Just keep driving.

I’m sure we’re all very sorry to hear the site of Brian Stouder’s upcoming vacation is now a muddy bog. But we’re more amused by his reaction:

We’ll see how this plays out; our plans are for after the 4th of July. If nothing else, I definitely wanna see that Paul Bunyan restaurant.

The cry of the Midwestern Clark Griswold: Carry on regardless! It’s just a flesh wound!

The weather here’s been no picnic, but a fraction of the misery of Wisconsin’s — or even Indiana’s. A big storm system smashed through here Sunday night, but gave the east side the slip, mostly. A few limbs down, nothing worse. It’s pouring at the moment, which lately feels like par for the course. At least it’s not 94 degrees, like yesterday.

When we kick off with the weather around these parts, it means we are tapioca on topics. The end of the school year happens in 3-2-1, and as usual, it blots out the household sun. I’m looking forward to sleeping past 7 a.m., not looking forward to swinging the maternal whip of get-off-the-couch-and-go-outside-it’s-a-beautiful-day. So far I’ve resisted the pull of the upwardly mobile summer — enrichment camps and lessons in lifetime sports. I’m a firm believer in down time as a restorative, and all those camps and lessons can quickly feel like a different form of school. She has to learn to swim, and I’d like her to learn to sail, but so far I haven’t packed her off to High-Q Acres for pre-algebra training. If she refuses to get off the couch this summer, the next one might be a different story, however.

One thing I’m trying this year: A summer reading list. Part of the commodification of the tween years has been a veritable explosion in targeted literature — chick lit for 12-year-olds. It’s enough to keep a kid occupied for months, but I aim to shove it aside from time to time. I had my Nancy Drew, she has her Beacon Street Girls, but I had a “suggested summer reading” list, handed out at the end of the school year. It was strongly implied that there might be a quiz in September (there never was), but it was enough to make me pick up “Animal Farm,” “Johnny Tremain” and a few other classics of the children’s/young adult room at the library. I’m making my own list, and welcome suggestions for an 11-year-old reading at the outer edge of her age range. So far I’ve got some Jack London on there, and thought about “Little Women,” but was amazed to rediscover what a brick it was. Five hundred pages of antique language and exhaustive period detail can bog down even a bright reader of the modern age. I tried to recall when I read it, and the dread set in — I’d read a Reader’s Digest condensed version! Illustrated! What a fraud I am. It’s still on the bubble; I may reread it myself. “Tom Sawyer” is on the list, too.

Any ideas?

Off to do some chores. Back in a bit.

Posted at 9:41 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

97 responses to “Just keep driving.”

  1. derwood said on June 10, 2008 at 9:50 am

    When my nephew was 11-12 we bought him the James Herriot books. He is a huge animal lover and thought he wanted to be a vet.


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  2. velvet goldmine said on June 10, 2008 at 9:55 am

    My daughter picked up Little Women last year — she’s 12 now — and really got into it. In fact, she made it her summer project and did a LW magazine. A “Which March sister are you?,” recipes, a travel article on Concord, that kind of thing.

    She’s also really into books about teen girls who have gay male best friends, for some reason. It’s this whole sub-genre I had no idea existed.

    I’ll try to think of some others, and am looking forward to the other readers’ suggestions too, with a 12 and a 10-year- old in the house. I still read to them, and right now I’m reading my daughter the “Pat” books of L.M. Montgomery (we already read the Anne and Emily books) and I’m reading my son the “Artemis Fowl” series.

    Lance Mannion had suggested “Swallows and Amazons” on his blog, and I ordered it for a book to read to them together, but I’m not sure how it’ll go over. Even if I can get over one of the main characters being named Titty.

    So for a “group” book I’m reading them the first Maximum Ride book. The writing’s not great, but it’s about six kids (led by a 14-year-old girl) who were developed in a lab to be 2 percent bird, so they have wings and other special abilities. Naturally, they’re on the run from the lab’s evil White Coats, and from the wolflike humans they also created.

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  3. Connie said on June 10, 2008 at 9:56 am

    A lot of those great old books seem like bricks when we re-read them today. Check at your local library for a recommended list, and see if they have the ARC book list for her upcoming grade level. Summer reading is for fun, and kids don’t know our real motive is to keep their reading skills going and growing.

    She should have started learning to swim some years ago, I would make that my number one priority. Send her to my house for a week and my kid – licensed lifeguard, licensed water safety instructor, certified swim coach – will get her going. Somewhere between her one full time and one part time summer job.

    I feel like I missed a big party by not checking in the comments over the weekend.

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  4. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Twain’s short pieces might be pretty good, especially his recollection of editing a small paper at age 13- seems Edgar Allen Poe had some humorous short stories that I really enjoyed back then. I guess twelve is a little young for All Quiet on the Western Front, but much later than that and Remarque is flat out unreadable.
    To Kill a Mockingbird? Some of that creepy Flannery O’ Connor? Paris Spleen by Baudelaire?
    Is it obvious I don’t have kids?

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  5. anonymous said on June 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

    The Great Brain (and sequels) by John D. Fitzgerald. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s spellbinding both for the adventure and the history. (There is strong stuff within it–including a maimed boy’s serious contemplation of suicide–but that just makes the story even more valuable.)

    A contemporary suggestion: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. They’ve put it out with a cover that makes it look like chic lit, but it’s a great original fairy tale in which girls prove their mettle after they been pitted against one another.

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  6. MichaelG said on June 10, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Dr. Doolittle? The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, the Holling Clancy Holling books – I loved his Book of Cowboys and his Book of Indians. Minn of the Mississippi is a classic.

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  7. Lex said on June 10, 2008 at 10:30 am

    “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Monty Python meets the Apocalypse. Or vice versa.

    Also, I presume she has read the Harry Potter books, but if not, geez, start there.

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  8. brian stouder said on June 10, 2008 at 10:38 am

    One thing I’m trying this year: A summer reading list.

    Pam and I were thinking just the same thing, for our two young readers*, and she went to one of the chain bookstores last week and snapped up the following three paperbacks (buy two, get one free):

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (with introduction and notes by Robert O’Meally*%); The Call of the Wild, and White Fang, by Jack London; and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

    The deal is, we will all read them (and presumeably then we’ll talk about them), in addition to whatever else they want to read.

