December 26, 2013

Look through library shelves for a few kids’ classics

Memorable stories like ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Miss Nelson Is Missing!’ can still capture even contemporary readers’ imaginations.

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

Though the “Harry Potter,” “Hunger Games” and “Percy Jackson” series have been modern hits, it’s important to remember that great stories have existed for ages. As we move into 2014, make time to check out some of these timeless, blast-from-the-past children’s books.

Chain Letter

by Christopher Pike

Avon Books, 1986

For age 12 and up

At first, Alison thinks the chain letter referencing the horrible secret she and her friends have is nothing more than a sick joke. After all, only the seven of them know what really happened out on that desert road last summer. As members of the group begin to disappear, tension mounts and the teens struggle to remember what actually happened that night — and which of them really is responsible. A sequel was released in 1992.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

by E.L. Konigsburg

Atheneum, 1967

For age 8 and up

Twelve-year-old Claudia and 9-year-old Jamie are tired of their boring lives. So, they run away — to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While living in the museum means hiding from security guards in bathroom stalls and bathing in fountains, it also gives them access to a huge mystery: Who sculpted the marble angel statue bought by the museum at auction? Claudia becomes convinced it was Michelangelo, and sets out to prove it. This book won the Newbery Medal in 1968.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

by Robert O’Brien

Atheneum, 1971

For age 8 and up

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed field mouse with four children, has a problem. Her son Timothy is too sick to move into their summer home. A helpful and wise owl suggests she seek help from the rats that live under the rosebushes. Upon further investigation, Mrs. Frisby discovers that the rats have become civilized. They are highly intelligent and very strong, and have procured electricity and machines. How did they get this way? And what is their connection to the recently deceased Mr. Frisby? And can the rats escape the scientists who hunt them? Can they ever have a life of their own, full of safety and independence from humans?

This book is tense, thought-provoking and exciting. To see the creatures wrestle with moral dilemmas makes their bravery and self-sacrifice even more heroic. The Rats of NIMH will continue to appeal to readers of all ages for years to come. This book won the Newbery Medal in 1972. And, in 1982, the animated film The Secret of NIMH was released.

Tiger Eyes

by Judy Blume

Bradbury, 1981

For age 10 and up

After experiencing a family tragedy, Davey Wexler and her mother and brother move in with distant relatives in another state. Davey attempts to deal with her grief, but also struggles with unfamiliar rules, being afraid of everything, peer pressure and young love. Davey lost herself the night her father was shot, but finds herself again while hiking the beautiful cliffs of New Mexico, and learns that courage means you just have to keep on going. Full of emotions and tough issues, this book feels relevant and authentic even 30 years later. Blume’s son Lawrence directed a movie based on Tiger Eyes, which was released in June 2013.

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Random House, 1995 (originally published in 1908)

For age 10 and up

Anne is a spunky, sweet orphan sent to a farm owned by a brother and sister. Matthew and Marilla had wanted a boy to help out with their farm chores, not a girl, so they do not want to adopt her at first. Soon, however, Anne’s engaging personality brings life and cheer to the Canadian community. Readers of all ages will relate to Anne and the relationships she forms — her best friendship with Diana, her rivalry with Gilbert and her growing love for both Marilla and Matthew. Fans of the book can continue reading about her adventures in the seven subsequent books about Anne and her family. Be sure to check the Fort Worth Library for the movies based on the books as well.

Pippi Longstocking

by Astrid Lindgren

Penguin, 1997 (originally published in the U.S. in 1950)

For age 10 and up

Pippi is a fun-loving but stubborn girl; however, she proves to readers that she is up for any type of activity. Whether that’s baking pepparkakor cookies (while rolling the dough out on the floor!) or riding to school for the first time on her horse (and arriving two hours late), there is always an unusual twist. There is much more to Pippi than her crazy antics, though. Author Astrid Lindgren says she started the book about a girl who lives on her own as a wild tale for her daughter, but her biography states that since Pippi was such a crazy name, the story about her had to be crazy, too. The result: a character who defied all conventions. The book series was written in the 1940s, and while some of the story’s settings may seem dated, Pippi’s inviting and interesting adventures and outrageous abilities make the story an arresting fantasy tale, while teaching young readers about many of the folkways of Scandinavian life.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!

by Harry Allard and James Marshall

Houghton Mifflin Co., 1977

For ages 5-8

The students in Room 207 are misbehaving: They throw spitballs, whisper and giggle, and are even rude to their sweet teacher, Miss Nelson, during story hour. Miss Nelson knows that something drastic must be done to get her students to act better, so she hatches a plan. The next day, she does not come to school, and the kids in Room 207 are introduced to Miss Viola Swamp. Strict and suspected of being a witch, Miss Swamp gives a lot of homework. As days pass, there is no sign of Miss Nelson and the kids become worried and launch an investigation to find her. Meanwhile, they are forced to do as Miss Swamp says. Will Miss Nelson ever get to read stories to her students again? And where did Miss Swamp come from? Kids will love the funny twist of events at the end of the book, not to mention the great cartoonish drawings of Miss Swamp.

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