A little while back I posted a NOT about picture books. So let’s follow up and talk chapter books.
After kids age out of picture books, but before they hit the heaviness of Young Adult Fiction, there’s a world of chapter books. What’s a memorable one for you, and why?
The distinction between these books and Young Adult Fiction is a bit blurry, of course. I think one difference is that protagonists of simpler chapter books are pretty clearly rooted in a world of more limited relationships before things like romance and jobs really start kicking in. If these things show up, they are viewed from the eyes of kids who don’t really get how they work.
Although heavy handed life lesson books are a subgenre with a long history, I never knew anyone who liked the ones that were supposed to teach you VERY IMPORTANT LESSONS. You know, the ones like Tommy Triumphs Over Tuberculosis, or maybe Daddy Still Loves You: Bobby’s Dad Has Amnesia.
Which is not to say that the good early chapter books were pure abstract fun, but they didn’t cram meaning right down your throat. For instance: From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a nutty book that lightly touches on going a bit obsessive. But in a fun way!
If you don’t know it, E.L. Konigsburg wrote about pre-teen Claudia, who is sick of life in the suburbs and cons her younger brother Jamie into running away with her to secretly live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One bit of genius of the book is that Claudia is convinced of how completely and absolutely sensible she is, even as she carries out a plan that is absolutely crazy.
Books For Pre-teens
So let’s say books that are really focused on younger kids, possibly touching on real life, although not always — animal stories, like A Cricket in Times Square are another staple, and there is young kid sci fi and fantasy too, like How To Train Your Dragon (even better than the movie).
What’s a book that stuck with you, and why? A central character you connected with? Funny jokes? A brilliant setting like Mixed Up Files? Was it something you read over and over, a book that you read to your kid, or something that got you through a long boring trip?
Was there something about the book that only clicked much later for you, such as the realization that hit me that the parents in Mixed Up Files must have completely freaked with worry and probably had the cops buzzing around. Or is there a book that you don’t care for once it came into focus later in life, like the Narnia books for me due to their intense Catholicism and snide attitude toward growing up.
Or maybe there’s a book you just plain didn’t understand the appeal of — something that you read because everyone read it, and but to this day seems like an obligation and accomplishment but somehow nothing more? Tell us about a chapter book you know well.