    *I’ve read Huck Finn before, but it seems to be an entirely new experience for me – not least because of the lively and thought provoking introduction by O’Meally. He offers an extended discussion about the heavily used epithet “nigger”, and another about the essential relationship between the book and American blues, and the inescapable bluesiness of the narrative. And he also points out (repeatedly and pointedly!) that NOwhere in Twain’s book is Jim EVER referred to as “Nigger Jim” – despite innumerable references to that name by even the most learned critics and reviewers.

    By way of saying, over the past week – I’ve been pulled right down the river! (I think I had to read Tale of Two Cities in school, and I’m sure I got nothing from it; I’ve never read the London books)

    *% Connie – they LOVE going to the library; we go at least every two weeks, and they generally get several books and movies each (we limit it to one electronic thing per kiddo, since they have short due dates); so the reading bug is in them. If we never win the lottery, still we’re way ahead!

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  9. Dorothy said on June 10, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Velvet already mentioned L. M. Montgomery. I loved the Anne of Green Gable books when I was about 11 or 12. My brother Dave’s red-headed fiance, Molly, had loved them and bought a copy for my sister Chrissy and I to read. We devoured the series quickly. I’m still searching for a new “bosom friend”! (Anne fans will know that’s NOT a dirty sentence.)

    And I’m with Connie on the swimming thing. I thought we had waited too long when we took our kids to lessons when they were 5 & 7. You can’t procrastinate when it comes to swimming lessons.

    Oh and Derwood is right about the James Herriot books!!!

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  10. LAMary said on June 10, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Has she read “Holes” yet? My kids loved that book. How about “The Secret Garden?” I remember loving that one. At 11 I liked biographies too. The Lorena Hickock Helen Keller biography was a favorite. Some Joyce Carol Oates books are pretty tween friendly. “Marya” is one, I think. I don’t recall anything too adult in it, but it’s been a while.
    I sent number two son to two weeks of sleepaway camp around that age. Just a basic YMCA thing with swimming, hiking, making leather crafts. I think it was good for him.

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  11. nancy said on June 10, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Clarification: She’s already a good swimmer. That was one lesson I insisted on, early and often. It’s the basket-weaving and soccer camps I balk at.

    Unless they ask to attend. In that case, no prob.

    I’m so paranoid about swimming I insist on one swimming-related activity a summer, just to keep the skills sharp. Last summer she did the swim team, and hated it (the laps), so this year it’s synchro, which should be more fun.

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  12. Danny said on June 10, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Nancy, my nephews recently enjoyed some pirate books co-written by Dave Barry, but they are a little younger than Kate, so I’m not sure (Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Escape From the Carnivale, Cave of the Dark Wind)

    Also, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” and the Indian in the Cupboard series of books were great fun for them. Treasure Island woudn’t be a bad choice.

    Again, I am not sure of the reading level, but Kate may find these fun summer reads. I figure that once a child finds out what fun reading can be, your work is about done except for the part about keeping them from reading too much past their bedtime under the covers by flashlight…

    I was that kind of kid. Now I think I’ve successfully passed that on to the nephews.

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  13. Marie said on June 10, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I’m partial to “Pollyanna” myself. I must have read that 100 times when I was a kid.

    I second “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

    I loved “Heidi,” too.

    How are you going to get her off the couch and outside, enjoying the beautiful day, with all these great books to read? (I usually compromised with my parents by taking my book outside and relaxing under a tree. Good ol’ Indiana summer days.)

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  14. LAMary said on June 10, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I take back the “Marya” recommendation. It’s got some things definitely not for tweens.

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  15. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 11:46 am

    I just remembered one that’s usually recommended for that age group, and I’ve seen some recent plaudits for- Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle In Time. I haven’t looked at it in years, so I’m not sure.
    A friend of mine married a widower with two adolescent daughters, and she said they loved and respected her, but she couldn’t quite get beyond always having to be the hardass.
    I volunteered that she ought to take them shoplifting.
    I can’t remember what exactly it was she threw at my head, but fortunately it missed.

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  16. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 11:51 am

    “Good Omens” is one of my favorite books but a lot of the stuff will go over her head. I suggest you read it together if it makes the cut, because everyone should read Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett for her age would be:
    The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
    The Tiffany Aching books: Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
    The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy (somewhat dated but containing some excellent bits of 20th century British history)

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  17. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I’m assuming she’s already gone through the entire Roald Dahl catalog?
    And Marie, she can always do what Jo did in Little Women, take her books and some apples and climb a tree to read. Does anyone else think that what finally got Beth was anorexia nervosa?
    I love book talk. What are the adults reading this summer?

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  18. Danny said on June 10, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Madeleine L’Engel’s books left an impression on me. I loved them. I think it is four books total. She passed last year. RIP, Madeleine. You were a dear soul to me.

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  19. Danny said on June 10, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Sue, I’m currently reading Iain M. Banks’ latest Culture novel, “Matter.”

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  20. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Sue: I recommend Alan Bennet’s The Clothes They Stood Up In. He’s one of the old members of Beyond The Fringe, and the author of The Madness of George III.
    Hilary Mantel’s Every Day Is Mother’s Day and Vacant Possession made me afraid to be in my own house. I think she is the best fiction writer breathing. I’ve heard she’s a good critic, too.
    Going on to betray what looks like a streak of Anglophilia, I’ll add Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop.
    I used to work in a great one in Durham,NC- The Book Exchange. I loved working there so much when I’d get home and crash I would frequently dream I was flying around the store. If you ever visit, you ought to stop by there. The store itself is an artefact. Catalogued by publisher, the way they used to do it in the Twenties and Thirties. Two huge floors filled floor to ceiling.
    There was a prof from UNC who used to come in and organize his own stash of obscure pornographic titles in a couple of “secret locations” on the second floor. We employees made it part of our daily rounds to either redistribute them or substitute more edifying books on tanning animal skins or mixing concrete.

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  21. Kirk said on June 10, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I am reading a very well-done biography of Nikita Khrushchev.

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  22. Jolene said on June 10, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Here’s a piece called Cool Titles for Hot Days from The Washington Post. For young readers, but only three titles. They also have a feature called Short Stack that provides recommendations for 3-5 books on a certain theme (if your marriage is failing, books about zoos, all kinds of things). Lots of fun; some might be suitable for Kate. You can see more “short stacks” by clicking on the names of the reviewers on the left. Also just noticed a nice list of bookish blogs further down on the left.

