The Magic of Children’s Books

I mentioned how much I loved and consumed the Harry Potter books. They were far from being the only beloved books of my youth, however, and in fact entered the scene rather late.

I usually no longer reread books unless they are favorites since so many unopened ones are waiting, but as I child I frequently read books multiple times, more than I can count. They were old friends whose plots and characters I knew by heart, whose magic never faded but in fact increased with each new visit.

I started running out of shelf space last year and considered boxing up my children and YA books, at least until I get a permanent place of my own. Some favorites I knew without a doubt would have to stay out, like Madeleine L’Engle’s books, or Ella Enchanted, or Where the Red Fern Grows. But as I took down other volumes I found myself returning to my younger self with each turn of a page–the books over which I bonded with friends, the books I did school projects on, the books I turned to when my grandmother died. So much of me is tied up in them that even though they sometimes gather dust now, a glance at the cover will still recall the story to my mind.

Some of them are well known classics, like The Secret Garden or The Westing Game, others obscure titles forgotten today. I collected Newbery books, because it seemed a worthwhile focus, but I found it to be hit or miss, with many of them unappealing. It’s funny really–I remember thinking at the time that they were books grownups thought important, which often made them depressing even if well-written. Katherine Paterson is a prime example, no offense to her.

My favorites were mysteries, spearheaded by Nancy Drew and Co., historical fiction, family stories, and books with “magic.” Not necessarily fantasy, but a gentler sort set in the real world and based on mysterious happenings like time travel, ghosts, or talking dolls. And all of them had the most important magic of all, the power of observation.

I’ve broadened my horizons since graduating from the juvenile shelves, and yet I find that those qualities are still what thrill me most in books. Of course I’ve become much more critical of the author’s skill as a writer as well, though. What are other’s favorite childhood books, and have you found that your tastes have changed at all?

Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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