When I write the words "children's books" I naturally think of ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll. This book I've read many times through the years mostly because it is such a superbly crafted, wonderfully written, imaginative piece of literature. It actually goes well beyond the Children's category, and shouldn't be dismissed as just that. This book takes on philosophy, linguistics, politics, justice, and so on, and so on. The absurdity in the language and actions of the characters underline the basic limitations of our society and each other. ALICE IN WONDERLAND is an absolute masterpiece. I love it, and always have. ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS also.
There are exceptional works of literature directed towards children, but most of the them have been written a century or so ago. My wife and I have always read to our children, but almost always read the old classic children's books to them---uncensored. What I mean by this is take for instance the Brother's Grimm. Their FAIRY TALES are stark and at times quite frightening, but they hold a confirmed truth in the stories that cannot be undermined. Lately, certain groups have been trying to "water down" these classics in order to present a "nice" version of the Tales so that their kids don't see the really nasty side of life. Kids will learn about that side of life soon enough, you can be sure. I don't believe in this, but then I'm just a purest when it comes to literature.
Other books for children are; THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame. This is a wonderful Wimsey tale of very English animals in a delightful caper, where Toad is the uncontrollable gamester. It's excellent. And then, of course, you have all the WINNIE THE POOH series by A.A. Milne. That lovable old bear with his many friends. These books are a great delight, and children love these adventures.
I really have to say something about Walt Disney, and his compulsive trashing of the classics in his ridiculous cartoons. I don't think there is anyone or any company who has done so much damage to the world's greatest children's classics then Walt Disney. He(and his company) have altered, toned down, rearranged, rewritten, and damaged beyond repair almost all the old classic literature for children. Children now see Scrooge as a duck, Alice as an air-head, Winnie the pooh as a sap, and so on. It's a shame. Until these kids actually read the books, they will only "know" these great characters as Disney erroneously presented them in the cartoons. Therefore, I think, there are a lot of people who have never really read these books, and don't really know them, even when they think they do because they saw the Disney cartoon. It is a shame.
Anyway, enough of the rant. Other books are anything by Robert Louis Stevenson. THE BLACK ARROW, TREASURE ISLAND, KIDNAPPED, of course. DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is not a child's book, and Stevenson nearly got beaten up for writing it. People at that time couldn't understand why he would write such an evil novel---we're glad he did.
Today there are many, many books directed to children, and not all squeaky clean either. Any of the wonderful Harry Potter books comes to mind. I read them all. My daughter sent me the first one way back a few years ago, and told me to read it. I did, and I was hooked. The Harry Potter series is quite excellent, quite exciting, and quite rich in anything written in this field. Maybe in a later post I'll talk exclusively about HP.
Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT series is also very popular, and directed toward the young. I find this series at times very silly, poorly written, and does not contain any valuable literary worth. But it's fun to read, and enjoyable to follow the characters. Anything to keep people, no matter whet age, to continue to read.
Neil Gaiman's CORALINE is also a very good "modern" child's book. Nightmarish and exciting---although a few things "lifted from ALICE---this book ranks up there with one of the best. But I don't think it will actually have lasting appeal.
My next post will be my "50th". I don't believe it! I usually bail out from anything like this by now. I must celebrate, so my next post theme will remain a mystery