    Have I mentioned that I love the WaPo web site?

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  23. MommyTime said on June 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I love Jane Eyre at that age, antiquated language and all. But then, I’ve always been a bit of a dork.

    The Herriott books, L’Engle books, L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables, etc) were all deep favorites of mine. And now that I scroll up, I see that I’m just echoing what’s already been said.

    Also try: The Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, Black Beauty, or perhaps the Wizard of Oz series. Ahhh… I love to spend the summer reading…

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  24. beb said on June 10, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    There’s a quartet of books by Patrica Wrede that are aimed for tween girls, but I enjoyed as well. Dealing With Dragons. Another is The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker. Both feature no-nonsense girls who confront a series of difficulties with reason, intellect and common sense. The writing is humor while the ploting is solid and the characters well drawn and engaging. They’re stories that tell sensible girls that there is a place for them in the world.

    I read the Dr. Dolittle books to my daughter when she was much younger,6-7. What struck me about them was the number of big or difficult words in the story. At least compared to currents aimed at kids that age, like the Magic Tree House books (which I think are good books). Back them kids weren’t written down to.

    And I would be remiss if I did not recommend Diana Wynne Jones. She writes books from children through tweens to late teens. I’ve not read one bad books. The books of Chrestomanci are usually available and probably most tween oriented. Howl’s Moving Castle is quite a bit different from the movie based on it and very good.

    We saw the videos of the houses being washed away but didn’t realize until later that was that lake in the Dells flushing itself away. A whole lake, gone! That’s astonishing./


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  25. moe99 said on June 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card as well as the sequel: Speaker for the Dead. Eventually Card gets way too Mormon for my taste, but these are both award winning books, the first one features a school for gifted kids in outer space. My boys got hooked on science fiction fantasy with these.

    College of Magics by Caroline Steveremere. A girl’s school in France like Hogwarts. I think it was actually written early on in Harry Potter fever or before. It is not a copy.

    Dave Duncan’s King’s Blades and King’s Daggers series.

    As you can see, I just love rousing adventure stories to captivate me as I am sitting under a tree on a blanket listening with half an ear to the drowsy hum of insects while I read voraciously.

    Too bad we haven’t cracked 65 degrees yet this June in Seattle. And it’s rained every day but one.

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  26. Jolene said on June 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Speaking of bricks, there are the Dickens novels w/ kids at the center–David Copperfield and Great Expectations. I loved them early on, although probably appreciated them more later. They certainly offer the opportunity to get involved with characters, which might help Kate find her way through them.

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  27. LAMary said on June 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I’m slowly reading Jimmy Carter’s book about his mother. It was a gift from my son on mother’s day, so I have to read it. I’m nearly done, and I like Miss Lillian a lot less now that I’ve read about her.
    As soon as I’m legitimately done with this book, and can pass a quiz if my son asks, I’m going to start reading “The Great Man” by Kate Christensen. I heard her interviewed on NPR and I’m looking forward to the book.

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  28. ellen said on June 10, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    The L’Engle books made a big impression on me. My grandma gave me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to read around age 11-12, too. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. A Separate Peace.

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  29. Jen said on June 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I don’t have kids yet, and I read FAR above my reading level when I was a kid, but I’m trying to remember some of the books I really enjoyed. Hopefully this list won’t be TOO out of age level.

    Most of them have already been mentioned here, but my list would be: “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle (and have her read some of the sequels if she likes the first one), “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, books by Gene Stratton Porter (you could even make a trip to Rome City to the Gene Stratton Porter state historical site, which includes her log cabin – we went there when I was a kid and big into her books), “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell, “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” by Avi, the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (an obsession of mine as a child), and “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh. Oh, and I definitely agree with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” though I first read it when I was much older than 12. “The Hobbit” might be another good one. If I remember right, it’s a LOT easier to read and follow than “Lord of the Rings.”

    I would encourage her to try “Little Women.” It was challenging when I first read it (at around her age, or maybe a little bit younger), but I loved it to pieces (literally – I believe my book eventually ended up in a few pieces).

    A book series I loved (that I didn’t read until college, but would probably be appropriate for younger kids) is “Redwall” by Brian Jacques. It’s the first of a very long series about mice living in an abbey, but I’ve only ever read the first and maybe the second one. My sister loves them, and I thought they were very cute.

    Another great place to look for ideas of great books: ALA’s Challenged and Banned books list at http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bannedbooksweek.cfm.

    Most of my very favorite books from my childhood are on various banned and challenged book lists.

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  30. MichaelG said on June 10, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    If she’s looking for something light and amusing I’ll be happy to forward a copy of the State of California’s “General Conditions for Construction Contracts”. The section on change orders is particularly edifying.

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  31. Catherine said on June 10, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    My 10-YO is all about the Sisters Grimm series right now. My 7 YO is way into the Lucy Rose series from Katy Kelley — it’s a good progression from Junie B. Jones, and absolutely hilarious as a read-aloud.

    “Little Women” is one of my all-time favorites. Some ideas if it seems like a slog: 1) just read the first half, up until the father comes home from the war; 2) read an abridgement, there are actually some good ones out there; 3) watch the movie first to get an idea of the characters and plot (the one with Susan Sarandon & Winona Ryder is a good adaptation but is only the first half); 4) Get the CD of the musical and/or take her to the musical as a reward for finishing. For yourself, I recommend “March” by Geraldine Brooks, to add texture to background of the March family.

    James Herriott, anything by Louis Sachar (see LAMary’s recommendation), “The Secret Garden” and “A Little Princess,” always hits. What Ellen said about Katherine Patterson. Also, “Hoot,” by your favorite, Carl Hiaasen.

    And, to end on a sour note, I must be the only person on Earth who just.doesn’t.get Madeleine L’Engle’s books. WTF? I just find that the character and detail is in service to the plot, and the plot is so convoluted that it gives me a headache.

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  32. Dorothy said on June 10, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    All these titles are making me think of MY childhood reading, not just my daughter’s!! I might take a leave of absence from my job and go sit in a tree and read all summer.

    Sue I just purchased from Amazon.com “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris. I started reading it backstage during the play I was performing in last weekend, and two or three times had to slap my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud in the green room. Fellow performers who were also off stage had to come over and see what made me laugh so hard, so of course I shared. I got to meet David last year in South Carolina. A real thrill, I’ll tell ya. He was brilliant.

