Friday, February 16, 2018

Idle post, with squirrels

Photo by H. Dominque Abedsxc.hu
The Squirrels have won the Battle between the Squirrels and the Cardinals and their allies the Juncos. They have wrested the roof from the expensive, supposedly indestructible magic house, and have shaken all the seeds from the other feeder. The snow is black with seeds, and the roly-poly squirrels have dashed homeward. Their fur is shiny, their tails are lush: they look like fat, quick-changing ribbons, crossing the yard at the highest speed they can manage, given their feasting on black oil sunflower seeds.

The Cardinals and Juncos now have the abandoned field and are gleaning from what remains. Off in the distance, a chipmunk pokes its head up out of snow--a comical little face looks around, checking for the kestrels who occasionally dart in to dine in the back yard.

All morning I have been sitting by the big kitchen windows and rearranging the poems in the cut version of The Book of the Red King--that is, putting them in the right order in the digital copy, a wearisome, fiddly job. I take a break to delete the ever-entertaining and idiotic blog spam. While I'm there, I notice the stats, and am not one whit surprised to find that this is my most popular post ever (aside from another post that was spam-attacked, but that's not readers.) Still, five thousand reads for a idle moment's quick blog post seems a lot. Time to take a better break and march around in the snow and ice, see and talk to some winter-bundled human beings...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A. I. (After Internet)

     Out for dinner with another writer, I said, "I think I've forgotten how to read."
     "Yes!" he replied, pointing his knife. "Everybody has."
     "No, really," I said. "I mean I actually can't do it any more."
      He nodded: "Nobody can read like they used to. But nobody wants to talk about it."
          --Michael Harris, "I have forgotten how to read," Globe and Mail

Going on a twitter and facebook fast...

Ash Valentine


Here's an ashy Valentine in honor of the conjunction of Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day... an unusual marriage. It's an illumination by Clive Hicks-Jenkins from Thaliad (Montreal: Phoenicia Press, 2012.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A symbolic world and the children who played at slaughtering

Gold guilder of Mainz elector archbishop John II of Nassau
(minted around 1400 in Höchst) Wikipedia
A rather  peculiar post in honor of Shrove Tuesday

For various reasons--most of them deadlines--I have not been reading as much as usual this year. One thing I have been slowly reading is the Jack Zipes translation of the original collection by the Brothers Grimm. Many of these stories would soon be cleaned up or swept right out of existence in later editions. They are not romantic enough to suit the brothers, or else they are crude and violent.

Here's one that made me stop and reread. It has an oddly specific location, rather than a once-upon-a-time and far-away realm, that makes a reader wonder. Did the story have a source in life (a thing we can never know), and might it be the sort of oral tale that is symbolic, packed with compressed wisdom? (The second story under the title involves three dead children and two dead parents, but it is firmly back in the time and place of "There once was.")

How Some Children Played at Slaughtering
I

In a city named Franecker, located in West Friesland, some young boys and girls between the ages of five and six happened to be playing with one another. They chose one boy to play a butcher, another boy to play was to be a cook, and a third boy was to be a pig. Then they chose one girl to be a cook and another girl her assistant. The assistant was to catch the blood of the pig in a little bowl so they could make sausages. As agreed, the butcher now fell upon the little boy playing the pig, threw him to the ground, and slit his throat open with a knife, while the assistant cook caught the blood in her little bowl.

A councilman was walking nearby and saw this wretched act. He immediately took the butcher with him and led him into the house of the mayor, who instantly summoned the entire council. They deliberated about this incident and did not know what they should do to the boy, for they realized it had all been part of a children's game. One of the councilmen, an old wise man, advised the chief judge to take a beautiful red apple in one hand and a Rhenish gulden in the other. Then he was to call the boy and stretch out his hands to him. If the boy took the apple, he was to be set free. If he took the gulden, he was to be killed. The judge took the wise man's advice, and the boy grabbed the apple with a laugh. Thus he was set free without any punishment.

