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“New” classic chapter books for young readers

November 10, 2011

We’ve been thinking a lot about classic books lately here at the JTRB office, in light of our Contemporary Classics Quiz, which highlights some of the best books for adults from the last 75 years–many books that were written decades before I was born, and that I love. That’s the thing about really good books–they have staying power.

The phenomenon of classics also applies, perhaps even more so, to children’s chapter books. It’s no surprise that what we read when we’re young tends to stick with us. Maybe that adage that you never forget your first love applies to books as well as people. The first books we read and fall in love with are often the ones we remember most fondly and vividly. And there are many, many examples of children’s classics getting new life today, some in their original forms and some updated for a new generation of readers. Parents are re-reading these beloved books and introducing them to their children.

HarperCollins just this week published The Betsy-Tacy Treasury — the first four books in Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series. Pamela Paul mentioned in the New York Times’s Arts Beat that her six-year-old daughter is enthralled by the stories, which are set in Minnesota more than 100 years ago.

Publishers are also adapting traditional beloved children’s books to the modern-day mediums. For example, many titles in The Boxcar Children series are now available as e-books.

And I hope that recent movie versions of classic kids’ books are encouraging young readers to explore older books like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, Thomas Rockwell’s How to Eat Fried Worms, and of course C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

And while all of these books are beloved by yesterday’s and today’s young readers, we can’t deny the power of adult nostalgia, either. It’s what prompted Wendy McClure, who loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s  Little House series as a child, to retrace the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family and immerse herself in Little House culture for her book The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House in the Prairie. In fact, it almost makes me want to go to South Dakota to visit some Ingalls sites on my next vacation… or at least re-read the entire Little House series.



Is there a young reader in your life who would like to be turned on to the classics? Give the gift of reading with one of our subscriptions for kids. Tell us what kind of books he or she likes, including any of the above titles or anything at all, and we’ll send just the right book, guaranteed!





2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Burdick permalink
    November 11, 2011 7:06 am

    One of the first chapter books that I read with all my kids was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Konigsburg). It is a Newbery Medal winner. I hadn’t seen it for a while, but was pleased to see it make a come-back recently. We also enjoyed other classic chapter books as whole family read-alouds before bed: Sign of the Beaver, The Homecoming and other books in that series.

    Many adults stop reading to kids when they can read themselves, but I think even young adults enjoy shared books. Reading books slightly above a child’s own reading level stretches his/her comprehension level as well.

    • November 11, 2011 10:52 am

      Susan, I LOVE From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler–hope your kids enjoyed it, too! The Homecoming series by Cynthia Voigt is great also. Thanks for reminding me of those books. I agree that reading aloud to kids, even after the kids are of reading age, is so important. Not to mention enjoyable for all involved!

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