These books are kid’s stuff – and that’s high praise

What did you read when you were a kid?

I read everything I could get my hands on, starting with comic books but then graduating to Whitman books like those in the photo. Out of all the Whitman kid-oriented books I had, those are the three that survive today. I had quite a few more, including a “Star Trek” book that taught me what counting coup was.

And considering how much I love libraries now, it made perfect sense that I read everything in my school’s library – even some things that probably surprised Mrs. Jeffers, the beloved school librarian. Bullfinch’s Mythology? Heavens yes. Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Yes I Can?” Yes I did. Bound volumes of classic newspaper comic strips like “Terry and the Pirates?” Of course. I was a kid, after all.

As much as I loved books as a kid, I think it’s possible there’s more good literature for kids today. While my tastes and voracious reading habits took me far beyond the Hardy Boys books, today there’s a wealth of great stuff for kids to read.

I hope to come back to this subject at some point, so I’ll only name two series now. You might have heard of one and you might not have heard of the other, but they’re both great.

And yes, I read these relatively new books as an adult. And I still loved them.

First, the books you’ve probably heard of. Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy is being made into a movie to come out early next year, so if you haven’t read the books yet you might want to. They’re riveting tales of about a future USA where the oppressive government makes teenagers from the impoverished country’s disparate and desperate districts compete in an annual fight to the death. The books are full of winning characters and great action and might – I know, I know, this is heresy – be better than J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

The series you might not have heard of is Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes series. Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Enola, an ungainly, intelligent young teen, goes off on her own when her mother disappears. As the series progresses, she tries to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother even as she solves stand-alone mysteries in each book. Not to mention her efforts to keep out of the clutches of her brothers, who – in their well-meaning way – want to turn her into the docile young gentlelady that Enola does not want to be.

While the Enola Holmes books are fine for elementary-school-age readers (and older, obviously), “The Hunger Games” and its two sequels are pretty strong stuff and emphasize, as do the later Harry Potter books, the harsh reality of war and rebellion. I know elementary-age kids who love them.

Of course, just because there are so many good new books for young people doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dip back into the classics. In future blog entries I’ll probably throw around names like Robert Heinlein and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

And there’s always “More Tales to Tremble By.”


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