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  33. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Does she need spooky books for summer sleepovers? Try Richard Peck, “Ghosts I Have Been” and “The Ghost Belonged to Me”. These are complete with a spunky, witty heroine and male sidekick. And they are scary.
    Funny how many books recommendations keep repeating. I have tattered copies of the Anne books that go all the way back to my Grandmother’s copy. I know that one of the reasons the Little House books appealed to me so much as a child is because of the intense stability and structure in the Ingalls family (something I was not finding at home). Rereading them as an adult, I’m struck by how I probably would not like the narrowness of the lives they led, in spite of their pioneer adventures. The focus on normalcy and schedules is probably what kept a woman like Ma sane, I guess.
    Anyone ever read “Seven Day Magic” or any of the books by Edward Eager? Maybe too young for a 12-year-old, but I just loved the focus on magic and books when I read them as a kid.

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  34. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Dorothy: I saw a recommendation on the Sedaris book on Salon yesterday. My list gets longer, folks.

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  35. LAMary said on June 10, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Michael, that sounds like a great read. I have a 1936 copy of Synopsis of Diseases of the Skin with lurid photo illustrations that would wake her up after your book had put her to sleep.

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  36. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Michael and LAMary: I have an old copy (1972) of “Alexander’s Care of the Patient in Surgery” I can add to the pile. It reads like a medieval hack-fest today.

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  37. Julie Robinson said on June 10, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Lots of good suggestions so I’ll just add the Narnia books (NOT the movies) if Kate hasn’t already read them. That said, I’m not a big fan of summer reading lists. Making anything a requirement can take the joy out of it, and what you really want to create is someone who looks forward to opening books for the magical places they’ll go. Kind of like what you said about the camps–let her reading be self-directed. Both my kids were big readers from a young age so we visited the library a couple of times a week and did a lot of browsing. Finding enthusiastic librarians to discuss and suggest books also helped them. But most of the time I let them read anything they wanted. One summer that was mostly romances for our daughter and Garfield cartoons for our son. Did they learn anything from those books? You bet–they learned they loved to read.

    The other thing that made reading more appealing was that we severely limited screen time of any kind-TV, computer or video games. Plus my standard reply to “I’m bored” was a cleaning job they could do.

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  38. whitebeard said on June 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    The Narnia chronicles are a good bet for summer reading, provided we have an ordinary summer. We are in the fourth day of a heat wave with heat plus humidity equal to over 100. Most schools have been closing early yesterday and today. Heavy rains Saturday with thunderstorms with 4,000 lightning strikes in small Connecticut, including one lightning death. More thunderstorms fprecast for tonight and believe it or not, a tornado watch this afternoon. It pales in comparison to the Midwest deluges, I know, but the air is so heavy it is hard to breathe here.

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  39. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    whitebeard: A little farther south than you, but similar weather conditions. We haven’t got the rain yet.
    We have to get the chores done by midmorning, or they won’t get done at all. I managed to cut some deadfall early this morning, but it was really pushing it. I will be prone in front of the fan until near sundown.

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  40. velvet goldmine said on June 10, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Whitebeard, I’ve hung out in that pavillion many a time. That was incredibly sad. As we speak, Litchfield County, where I am, is on a tornado watch and I’m trying to figure out if it would be safer to let my guinea hens out or keep them in their shed. I have a feeling I’m not in Connecticut anymore, Toto!

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  41. MaryC said on June 10, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    These might be a bit much for a 12-year-old but when I was her age I read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House (which is nothing like the stupid movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones) and they still haunt me!

    Speaking of castles. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle is a great book for girls.

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  42. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    MaryC: The Haunting (1963) with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom, is the best film adaptation of Jackson’s book. I liked We Have Always Lived In The Castle, too. Apparently there was a stage version of the latter, but it never really took off.

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  43. Hattie said on June 10, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I loved Alcott’s books, but I’m not the one to make pronouncements about what a young girl would like to read now. There’s a real generational difference. I can’t even remember what my daughters read. Shows you what a neglectful mother I was. I enjoyed reading the Judy Blume books as an adult, books like Tiger Eyes.
    Depends on what kind of girl she is, I guess.
    I don’t think what we read needs to mirror our experiences 100%. Books are a great way to look around at the world, after all.

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  44. kayak woman said on June 10, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Wow! My girls have always been voracious readers and a lot of great suggestions have been made. We had a special fondness for Anne of Green Gables and I think she was one of their role models.

    Also, I read aloud to my kids until well after they were independent readers and this brought back memories of reading the Indian in the Cupboard books on the beach to multiple generations of my family. My kids, my nieces, my cousins and their kids, grandparents, aunts and uncles, dogs and whoever.

    Thanks for the memories. Yay for summer reading!

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  45. JenFlex said on June 10, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Maybe a little advanced, but I loved The Mists of Avalon when I wasn’t too much older than Kate.

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  46. brian stouder said on June 10, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Summer movie note:

    Today we went to the dollar movie (50 cents matinee on Tuesday!!) and caught Nim’s Island.

    I had no idea what the movie was going to be about, and the thing was just superb; it pulled Grant in (he objected to seeing it, and wanted to see Leather Heads instead), enthralled Shelby, and held Chloe’s attention….plus Pam and I genuinely enjoyed it.

    It is a very ‘writerly’ movie; very in-tune with book lovers and the power of books…plus Jodie Foster is a real treat, as an agoraphobic best-selling author of a series of action-adventure novels.

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  47. joodyb said on June 10, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Brian, the first ringing endorsement i’ve seen for ‘Nim.’ movie press pretty tough on JFoster. i’m more open-minded now!

    ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ is not for everyone. i was devastated when my son read it and responded with, ‘ehh.’ so it goes. her books were pivotal for me, too; i think it has to do with reader maturity and of all things, place in the family. i don’t think only children-singletons get the dynamic. The best one of L’Engle’s for girls is “Camilla.”

    If I’d had a girl, I’d have bought all Lenora Mattingly Weber’s books and stashed them around the house where she could find them on her own. I remember hiding “The Winds of March” because i was afraid my mom knew what it was about. i thought it was SO risque; i must’ve been 11. needless to say i made LMW’s body of work (she of the Beanie Malone series, as well) my menu for the library’s summer reading program and got some sort of prize that year. wonderful situation romance. and from the looks of contemporary reviews, her writing holds up.

