I’m sure there are some really good books out there written for adults. I may have even read a couple that weren’t required reading in college. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, for example, is really good…mainly because it’s a time-traveling sci-fi Scottish history smutty romance novel. And I also admit to reading a Philippa Gregory book – The Other Boleyn Girl – but HELLO…it’s about British royalty and scandal. Who doesn’t love that?
But as good as all those are, children’s books remain much more entertaining. Some are funny, some are scary, and some are serious. And the really good ones will never talk down to kids. Children’s book writers know that kids are smart, and they treat them that way. Which makes reading them as an adult that much more satisfying. Here are some of my favorites. NOTE: I’m not including the Harry Potter books in this because I believe they require their own separate post. Yes, they are THAT superior.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
I was first introduced to this book in third grade when my teacher Ms. Frick read it our class. I loved Harriet and her need to write down everything she saw. I wanted to be Harriet…I wanted to run around all over town with my notebook and pen and write about my neighbors and friends. And now reading it as an adult, I see how mature the writing actually is, and how different Harriet is from so many child protagonists you read about today. This book continues to land on Banned Books lists, mainly because adults are scared that their kids could be as smart as Harriet. Which should make every kid in the world want to read this book.
The Witches/James and the Giant Peach/Matilda/The BFG/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Because all of Roald Dahl’s books are amazing, I can’t pick just one. He wrote many, but these are five of my favorites. Why do I like these books so much? They involve magic, fantasy, wonder, and most of all they involve an underdog who defies all odds and ends up kicking the bad guy’s ass and saving the day. It’s a classic hero story written brilliantly for both kids and adults.
Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen/Thirteen Plus One by Lauren Myracle
Author Lauren Myracle is perhaps best known for her controversial book TTYL, which was the number one most challenged book of 2009. But her series about tween Winnie Perry is pure nostalgic fun. As you can guess from the titles, the series starts when Winnie turns eleven years old and continues through her fourteenth birthday. And as we all know, those years just before becoming official teenagers are some of are most memorable and painful years growing up. Which is what makes these books so great. We (as girls) can all relate to the crap Winnie is dealing with – friends, boys, clothes, parents – and we find ourselves laughing and crying right along with her.
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski
I love history, so whenever I can find a children’s book about an actual historical account, I will read it. One of the books that stuck with me was this one, the true story of Mary Jemison, a girl who in 1758 during the French and Indian War was kidnapped by the Seneca Indians and lived among them because they loved her corn-colored hair. The idea of being kidnapped by Indians while the rest of your family is killed and scalped is horrifying, but Lenski is honest in her telling of the story and doesn’t pretend like these bad things didn’t happen just because it’s a children’s book. Instead it gives children a realistic portrayal of what life was like in 18th century New England, and what life on an Indian reservation as a white girl was really like. It’s not something you read about everyday.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Well, I had to have at least one princess book in here. And this one by Shannon Hale is one of the better ones I’ve read. She takes a story that has been done many times before – Princess-in-Training – but twists it in a way that separates it from other similar books. I loved the realistic world that Hale created that made it seem like this place really existed, and I loved the main character Miri – courageous, smart, funny…someone you’d want to be friends with and can’t help but root for.
I could go on about awesome children’s books for hours, but I’ll stop here. Bottom line is to not assume that children’s books are just for kids. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re stuck reading James Patterson or Danielle Steele. The next time you’re at the library, and if there aren’t any screaming, crying kids peeing their pants during story time, take a little detour into the kids’ section. You might be surprised at what you find.