventures they would have the next day, when there was absolutely no noise at all at the door, or the gate, or the window. Silently, in crept the Queen's Special Commandos... and they STOLE the rabbit that belonged to Emily Brown.There were lima beans for dinner and I hate limas. There was kissing on TV and I hate kissing. My bath was too hot, I got soap in my eyes, my marble went down the drain, and I had to wear my railroad-train pajamas. I hate my railroad-train pajamas.

What are your favorite not-exactly-for-children kid's books?

1 comment:

mamikaze said...

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble still entertains me. I remember seeing Stephen Kellogg's art on Reading Rainbow. It's told from a classmate's perspective. Just like kids tell stories.

Walter the Baker by Eric Carle is beautifully illustrated, or course. The story of how the Baker turned a disaster into a success is marvelous.