    If Kate has the slightest penchant for nerdly fantasy, she might be ready for Ursula LeGuin. I found “The Lathe of Heaven” in high school but i could have digested it earlier. (Peter and I read it out loud when he was in junior high. That reading-aloud thing never gets old, we find.)

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  48. nancy said on June 10, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    All great suggestions. I especially hear whoever it was said that summer reading should be fun. It certainly should, but some people need a little push out of their comfort zone, too. (I did. For me it was horse books until the horses came home.) So I’m trying to be the “if you liked this, maybe you’ll like that” service on Amazon, with an eye toward classics. All who suggested titles from the fantasy/magic/wizardry genre, thanks but. I tried to get Kate interested in Harry Potter a while back, and she was utterly meh about it. She’s very interested in books about the here and now, although she went through the Lemony Snicket catalog like the proverbial hot knife and butter. I loved them nearly as much, and the movie was great.

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  49. LAMary said on June 10, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    My kids were not Harry Potter fans either and they had reactions to Lemony Snicket similar to Kate’s. I’m trying to reach back 44 years and remember what biographies really intrigued me. Ameila Earhart, Jenny Lind, Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie were some I read. The library is full of good biographies for young readers.

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  50. MichaelG said on June 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I’d loan you my biography but it’s still in development.

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  51. brian stouder said on June 10, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Well Jolene – I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before seeing it, and your comment about the critics turned my head, so I went looking – and I did find this review


    which whacks the makers of the movie as “clunky” – but there is also a diologue at the end of the review that smokes the critics out a bit….and within which, they agree that a family will love the thing (which I can attest to!)

    edit – and, looking down the sidebar, it appears that the woman consistently likes movies better than the man – usually by 1/2 to 1 star. Clicking the “more reviews” button at that site, one finds that the woman liked Sex and the City more than the fellow, by three stars!

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  52. MaryC said on June 10, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks, coozledad. I’d like to have seen a stage production of We Have Always Lived in the Castle just to see how they would handle burning down the house.

    I’m probably no great judge of books for 12-year-old girls; when I was a 12-year-old girl I liked S.J. Perelman. I spent my summers in the family cottage stocked with novels from the 40s and 50s handed down by older relatives so I probably read more Taylor Caldwell that your average teen. And Reader’s Digests of the same period, all of which I read cover to cover. There were some good selections in the Reader’s Digests but it never really dawned on me that I was reading truncated and bowdlerized versions of the originals (despite the word “Condensed” right there in the title, duh) until I finally read the full version of East of Eden and found all the naughty parts that the good folks at Reader’s Digest had left out.

    One book that I loved as a teenager: Jessamyn West’s Cress Delahanty. I remember the part where Cress, like all adolescents, is horrendously embarrassed by her parents who seem like the epitome of un-cool until one day she overhears them chuckling about her foibles and realizes that just possibly she embarrasses them.

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  53. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Brian: I just heard that Lake Delton will be out of commission until next year at least. Wanna stay with us? We have a double-sized futon, a twin bed and a sofa. The futon and twin bed are in separate rooms, but of course the sofa is in the living room. We can probably find another twin or cot for you. But we only have a closet-sized (literally, I think the room once was a closet; the house is 100+ years old) bathroom. And cats. The Dells are a long day-trip away, but families around here do it all the time. If you want, with the money you save you can get a hotel room and do an overnight, or maybe two. Milwaukee and Sheboygan are close by with Lake Michigan beaches within an easy drive. Pike Lake State Park is almost in our backyard. If you are scrambling to salvage your vacation, the offer is on the table.

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  54. Jolene said on June 10, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Not me, Brian. That was joodyb.

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  55. Jolene said on June 10, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I’m sure you know, Nance, that, in addition to their “if you liked this” feature, Amazon also has lots of lists, including one called “Summer Reading for Kids and Teens” and many others organized by topic and genre.

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  56. Debbie said on June 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I just read, again, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, as well as To Kill a Mockingbird…such great stories.

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  57. Dexter said on June 10, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Quite a day’s worth of suggestions…most of my recommendations have been mentioned.
    My books-du-jour were my stack I have about an event that happened 73 years ago, this day, June 10, 1935, in Akron, Ohio.
    A surgeon named Dr. Bob drained his fourth bottle of beer, just enough alcohol to steady his hand as he performed a surgical procedure. That was his last drink, and from that day forward sprang a program from ideas of a drunken stockbroker named Bill W. from Brooklyn, NY, and Dr. Bob, and a cast of millions, eventually, that showed people they only had not to drink that day.

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  58. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Congratulations on the anniversary, Dexter. My sister and I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my mom hadn’t died from alcoholism before fifty and my dad hadn’t died from probable addiction issues before sixty. Since the first step is admitting you have a problem, we always come to the conclusion that it would not have been pretty.

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  59. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    I’m just sitting here hitting refresh because it’s too damned hot to move. I moved a while ago to make a flatbread in the oven. A grievous mistake on several counts, but now, at least, a portion of dinner is cooked. Next I have to stir-fry some bell-peppers and onions with some soy steak marinated in a black-bean/ MSG sauce. Serve over flatbread with melted Mozzarella. Side of reduced-fat potato chips. Stop moving again.
    Yes, there are plenty of fat vegetarians.

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  60. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Especially as we get older, Coozledad. Stay away from the tomatoes until your garden starts producing.

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  61. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Sue: I tell myself that given the number of pathogens I’m exposed to on a daily basis from our sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, goats, dogs, cats, our sexually twisted cockatiel, and our lone rescue emu, that it will take a genetically engineered bioweapon to give me a stomach cramp. But my self knows I’ll lie my ass off, if only to get a pale foretaste of those acidic summer tomatoes. We should have some by the 4th of July, if we get some rain over the next couple of days.
    The ones I really enjoy, the black krim, seem to take a little longer.

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  62. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Christ. I forgot the pot-bellied pig rescues. Another really bad idea.

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  63. joodyb said on June 10, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    MaryC, i first read To Kill a Mockingbird in an RD condensation. My grandma subscribed and gave me all the ones she thought I could handle. a lucky break for a 9-year-old farm girl. i went back and read the unabridged much later in life.

