I was reading a post on Epbot where she reviews a few YA books that she has read recently and she gives The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley a rather lackluster review. I can understand her review because The Blue Sword is the one McKinley book that I don't really care for. But I didn't want one book to keep her from reading any more McKinley, so I left a comment echoing the prevailing sentiment that she should give McKinley one more try.
Commenting on the post and professing my continuing, love for The Hero and the Crown and Rose Daughter, I started thinking about all the other books that I started reading in elementary and middle school that I continued to return to on the days when just any book wouldn't do. The days when I needed to be more than a chubby little bookworm- I needed to fight a dragon, or become a sailor, or survive on my own in the wilderness.
So if you have a bookworm who needs some classics to return to again and again, here are some that worked for me:
The story of a girl who slays the dragon, but is wounded in the process and must struggle to heal not only her body, but her spirit.
A wonderfully unique take on the tale of Beauty and the Beast.
A girl from the 19th century discovers that she has what it takes to be a sailor. This book has a lot of rich characterization and detail about ships and sailing.
I was never really a rebel of any sort, but this book gave me a taste of rebellion for a good cause and standing up for what you think is right.
Probably my first taste of the science fiction idea of a flawed utopia. I love the way that a world similar but vitally different from our own is introduced, especially because the main character has lived his whole life in that world and doesn't know anything different.
This book combines an element of fantasy with a truthful look at the Holocaust. Like the rest of the recommended books, the main character may not be perfect, but she learns and grows and makes the right choices even when things are darkest.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
A wonderful book, almost a fairy tale, about a boy who appears and turns a neighborhood upside-down. He's allergic to pizza, he loves butterscotch krimpets and briefly lives in the zoo. He meets a girl who carries a library with her in a suitcase- I always wanted one. Fun and noble with warm fuzzies on the side.
Another vibrant character from Jerry Spinelli. Stargirl I think really helped me realize that being different isn't the end of the world and can be the best thing about you. It is also a sweet romance, real and innocent at the same time.
Not only are the characters quirky and fun and deep, but the whole book revolves around a trivia tournament. And somehow the answers tie in to the lives of the characters. Genius. Did you know the word "tip" started as an acronym for To Insure Promptness? Definitely a book that will stick with you.
I loved this book because it shows such a real family in such a perfect blend of fantasy and science fiction. And this was a book that I loved the first time through but I definitely didn't understand all of it at first. This was a book that I didn't reread just because I loved it, but because every time I reread it there was something I didn't notice before.
It was kind of odd that I loved this book, because I did not enjoy being outside myself very much. But I loved the courage and resourcefulness that the main character showed just trying to eat, something I always took for granted.
Now, believe me, I am a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy- some of that love came from some of these books, but I wish that some of the YA books coming out about wizards and vampires now had half as much heart and character depth that I cherished in this book. Harry Potter does, and a few others, but not nearly enough. This book is probably the one on the list most firmly grounded in the real world, the others have, at the very least, a touch of "magical realism." But it doesn't feel the need to say, "Look how real I am! Aren't you impressed by how real I am?!?" It simply is. And that makes a huge difference.
Going through these books, I didn't realize that so many of them were Newbery award winners! Just so you know, I was not exactly a picky or discerning reader as a kid. I read Babysitter's Club and Saddle Club and Sweet Valley Twins books like they were popcorn, but these were the books that I kept coming back to. I hope this list inspires at least one person to give a book they haven't read a try, or to rediscover an old friend.
P.S. Ok, so not exactly short and sweet, but I hope you stuck with me :-)