*

I've seen a number of commentaries on this, mostly brief, and they tend to suggest that this is a cautionary tale underlining issues of accountability in childhood. Some suggest that it is one of those tales intended for adults. I wonder. In a more primitive setting of a one- or two-room house, say, exactly how often were adult stories segregated from children's stories? How often today do we see children at movies that seem too "old" for them? Isn't it common, even in a home setting, for children to hear or see things that are meant for an older audience, big brothers or sisters or parents?

What happens if we look at a folk story like this not as simply a cautionary tale but as part of a world that sees all acts as important and events as symbolic? That's not the world most of us live in today, but it is what the world looked like to a great many people in the past.

The story gives us an image of sacrifice but a strange one: we have the perverse picture of a little girl of 4 or 5 catching another child's blood in a little bowl. In a symbolic light, the account immediately links up with another image of catching blood in a container. By the late 12th century, the Holy Grail was first depicted as a drinking vessel from the Last Supper. Moreover, Joseph of Arimathea was supposed to lift the grail at the crucifixion in order to catch Christ's blood. So we have a sacrifice, a major element in Western culture, where someone catches blood in a vessel.

Oral stories tend to be symbolic, packed creations that reflect culture. An early listener may well have found that the story of the poor little boy-pig made the mind spring back to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and another "bowl" or chalice of blood. After all, these tiny children who want to play at making sausages are enacting the sacrifice of innocence, and the sacrifice of innocence on the cross would have been an important piece of goods in the spiritual cupboard of medieval man and woman.

Even though the child has done a terrible thing and so makes a very weird sort of analogy to Christ, the mayor's council and the confusion on passing judgment may also have reminded listeners of the arrest of Christ. There is a similar awareness of the little butcher's essential innocence. At 5 or 6, he is not at "the age of knowledge" as yet. So the councilmen feel at an impasse, all but "the wise old man."

In symbolic terms, who is the "wise old man" who offers the choice between a lovely round piece of fruit and a round gold coin? In those same terms, what is the choice extended to the boy? And what is the apple, what the coin?

In the garden of Eden, God allows the innocent Adam and Eve to "eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden." But they may not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; they may not pluck "the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die" (NRSV.)

The Solomonic wise old councilman stands in the place of God, offering two sorts of gifts to the innocent. The little butcher picks from "the fruit of the trees in the garden" in reaching for the apple. The gold coin he does not choose is allied to the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why? Choice of the round gold would disprove his innocence and mean his death, just as reaching for the fruit from the fatal tree means being cast out of innocence and into a world where death exists for Adam and Eve. So the gold coin is a symbolic object that conjures both the fruit and the intrusion of death into the lives of Adam and Eve but also the condemnation to labor in Genesis because we know that coins are the fruit of, the payment for labor. So the little boy, still acting in innocence, picks life over death. The lovely round apple is more alluring to him than gold, which some day he will have to earn by "the sweat of his brow."

Perhaps in a larger sense, the story put before medieval listeners the pain of death or the choice of larger life. Larger life in spiritual, symbolic terms would be found in the remembrance of Christ's sacrifice, the acknowledgement of sin, and the ongoing effort to choose rightly. In the words of the fourteenth century Wycliffe bible, "Behold thou, that today I have set forth in thy sight life and good, and, on the contrary, death and evil...  I have set forth before you life and death, good and evil, blessing and curses; and so choose thou life" (Deuteronomy 30: 15, 19.)

*

And on that note, a happy Mardi Gras, Pancake Day, Carnaval, and Shrove Tuesday to you!