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  64. alex said on June 10, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Dunno if a girl would groove to it, but I seem to remember at that age being totally fascinated with the Thor Heyerdahl books and the Kodachrome photography. The women in grass skirts and neon red lipstick were referred to as “vahines,” a joke that sailed right over my head until I learned as an adult that it’s not a Polynesian word for woman, just Thor Heyerdahl sneaking in the Spanish word for pussy.

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  65. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Re: Gene Stratton Porter — http://www.gspoutdoors.blogspot.com — good pictures, nice context for a unique antique author who is still pretty readable.

    I still like to recommend Dumas’ “Count of Monte Cristo” and “Three Musketeers” to reading minded young folks, as well as to their parents.

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  66. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Coozledad: You need rain? Would you like some of ours?

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  67. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Alex: You just reminded me of an out of print book that’s available on the web. The writing is a little artless, but probably more beautiful for it. It’s about Tom Neale abandoning the world to live alone on Suvarov Island for a year. The Polynesian woman who has archived the stuff includes some photos of him wearing a traditional island genital restraint sock, but aside from that, it should be perfectly acceptable for children and the squeamish.

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  68. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 10, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Which reminds me of Tusitala, Samoa’s Robert Louis Stevenson, who wears well, in print or on the screen — Treasure Island, David Balfour, Kidnapped, Master of Ballantrae, Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde, The Wrong Box, Sire de Maletroit’s Door.

    If you can find a more recent paperback copy (or, mirabile dictu, a hardbound) of “The Haunted Bookshop” by Christopher Morley with the Gorsline illustrations you and your young readers will be blessed. The Robert Heinlein juveniles are great, but you run the risk of making them want to keep reading past “Starship Troopers” to the book that was first “A Martian Named Smith.” “Podkayne of Mars” and “The Menace From Earth” are not the only Heinleins aimed specifically at young women, either.

    Years back i read an abridged “Ben-Hur” which made the case for abridgement as an art form, but i can’t find it again (Bantam Young Readers is what sticks in my mind, but it appears to be a false memory).

    . . . oooh, oooh — and Baroness Orczy (what a name for an author) had one good novel in her: “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and Leslie Howard in the 30’s movie version is flawless, but the book is Dumas-ishly fun. And “The Great Impersonation” by E. Phillips Oppenheim is not his only good read.

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  69. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 10, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Sans the Gorsline for the adults (not that adults wouldn’t love the Gorsline drawings) — http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/172

    “The Haunted Bookshop” is just plain charming, and a quick read for a summer evening.

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  70. Sue said on June 10, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Jane Austen.

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  71. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    They seek him here
    they seek him there
    those Frenchies seek him everywhere
    is he in heaven? , or is he in hell?
    That dimmed elusive Pimpernel.

    Leslie Howard was Hungarian by birth. I think he died on a secret bombing mission in WWII, flying for the Brits.

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  72. Catherine said on June 10, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Alex, you made me remember how fascinating The Voyage of the Kon Tiki was. Maybe it’s a natural progression from Little House on the Prairie. And one last thought, James Michener’s books, maybe starting with Hawaii.

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  73. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    By Jove, he’s got it — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Howard_%28actor%29

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  74. William said on June 10, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    I’d put Watership Down on the summer reading list.

    The sf nerd in me is jumping up and down sayin’ get her Little Brother.

    Also, the Earthsea books by LeGuin are wonderful.

    I think A Wrinkle in Time holds up just fine, and there are sequels to it that are mind=blowing as well.

    My summer reading? Nixonland … *heheh*

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  75. Mindy said on June 10, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    E. L. Konigsburg’s “Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth” was a favorite of mine at Kate’s age along with most everything else already mentioned. She might really like “Harriet the Spy” as well. I wasn’t big on fantasy at her age but really enjoyed both of these. Amazon lists “Jennifer..” as having had a face lift, so it might be more current.

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  76. velvet goldmine said on June 10, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Coozledad: Speaking of pathogens and chickens — can you suggest an efficient way for cleaning eggs? This is our first season of home-grown eggs (guinea hens) and I never realized how much…stuff…clings to some of the eggs.

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  77. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Velvet goldmine: When we carried market eggs, we cleaned them in warm water (with a finger brush) based on the premise that the contents will contract in cold water and draw the crap in through the permeable shell.
    Eggs have a natural antibacterial coating. Healthy keets emerge from very shitty eggs- that hen has to set them for 26-28 days, and she will only move off the nest to get water, a stray bug, or make a suicide dive at your head. I have the scars to prove it.
    Guinea eggs have an extremely thick shell. Every thing about Guinea fowl is strong out of proportion. But they are the most delicious boiled eggs- a delicacy. They remind me of French sheepsmilk cheese.
    (Editorial assistance provided by Coozlemom)

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  78. MaryC said on June 10, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    joodyb, I remember that edition of the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books! If I remember correctly, The Leopard by Prince Lampedusa and To Kill a Mockingbird were in the same edition. There were some good choices in those books but it’s the offbeat and funny ones that I remember most. Coming full circle, it’s where I read The Haunting of Hill House. And I also remember one edition had Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages with Shirley in a more Erma Bombeck frame of mind. Hard to believe the same person wrote both books.

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  79. coozledad said on June 10, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    MaryC: The Leopard and The Haunting of Hill House condensations must have appeared in Reader’s Digest as a sort of movie promotion. Both films came out that year. Burt Lancaster starred in Visconti’s the Leopard, over the director’s original angry objections. By the time the film was done, they were close friends. Really pretty movie. YouTube has some outtakes in the original Sicilian. (Italian, apparently. But the novel is set in southern Italy.)

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  80. brian stouder said on June 10, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    joodyb and Jolene – I apologize for my poor powers of reading comprehension!

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  81. Nancy said on June 10, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Books I loved at that age. Well, Black Beauty, Black Stallion, anything with a horse, basically, including anything by C.W. Anderson and Marguerite Henry. Francis Burnett has A Secret Garden and The Little Princess, both of which have heroines – one charming and talented, the other sullen and withdrawn. The whole Anne of Green Gables series, plus the Emily of New Moon books. If she liked fantasy I’d suggest George MacDonald and Andre Norton’s Magic Series. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Jester, which is funny, and has some marvelous word-play. Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, and her series about the Melendy family are lovely books about happy, interesting families. My Side of the Mountain by Jean George is fascinating fiction about a boy who goes to live by himself on a mountain.

