Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Top Ten Chapter Books

Betsy Bird, over at Fuse 8, is doing a 100 best chapter books poll! Yay! Here are my choices. Mind, I don't necessarily think these are THE top ten of all time, or even my top ten favorites or whatever. They're just sort of the top ten that I found browsing my personal library shelves and skimming from the top of my mind. Yes, I am one of those people who detests the infamous, "what is your favorite book?" question.

  1. The River at Green Knowe by L. M. Boston. Although this is not the most critically recognized of the Green Knowe books, I place it at the top of Boston's works for its sense of wonder and exploration and the growth and magical independence of the characters. (and wherefore am I qualified to speak on this? well, I spent most of my four-year degree in English literature studying L. M. Boston's works, finishing up with an Honors thesis on said topic. For whatever it's worth...)
  2. Look Through My Window by Jean Little. This is the first of Jean Little's books I read and will always be my most beloved. Her story of friendship, poetry, and family shines with warmth, exuberant humor, and beauty.
  3. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. The first in Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest chronicles, this classic fantasy stands fairy tale conventions and stereotypes on their heads while producing an exciting, hilarious, and delightful story. The original Trina Schart Hyman covers add extra points!
  4. Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue by Astrid Lindgren. Astrid Lindgren took a variety of classic genres in children's literature and added her own subversive flavor while maintaining the appeal and structure of the story. Bill Bergson works within the frame of the juvenile detective story with humor, adventure, and realism. (Why, yes, I wrote some papers on Scandinavian children's literature too. How could you tell?)
  5. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I love this story best of all the Oz stories, from Dorothy's plucky common sense to the first appearance of Tik-Tok the Clockwork Man, the story is full of the logic, magic, and sly humor that characterizes the first truly American fairy tale genre.
  6. Serial Garden by Joan Aiken. I think this is the best of the various Joan Aiken short story collections and I'm so thrilled it made the finals for the Cybils this year!
  7. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. There are lots of "classics" I could add to this list, but I think this one is the one most likely to continue to survive and appeal to children. I own the Ernest Shepherd edition as well as the Michael Hague, but I grew up with the Hague so it is my favorite.
  8. Cricket Winter by Felice Holman. I love this story as much for its lyrical writing and layered themes as much as I do for it being the first book for which I wrote a "real" critical review. I wasn't able to find the original cover, but this one is nice too. Here's Part I, Part II, and Part III of my original review!
  9. Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones. Yes, I know it's a sequel. But this has been my favorite of Jones' work since I first discovered her. The hilarious mix of school story conventions, magical philosophy, and romantic friendships is delightful. I admit there are some similarities to be drawn between it and Enchanted Forest, but I love them both very much and we need more funny fantasy!
  10. The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay. This is a new favorite for me, discovered only a few years ago. Presumably most Australian kids know this famous food-focused classic.

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