I am sure I am not alone when I say that Robert Burns is not a children’s author, but even kids are familiar with the Bard of Ayrshire’s most famous work, “Auld Lang Syne.”
With the imminent arrival of 2019, I am thinking of Burns’ “old long since” and taking a moment to sit in front of my kids’ bookshelves.
It’s there that my own collection of childhood books resides, and oh, the mania of those bookshelves: Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, Sweet Valley High. Does anyone remember the spate of books about girls who thought their noses were too big to get a boyfriend? Or smart girls who despaired of never going on a date until they met a shy boy who wore glasses and was in need of a science partner?
I’ve gotten rid of those books, but there are many I can’t wait for my kids to read, books I have read so many times the covers are in tatters. They are well-loved and well-read, and I’d love to share some of my “old long since” books with you.
– Willo Davis Roberts wrote 100 books for children, but the only one I ever read was “The Girl with the Silver Eyes.” The tagline on the cover reads: “It’s fun to make things move just by thinking about them!”
Not quite. Katie Welker has always been considered odd. Well, I reckon so, considering she is gifted with telekinesis. Her own mother is frightened of her. And when her grandmother dies, a terrible neighbor wants Katie arrested, and there’s a creepy man who is following her and asking all sorts of questions. This book isn’t about fun at all, but believe me, your 8-year-old won’t be able to put it down.
– I may have read only one of Ms. Roberts’ books, but it’s safe to say I’ve ready nearly everything Katherine Paterson has ever written. While it’s almost impossible to find a book better than “Bridge to Terabitha,” I have to say that “Jacob Have I Loved” is my favorite.
Sara Louise “Wheeze” Bradshaw is the dark twin, always eclipsed by the sunniness and beauty of her twin sister Caroline. Wheeze does the hard work of a waterman while Caroline takes piano lessons and buys hand lotion. Wheeze sees her best friend fall in love with her talented sister. Wheeze suffers the barbs of an aged and sick grandmother.
When I was a young teenager, Wheeze was where my sympathies lay, but as an adult, her struggle to find her place takes on a different tone, though it is no less heartbreaking.
– Avi’s most famous book may be “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle,” but for me “A Place Called Ugly” is his best. I don’t remember where I got the book — wait, opening my copy I see I took it from my fifth-grade classroom — but the story of Owen Coughlin and his fight to save the only place he and his family have ever been happy spoke directly to my 10-year-old self.
Owen and his family have rented the same ramshackle island cottage for 10 years, and when the woman who owns it decides to bulldoze it to build a modern hotel, 14-year-old Owen refuses to let his childhood go and in doing so makes enemies of the islanders who want the new jobs and a better life. I love this book. I may just go read it now.
– There are two books that aren’t in print anymore that I must recommend, and they couldn’t be more different: “As the Waltz Was Ending” is the true story of Emma MacAlik Butterworth and her childhood as a ballerina with the Vienna State Ballet. All Emma has ever wanted to be is a dancer, but when Austria experiences a depression and then the Nazis invade, her life is turned upside down. This is the only children’s book Ms. Butterworth ever wrote.
And finally, “Pisces Times Two,” part of the Zodiac Club series by E. M Rees. It’s total fluff; there’s a lot about boys and makeup in it, and a bit about terrible school lunches. There’s not much more to say about it. What can you say about a series with titles such as “Sagittarius Serving” and “Aquarius Ahoy”? But you know what? I’ve read it at least 20 times.
I hope you saved some of your “old long since” books and that you take the time to look back at them this New Year.
The pleasure of rediscovery is a poignant comfort, and if you share it with your kids, you just may see your 10-year-old self in them, and wouldn’t that be wonderful?