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  82. basset said on June 10, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    hmmmm, I was just about to recommend “Starship Trooper”… strong female characters and a political system which could start some interesting discussions. “Time Enough for Love” and all the Ted Bronson stuff, though, you need to hold off on for quite awhile.

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  83. Cara said on June 11, 2008 at 1:26 am

    “My Friend Flicka” and O’Hara’s subsequent titles, Terhune’s “Buff a Collie”, of course Rawling’s “The Yearling”, and the little racoon,”Rascal”—all great animal stories. Nancy Drew, and the Trixie Belden series, if you can find them. “Rose in Bloom” by Alcott. “The Little Prince” and for the pure fun of finding them and letting the kids learn about their great grandparents’ times, the Bobsey Twins, and Heidi. These are all older works, but were great fun, nevertheless.

    My kids loved the Narnia series, and one was into science fiction by the age of 12. Every kid needs at least three doses of Mark Twain, and To Kill a Mockingbird is simply the best.

    What a fun topic!

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  84. Dexter said on June 11, 2008 at 2:09 am

    No surprise you are all so literate. When I retired I started visiting a used bookstore once a week. It was well-stocked with paperbacks by authors I had read many years before while a student. For five years I bought a stack of books every week and really enjoyed re-reading book I once HAD to read or was so young I missed a lot of nuances and references.
    All the Vonneguts, the Twains, the Steinbecks, the Dumas, the old sports bios and autobios, and I re-read all my Terkels.
    I met Studs Terkel twice, and he gave me a copy of “Hard Times” and inscribed it to me…I treasure that book.
    The only other first edition signed copy is a Jimmy Breslin hardback that I bought through the mail.
    So many more to mention, but I’ll just say this: Every child should be exposed to Tom and Huck , and all of Twain’s body of work , in good time, and should be kept away from H.L. Mencken until they reach adulthood. No sense in getting depressed while still a child!
    Not on any reading lists for years now, and forgotten except in Chicago and scattered literary centers, is Nelson Algren.
    His look into the life of hardscrabble Chicago made wonderful books. Time for me to read his works again.
    For a great dose of Chicago history, “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair.
    The best American prose for the youngster ready to bust-out into the world was written by Jack Kerouac. He wrote many more books than “On the Road” and “The Dharma Bums”.
    Try “Maggie Cassidy”, about Kerouac’s upbringing in Lowell, MA, circa 1938. I read it last January. I had forgotten what it was like to be a high school kid…Kerouac’s book brought back the memories, in color.

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  85. basset said on June 11, 2008 at 8:05 am

    y’know what, now that you mention it some Terkel could be a good choice for a smart 11-year-old… start with “Working,” maybe, and go from there. that and some early Heinlein, Robert Lacey’s biography of Henry Ford for local color… maybe a little too soon for Algren, though.

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  86. beb said on June 11, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Lots of people making lots of book recommendations. I guess this should not be surprising since this is a blog, that is a place where people who like to read, come to read. I was surprised that among all these recommendations no one had pointed to the harry Potter books. Well down in the comments nancy explains that her daughter wasn’t a Potter fan. Fair enough. Still I was surprised by the lack of recommendations because only a few years ago Potter was the biggest thing ever for children’s lit. Was the lack of recommendations because everyone assumed Kate would have already read them, or has Harry Potter fallen off the charts that fast?

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  87. nancy said on June 11, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Toward the end of Pottermania, I heard many people saying what I’d suspected all along — that the books were insanely overwritten, that there wasn’t a single one that couldn’t lose 100 pages, easy.

    Although we were in NYC last year when the final title dropped, and I can’t say it had lost much in popularity. We witnessed many people of all ages walking down the street reading, sitting on the subway reading, lounging on blankets in Central Park reading…


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  88. Sue said on June 11, 2008 at 8:54 am

    I agree that the later Harry Potter books were overwritten. Someone (is this what editors are for?) needed to rein in JK Rowling. But the first book is absolutely perfect – subversive British children’s lit at its very best, the natural progression from P.L. Travers through Roald Dahl to JK Rowling. Sorry, I’m not trying to sound snooty or literate; JK just did such a great job on the first one. She began to take herself too seriously later on, I think.
    And you know what we forgot? Poetry! Start her off with Casey at the Bat to keep in the summer mood. And Paul Revere’s Ride, around the fourth of July. Of course she’s already read them, but that’s not the point – they’re just fun to read. And it’s never too early for Robert Frost.

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  89. Emma said on June 11, 2008 at 9:23 am

    When I was about 11, I read “I Capture the Castle.” I still love it.

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  90. Emma said on June 11, 2008 at 9:38 am

    I’d also get her a load of Judy Blume. Too early? It’s never too early!

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  91. velvet goldmine said on June 11, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Can I leave some scattershot thoughts, in case anyone is still reading this thead?

    The Cooz: Thanks for the tips! We’ve been mostly cooking them ourselves, but we may take them to market, so I want them to look their best. Not to mention not poison people. They are incredibly thick shells, aren’t they? Good to remember about the warm water.

    Nancy, about My Side of the Mountain. I read that as a kid, and it was a version that had stillshots from the movie in the center (so did my stepsister’s paperback of Audrey Rose…shudder). Anyway, we just rented that movie a couple of weeks ago, and boy was it funny! There was something about the way the kid talked that just made you want to punch him in the nose. And that dude who befriends him and makes him little crafts and lives in the tree with him for a long time? He had pedarest written all over him.

    Harry Potter books may be overlong at first reading, when you’re anxious to see how the plot and subplots resolve, but as a collection, especially now that it’s all over, somehow you end up with that much more to treasure.

    Rowling and John Irving are the only over-writers who inspire that kind of indulgence in me, and the latter, not lately.

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  92. basset said on June 11, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    never could get interested in the Potters although my son devoured all twelve or seventeen or however many there are of them.

    you know who we’ve all left out of these recommendations… James Whitcomb Riley. we cannot let this child lose her Hoosier roots.

    in that case, throw in some Ernie Pyle… and the Dreiser/Dresser brothers… Wendell Willkie…

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  93. velvet goldmine said on June 11, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Since David Sedaris came up in the same thread as books for kids, for what it’s worth my kids really love him. That’s definitely a read-aloud and read-ahead recommendation, though. I either prune parts of certain essays or skip them altogether. While I think the one in which he went to clean a guy’s apartment, unknowingly triggering a Seinfeldian situation in which the client had meant to call a gigolo, was pretty funny, I don’t have time to explain all that.