Photo by Joseph Valentine, sxc.hu
*

Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering." In The Complete First Edition, The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Jack Zipes, pp. 78-79. Princeton University Press, 2014. Original German: Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. "Wie Kinder Schlachtens miteinander gespielt haben." In Kinder- und Hausmärchen gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm, Vol. 1, 101-03. Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1812.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Fairy stories

Adrienne Ségur illustration for "Prince Ivan, the Infant
Ogres, and the Little Sister of the Sun,"
from The Snow Queen and Other Stories, 
an over-sized Golden Book I loved as a child.
Still do!
I've neglected the blog because I was busy polishing a novel--and still am neglecting it because I am cutting (ouch!) a certain long manuscript of poems for publication later this year. (It will be announced this spring.) So far I have cut 33 poems. It gets harder as I go on, as I do not want to destroy either the sense of another world that is central to the poems, the variety of forms, or the narrative arc of the Fool among his curious friends.

In lieu of sharing more, I'm just going to toss out a recommendation and say that I enjoyed this interesting translation of Russian-born Ivan Ilyin's 1934 lecture, "The Spiritual Meaning of Stories." If you like Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories," you might like this piece. The philosopher's words have been translated by Nicholas Kotar, a young writer, translator, and conductor of the men's choir at the Jordanville Monastery and Seminary, just a snowy skip and slide away from me. Evidently he writes fantasy inspired by Russian fairy tales.

Side note: The Russian Orthodox stauropegic monastery in Jordanville is well worth a visit if you're ever in the hinterlands of central New York. The first time I was there, I was with my husband, who wanted to visit the grave of a priest he met while a medical student, but I've been back since. A lovely thing about a monastery and church planted nowhere is the magical coming-upon those golden domes in the wilds, and discovering frescoes and icons, color and gold.

Here's a clip from Ivan Ilyin's talk:  So, don’t listen to a fairy tale in the bright light of day or with your prosaic and wing-less consciousness. Listen to a fairy tale in the evening or at light, in the magical darkness that removes familiarity from things and gives them a new, unexpected, mysterious form. You should listen to fairy tales with the dusky consciousness between sleeping and waking. Listen from the depth of your unconscious mind, where your soul lives like a child, where it’s childishly “stupid” and isn’t ashamed of its stupidity, where it enters into the story with complete seriousness and a passion of hope and despair, not even remembering that it’s all make believe.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Quora-doodling

Thalia, by Clive Hicks-Jenkins,
from my post-apocalyptic adventure
in blank verse, Thaliad
(Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
Clive is the answer to one
of the questions below.

I am busy scouring a novel and so offer a few Quora doodles in lieu of a proper post. These were written in little corners of time and often constitute a break from something larger--or you might say that they constitute part of that writerly tradition, avoidance of work! Writers being such oddly-feathered birds, avoidance of work often means more writing. The questions answered fall into the realms of writing, mythology, and painting; some are serious answers, some less so.


Fiction, poetry, painting, and mythology


Your answer to Is there a book with old paintings and their stories?
Your answer to My parents hate/are scared of some of my art pieces and don't want me to create more similar types. How should I justify my means of painting them?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A few more leafy heads--


I was under the impression that The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press) second printing was entirely cleaned out, but you can order a heavily discounted copy today: £2.00 instead of £15.00. Illuminations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

New poems at Mezzo Cammin



Three newish poems online at the polar bear issue! Bites from the openings:

Melville at Mooring

So frail and nearly mad, too old for seas,
Recalling Greylock like a cresting wave,

and
Zodiac

One of them is wandering with Bartram,
Tasting breast-of-heron, vision shaken

and
Family Storybook: Peter Rabbit

In the yard with the thrum of hummingbirds,
With zinnias rioting from coffee cans,

I see lots of familiar names, including old friend Jeanne Larsen. Thank you to poet and editor Kim Bridgford.





Books for young boys who read at a high level

Updated January 24 I made this list for the son of friends--he is 8 and already reading young adult books, long past Lewis's Narnia and Rowling's Potter. A request for titles included asking for some suggestions of books from earlier eras, so there are quite a few older books. 

