The Sunday Indianapolis Star generally leaves me a little blue (Gannett and their weekly fluff-and-stuff) but today, it seemed a little more sad than usual. Today it announced that children's book author E.L. Konigsburg had passed away (see page A21). For those who've never heard of her, she was a Newbery Medal Winner, and the author of one of my favorite all-time kids' books: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a book which retains its charms even to an adult reader. Now that I think about it, there's probably a very tiny fraction of my highly-impractical Art History degree that I might owe to Claudia, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the late Ms. Konigsburg.
In memory and honor of E.L. Konigsburg, I thought I'd post some books I hope kids still read, skewed toward the feminine– or at least, a list of books it would be a shame if no kid looks at anymore. The list, generally speaking, is probably geared for ages 6-12, though some will be a little younger or older. And heck, if your girl-children (or boy-children) won't read 'em, some of you adults may enjoy reading or re-reading them (many of them are, well, very fast reads).
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. (1868) Despite my heartless fourth-grader teacher's statement that it was a poor book report choice because it's “too sweet,” this is a really great book. Sentimental, yes. Sweet, yes. But not saccharine.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. A Little Princess. (1905) Also, The Secret Garden. (1909-1911)
Cleary, Beverly: Actually, for this one, not a book, but many. Otis Spofford, Ellen Tebbits, Henry Huggins, Henry and Ribsy, Mitch and Amy, and all the Beezus/Ramona books. She wrote prolifically, from the silly (the Ralph-mouse-motorcycle things) to the serious (Dear Mr. Henshaw). Like most of the other books on the list, these books will seem dated, but that's okay. The heart is solid.
Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows. (1908)
Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (1967)
Lowry, Lois. Anastasia Krupnik. (1979).
Montgomery, Lucy Maud. Anne of Green Gables. (1908) And also, Emily of New Moon (1923), The Story Girl (1911), and Chronicles of Avonlea (1912).
Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game. (1979) Smart, funny, fast, with a surprisingly moving finish.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter. All of 'em.
Sainte-Exupéry, Antoine de. The Little Prince. (1943)
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. (1963) Every full moon I've ever seen since reading this book has made me think of it. Happily.
Speare, Elizabeth George. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. (1958). I actually re-read this one a couple years ago and it was sadly disappointing to my grown-up eyes. However, to an 8 or 9 year old child, I think it would still be interesting. (I still remember how exotic and new the book seemed as a kid, with “Barbados,” the sea, and peacock-blue kid slippers. Not to mention, reading it young adds a new dimension to the primary school Thanksgiving lessons and primes one a little bit to middle-school readings of colonial history into The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible).
Streatfeild, Noel. Ballet Shoes. (1936)
Honorable Mentions: White (Charlotte's Web), Wilder (The Little House books), Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia), Woolley (Ginny Joins In), Parish (Amelia Bedelia series), Lindgren (most famous for Pippi Longstocking but I always preferred Mischievous Meg)
(Illustration: Mary Engelbreit)