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  94. grapeshot said on June 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Oh my, I was quite the bookworm in my youth and as a girl, I read all sorts of books, not just the “girly” ones! I read the Jeeves and Wooster books, I read Beau Geste, I read Jane Eyre, The Three Musketeers, and A Tale of Two Cities. As for “age appropriate”, let’s see what my recollection can come up with. Now…it’s very true that you cannot know what sort of book will grab a kid, and I agree with Connie above who says that summer reading should be fun, with the lessons being snuck in on the sly. To that end I recommend the following:

    1. The Rescuers by Margery Sharp
    There’s a whole series of these books, and they’re delightful adventure tales of Bernard, a field mouse, and his friend Miss Bianca, a well cared for household pet mouse. In each book the two mice and their friends work to right a wrong, usually rescuing some person from prison, or from being kidnapped. The sneaky thing about these books are that they are each sparkling examples of how to be good friends, and the contrast between the rough but endearing Bernard and the refined and classy Miss Bianca shows how people from all walks of life can and do get along together. (Disney made two animated movies from these books, and they, too, are underated gems. After reading the books, you two could watch the movies together and discuss the differences and similarities.) I was introduced to these books in college, by a guy who had read them when he was a child, so I think these books are suitable for both girls and boys.

    2. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
    A series of books about two sisters, and their neighbor, Henry Huggins. From Barnes & Noble:
    “Ramona Quimby is the youngest of all the famous characters in Mrs. Cleary’s wonderful Henry Huggins stories. She is also far and away the most deadly. Readers of the earlier books will remember that Ramona has always been a menace to Beezus, her older sister, to Henry, and to his dog Ribsy. It is not that Ramona deliberately sets out to make trouble for other people. She simply has more imagination than is healthy for any one person.”
    I really enjoyed reading the entire series as a child, and I imagine there have been more written since then.

    3. For the young reader who likes adventure stories, I would recommend anything written by Robb White. Looking on Barnes & Noble’s site, I see that only Deathwatch is still in print, but my recollection is that all of his stories were exciting adventures. I would check with your library to see if they maybe don’t have some of his titles. (His book, Up Periscope, was turned into a movie.) Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robb_White

    4. John Bellairs has written several series of supernatural stories — almost all of them involve a young protagonist who has to solve a riddle or a mystery. From Barnes & Noble:
    “John Bellairs, the name in Gothic mysteries for middle graders, wrote terrifying tales full of adventure, attitude, and alarm. For years, young readers have crept, crawled, and gone bump in the night with the unlikely heroes of these Gothic novels: Lewis Barnavelt, Johnny Dixon, and Anthony Monday.” I discovered John Bellairs as an adult, and still found his books interesting to read. (My theory is that good children’s book will also entertain people of all ages.) As a bonus, some of these are illustrated by Edward Gorey. There’s also The Little Vampire by Angela Somers-Bodenburg. I enjoyed reading this even as an adult, and there’s a pretty good movie that was made from it, too. From Amazon: “Tony, a 9-year-old horror story addict is delighted when a little vampire called Rudolph lands on his windowsill one evening, and together, the two have a series of hilarious adventures involving visits to Rudolph’s home—The Vampire Family Vault—where Tony narrowly escapes the clutches of Great-Aunt Dorothy.”

    5. How about a little scifi? Try The Triphods Trilogy by John Christopher. (White Mountains, The City of Gold and lead, and The Pool of Fire) Or you can try any of the books by Madeline L’Engle. (Some people would also recommend Andre Norton’s books, but I must confess that I never could get beyond a page or two whenever I tried one of them.) For a good fantasy series, try the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. Then there’s The Secret of NIMH (by John O’Brien), which is about some rats that became smart and escaped from a laboratory to form a colony. A widow named Mrs. Frisby, who is trying to save her son Timmy from pneumonia, meets the rats and the adventure begins! There’s a whole series of these books. My very favorite, however, was The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key (who also wrote Escape to Witch Mountain – a book vastly better than the dumb movie).

    6. Did you know that there was a WHOLE SERIES of Oz books? The Wizard of Oz was one of my all time favorite books, so you can imagine my surprise and pleasure at discovering that it was just the first of an entire series, most of them all written by L. Frank Baum. (Other authors wrote the later ones, and I cannot remember if their quality suffered or not.)

    7. I also enjoyed the classic children’s books by Francis Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. These are girly books, but their young heroines are plucky and survive the tough times they face. Recent movies (within the past 10 years) have been made of each book, and they compare well to the books. This is another couple of books/movies that could be used as a comparison/contrast discussion. (But for pete’s sake, stay away from the dreadful Shirley Temple version.) These books are both available for download at Project Gutenberg. Also, don’t forget Peter Pan, and the wonderful fairy tale novels by George McDonald — all are probably copyright free and likely are available at Project Gutenberg. (However, I never could get into anything by Robert Louis Stevenson, despite frequent urgings from my father.)

    8. Other classics that come to mind: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, the animal stories by Walter Farley, Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, Cricket In Times Square by George Selden and Garth Williams, and for very light reading, James Thurber wrote two wonderful little tales: The Story Of O and The Thirteen Clocks. Both of these are deceptively simple tales, which reveal a larger truth behind them, and the illustrations are enchanting. They are quick to read, but stay with you for a long time.

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  95. velvet goldmine said on June 12, 2008 at 8:18 am

    grapeshot, I keep meaning to try the Oz series. (One of the joys of adult life is reading “children’s literature,” it seems to me.) Oddly enough, the suggestion came from Tess Monaghan, the private eye in Laura Lippman’s series. She’s raved about them in more than one of the books.

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  96. brian stouder said on June 12, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    2. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

    I LOVED all of those books (I came at it from her Henry Huggins books), way back in the day!! Marvelous stuff

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  97. Cathy said on June 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Do kids still read Johnny Tremain? I’ll admit it- I loved it. My(still) favorite book is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. Loved, loved, loved “A Wrinkle in Time” also “My Side of the Mountain” and “Caddie Woodlawn”. I don’t recall the appropriate ages for those books but I think I was reading them around 5th or 6th grade.

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