Please add your own thoughts about books you loved as a boy or girl in the comments. You might think also do something similar and consider books that seem just right for some particular child you know. And please think about the age--after ferreting about, I have concluded that there is not a good list online for boys--or girls--who are desiring more challenging reading but are still quite young. That is the focus here. I'm particularly interested in the idea of the young child who does not wish for books powered by gore, violence, and sex but who wants books that are adventurous and well-written.

The list has a rough, rather higgledy-piggledy organization with realistic and "low fantasy" books toward the top, mythic and fairy tale material midway, fantastical work toward the bottom, and many of the additional comments from others at the bottom (sometimes elsewhere, if more suited to the sort of books elsewhere.) Maybe some day I'll go alphabetical, after comments quit appearing. Or maybe I'll just leave it as a joyful hodgepodge.

Help build the list!

* * *

Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. There's a whole series of the Wolves books about two girl cousins and a goose-boy who must outwit the scheming Miss Slighcarp.

Robert Louis StevensonKidnapped. I still love Stevenson and reread Kidnapped not long ago. The flight in the heather is wonderful. Treasure Island

Rudyard KiplingThe Jungle Book. An interesting coming-of-age stories.

Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi. Wonderful! The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Diary of a Campaign That Failed. Huckleberry Finn. 

Farley MowatLost in the Barrens. Two teenage boys, survival story.

Johann David WyssSwiss Family Robinson. Four shipwrecked boys and their ingenious parents. I have often found myself putting characters into trees, and I think it's partly the fault of this book.

Eric SevareidCanoeing with the Cree. Wish I had known about this one for my boys. Have not read it--Eric Sevareid and a friend graduate high school and go on a 2,250-mile canoe trip. Sounds marvelous, so I couldn't resist adding it.

I have not read these but was looking for books that would please a fantasy reader whose parents wished he would attempt something else occasionally. I read a lot of the author's fantasy as a child and later. with my own children Check out Lloyd Alexander's Holly Vesper adventures? A Victorian girl, age 16, ranges the world with her guardian Brinnie, or Professor Brinton Garrett. "She’s Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes (minus the violin playing, the bees, and the cocaine), and Nancy Drew and Richie Rich." --Mari Ness

Jack LondonThe Call of the Wild, White Fang.

Marjorie Cowley, Dar and the Spear-Thrower. Go back in time 15,000 years and be an orphan boy in France! Coming-of-age tale. This one appealed to a son of mine who was not a devoted reader. 

If you want a child to experience something that conveys the excitement of learning to read and how important it is to possess written language, the early part of Frederick Douglass's autobiography that tells how he learned to read as a slave child is thrilling.

"Do boys still read G. A. Henty? suppose not, and they are the poorer for it. Men who were boys when [I] was a boy will thrill even today to the very names—With Wolfe in Canada, and With Kitchener in the Sudan, and With Hornblower at Riga. Yes, most of all With Hornblower at Riga. No other book ever written (save perhaps its un justly neglected sequel With Hornblower in Nicaragua) so evokes the smell of tar and salt." --Thaddeus Holt, NYT, 13 June 1971. Holt pans C. S. Forester's Hornblower series as missing the great mark of Hornblower, but Hemingway and Churchill both praised the Forester Hornblower books.

E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan.

Laura Ingalls WilderFarmer Boy. Set in Malone, where my husband Michael grew up. The house is now restored and can be toured.

Jean Craighead GeorgeMy Side of the Mountain. I don't think that I read this one but had a son who liked it. (And William Parsons, who worked on our dining room chimney and is now going to be working on Edith Wharton's Berkshire house, recommended it. That's good enough for me!)

Leon GarfieldSmith. A boy pickpocket sees dangerous things he should not and eventually rises in through muddling accident, merit, and heart. Victorian gritty. Gorgeous story of finding a home in a dangerous world. The rare book that feels truly Dickensian, though the term is bandied about quite often. I like some other Garfield books, but Smith brings tears. Rare! It is the last book I read to all three of my children at once, and I have to say they were transfixed. A while back, FSG's Robbie Mayes edited some beautiful reprints of four of Garfield's children's novels that can probably be picked up used, and there's a newer edition from NYRB.

Alexandre Dumas, pèreThe Three Musketeers.

Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain. The silversmith's apprentice dramatic story--a boy's coming-of-age tale set in eighteenth-century Boston. Newbery medal, 1944.

Writer and photographer John O' Grady had a suggestion: "The only book I'd add is Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. (I'd probably also throw in his Wolf and Gray Dawn.)"

My blog-friend George left some titles in the comments that I am passing on here with a bit more information--I think these are interesting choices, though I think the first may be more appropriate as a read-aloud with a parent for a younger child who may have questions. My target age of around 8 is awfully young! Commander Edward L. Beach, Jr.Run Silent, Run Deep. That one's definitely heroic, as submarine Commander Edward J. Richardson tells the events that led to his receiving the Medal of Honor. Includes a figure whose character is wayward (bit wild and risky in his actions, unfaithful to his wife) but changes in the course of the book. Jean Lee LathamCarry On, Mr. Bowditch. Biography of sailor-mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch. Newbury medal winner. The true story of a boy's rise from chandler's apprentice to captain and Harvard grad. An American dream saga. Great choice. Mark TwainRoughing It. I thought about this one but was not sure--but why not give it a try? And here's another one I thought about but wasn't sure, recommended by George: Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Two Years Before the Mast. I don't think I read that until my early twenties, but if sea books take, it might work!

Mabel M. DodgeHans Brinker, or the Silver Skates. I remember this story of the Netherlands from childhood--the story of a boy's mature sense of sacrifice and honor. Hans repeatedly sacrifices what he loves and wants, either for a better future for his family or for a friend in need. It was a bestseller in 1865, exceeded only by Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.

Alan Garner, The Stone Book Quartet. Cheshire setting near Alderney Edge. Each book features a child of a different era, drawn from Garner's family history in Cheshire.

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Little Men

Kerstin Green, who runs Oak Hill Nursery School near Cooperstown, says: The Shakespeare Stealer  [by Gary Blackwood] and Shakespeare's Scribe [the sequel.] Also anything by Avi. [I also mentioned Avi. Crispin: The Cross of Lead was especially liked by one of my children.] She also recommended the William Ritter Jackaby series as one her son liked and compared Ritter's books to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Moving into fantasy, her children liked Cornelia Funke's Inkheart trilogy, Thief Lord, and Dragon Rider.

A smattering of the legendary and mythic: I liked Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and Arthur stories, but they may seem a little more dated now. Kevin Crossley-Holland (UK) has an Arthurian trilogy that has won awards, and I think he has a Norse myths book as well. I've only read one of his books and that was long ago, but I think it would be a safe choice. Neil Gaiman also has a new Norse legends book which I've read and would add. Leon Garfield's The God Beneath the Sea won Carnegie and Greenaway medals but I've not read it--according to what I have read, it is more adult than his other work, and he was concerned about that, which seems sweet of him, given that anything goes now in y. a. I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's retellings of myths early on.

Folk and fairy: Alan Garner has folk tale collections from his native Cheshire. I was a re-reader of the Grimms' tales in childhood. In addition, I'd recommend the Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell translations in a two-volume set wonderfully illustrated by Maurice SendakThe Golden Book of Fairy Tales (with illustrations by Adrienne Segur and some translations by Marie Ponsot) Also: The Fairy Tale Book (with illustrations by Adrienne Segur.) I pored over my copy of TFTB many, many times. Has a version of E. T. A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker story, "The Snow Queen," lots more. I know so many women writers who were entranced by one or both books when they were girls, but there's plenty to like for boys as well. Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, etc. Oh, and Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale collections, of course.

And for gentler fantasy, try E. Nesbit and Edward Eager. Lots of books by each.

Wilmington Star reviewer Ben Steelman says, "Robert Heinlein's juveniles may be getting a tad dated, but they're still fun. A sentimental favorite for me is 'Citizen of the Galaxy.'"

Writer, poet, and secret singer Roderick Robinson added some specific E. Nesbit recommendations--"the adventures of the Bastable family (The Story of the Treasure Seekers, The Wouldbegoods, The New Treasure Seekers"--and you can see his remarks in the comments.

Claire Youmans, my no-doubt very distant cousin of some sort, all Youmanses in this country being descended from four brothers who came over before the Revolution, reminded me of her The Toki Girl and the Sparrow Boy series which "keeps growing up as the children do. It's historical fantasy-adventure, fun and sophisticated, suitable for 8 year olds, and with a following among college students and adults."

Lucy M. BostonGreen Knowe. Tolly goes to stay with Mrs. Oldknowe and meets the people who once lived in the house in earlier centuries. Six books in the series, I think. Boston makes the world feel enchanted. The Sea Egg. This lovely little book was recommended to me by Robbie Mayes, back when he was an FSG editor. Two English schoolboys discover an egg with a triton inside.

T. H. WhiteThe Once and Future King. Arthur! Robin Hood! Being a bird! The first section--"The Sword in the Stone"--about Wart and Merlin is enthralling for a boy.

John RuskinThe King of the Golden River.

Nancy WillardThe Firebrat.

Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach. It's hard to decide which one to pick with Dahl.

Lloyd Alexander, The Chronicles of Prydain, Time Cat, the Westmark books, etc.

Terry PratchettThe Wee Free Men and A Hatful of Sky. A strong-minded young witch. Somebody in the house loved The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. If a boy gets addicted to Pratchett, he'll stay busy a long time.

Richard AdamsWatership Down. My high school English teacher (the woman to whom I dedicated Catherwood) gave me the rabbit-saga when it came out, and I wish that I still had the copy with her inscription.

Lewis Carroll's Alice books. I can't say how much those meant to me. Alice for all, girls and boys!

Otfried Preussler, Krabat and the Sorceror's Mill. Brilliant little book. Scary. Maybe shouldn't be on this list, but it is so good! A parent ought to check this one out first, as children vary in what they find frightening. Eh, save it till he's older! A beggar boy is captured by a great sorcerer and made to work and learn his mysterious arts. A girl and an Easter hymn promise him more. This one is from The New York Review of Books children's collection, and I highly, highly recommend browsing through it to find some interesting books.



George MacDonald: the short stories were published a while back by Eerdmans in two volumes as The Gifts of the Christ Child. A lot of them like "The Golden Key" are beautiful and aspiring. Little violence. Ruth Sanderson just did a gorgeous scratchboard-illustrated version of that story, also from Eerdmans. Some of his other stories have been Sendak-illustrated books like The Light Princess. Try The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. I loved At the Back of the North Wind as a child, but I expect that one may feel pretty dated now.

Madeleine L'EngleA Wrinkle in Time.

Norman JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth.

Another fantasy writer I liked when young was Alan Garner, whose children's fantasies were set around Alderney Edge. He was in the reread category for me--particularly The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. 

Franny Billingsley, The Folk Keeper. Corinna in disguise as the boy Corin, who must keep down the Folk in their labyrinthine home. 

Gary D. Schmidt, What Came From the Stars. We judges for the 2012 NBA-YPL swapped books, and I swapped one of my mine for this one--and liked it. This tale of Tommy Pepper and the dangerous Valorians is well-written, boy-friendly, and adventurous. (What book did we pick for the Young People's Literature Award? William Alexander's Goblin Secrets. A lovely, surreal creation.)

My eldest son adored the Brian Jacques books. If a boy likes one, there are a zillion more. 

My daughter Rebecca's favorite fantasy writer was Diana Wynne Jones (an author who had three sons, so she knew boys!) Try the Chrestomanci books--magic and lots of boys. Some of her fantasy is rather cerebral in structure, but there are a number of books for younger readers. Rebecca loved Howl's Moving Castle, which was transformed in its migration to a Miyazaki Studio Ghibli film. I recall thinking that Aunt Maria gave Rowling the structural basis for her third Potter book. She has a long bibliography and more books that would work for a young reader who wants something challenging.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, LOTR. LOTR is terrifically sad for an adult, but I think it tends to be less so for younger readers.

I think Jules Verne could work well as a read-aloud, as would Dickens (Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist) or Blackmore's Lorna Doone. (I love the narrator of the last one in the same way that I love the first narrator of The Moonstone.) I did not read King Solomon's Mines as a child, but I knew boys liked it.

Louis Untermeyer's The Golden Treasury of Poetry. Via eBay or abe.com or library, I guess. Wore mine to pieces. Boy-friendly, definitely! 

James Weldon Johnson, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. This was one of the few single-author poetry books I owned as a child. Great swing, inspired by what Johnson saw as the "folk sermons" of his childhood.

Randall JarrellThe Bat-poet. 

For non-fiction, there are lots of interesting choices, but one that appealed greatly to me was the Foxfire series that came out of the Rabun Gap - Nacoochee school (edited by Eliot Wigginton), not far from me when I was in high school in Cullowhee, North Carolina. I pored over those books and have continued to occasionally look at them. Whenever I passed the school on trips to Georgia, I longed to be a student there.

I've left out Avi, Nancy Farmer, and so many others who wrote books that my children loved. But maybe it's time to let other people tell me what they like...

Note: Be sure and come back later, as I will keep adding in suggestions from twitter, facebook, and messaging!

Via writer Susan Henderson aka @LitPark on twitter: "When my boys were that age, they loved The Mysterious Benedict Society." And another: "Oh, and Terry Pratchett's Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Not long after, they got into Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series." [I read one of the Benedict books in the year that I read 316 children's books for the NBA-YPL. And I liked it. Author: Trenton Lee Stewart.] Henderson is also in the comments below.

Writer Kim Beall put in a vote for Tolkien's LOTR in the comments, and I think what she says reflects what I said above: it's a different narrative for a child than for an adult. One of Ellen Kushner's Sound and Spirit episodes muses on that thought as well. LOTR pops up here and there in her series. And there is a show on music inspired by LOTR (episode 5048.)

Peter in Wales: "Some violence in [Hergé's] Tintin, of an adventurous kind, but certainly NO sex. YA wasn't definite genre in my day, but other read-them-all favourites at 8+ were Arthur Ransome, Hugh Lofting, Asterix, Tove Jannson. And I know Clive would add Alan Garner. Too young for Pullman?" [I would suppose so, at least for the third volume of the trilogy.] "The trilogy's the thing with Pullman. [Note: One of my children read the trilogy and liked the first two books but not the third. The complaint was that the third should have been two books and that it had too much anti-Christian axe-grinding.] Lofting wrote Dr Dolittle, a very different person than either of the film versions. A rarer favourite were 2 children's books by Eric Linklater - Pirates in the Deep Green Sea and Wind on the Moon. None yet re-read with modern sensitivities."

Writer and book reviewer Nancy G. Pate: Great list with many of my favorites. My [Untermeyer's] Golden Poetry, like yours, is falling apart. Smiled at that pic. I’d add Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Still reread it.

I thought about Susan Cooper and dithered about whether The Dark is Rising books were the right age. (She was on our 2012 NBA-YPL judging board, and I liked her very much and reread the whole TDIR series after we met.) Maybe that's because I was older when I read them. I guess that's one where I would think about my child, and whether they might enjoy them more at a slightly older age.

Writer and professor Jessica Hooten Wilson: "I was glad to see Roald Dahl—I’ve been reading his books aloud to my 3 and 4 yr olds."
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