I mentioned before that I’ve been going through an adult fiction (no not THAT kind), reading streak to stretch my perspective and challenge my mind a bit. (and increase my vocabulary, I’ve picked up these words among others: commove, impecunious, and avoirdupois). It feels good, like yoga for the brain.
So, this week I decided to ask some fellow writers (and one husband) what their favourite books were when they were 10. And why.
I’ll start with The Husband, whose favourite book was THE SPY LADY AND THE MUFFIN MAN by Sesyle Joslin. It’s actually the only kids book he owns other than The Places You Will Go (by Dr. Seuss).
I read his copy 8 years ago when we exchanged favourite kids books (he read my copy of Phantom Tollbooth).
It’s about four brothers and sisters, the members of the Secret Society For The Detection And Solution Of Crime, who are faced with a dull summer on Cape Cod with their single Dad until the Spy Lady comes to live next door. Of course everything she does is highly mysterious and they make it a point to figure out her evil plans. They’ve got code names and disguises, and the book contains the children’s spy log book and is illustrated by the youngest brother.
I won’t tell you how it turns out, just in case you can get a copy of it. But it’s definitely more Harriet the Spy than Alex Rider. It is Cape Cod after all.
When I asked my husband why he liked the book so much he said, I liked the humour in it. And I loved kids books in which the kids were spies. I don’t think that trend has changed. I think kids still love stories about young sleuths.
Speaking of… Tod McCoy (author and publisher) said that his favourite books were ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE THREE INVESTIGATORS (by William Arden and a few other authors). Thirty books in the series were released between the years 1964 and 1979. I hadn’t heard of this one either (when I mentioned them to The Husband he said – Oh, I loved those books).
According to GoodReads, these classic mystery/adventure stories feature three boys who establish a detective firm with the motto “We Investigate Anything!” In the first book in the series, the boys arrive for an overnight visit at Terror Castle–home of a long-deceased horror movie actor–and soon find that the place lives up to its name.
Of this series, Tod says: it had almost nothing to do with Alfred Hitchcock. Why did he like it? There was just something so cool about having a junkyard all to yourselves, with secret entrances all over the place.
And finally, author friend Jennifer D. Munro (who I will ALWAYS be jealous of for being anthologized in the book The Bigger the Better the Tighter the Sweater – for those who know your Judy Blume), had this to say about one of her favourite childhood book series: the THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.
I recently re-read the first Little House on the Prairie and loved it. I learned all kinds of things, like how they made a balloon for the kids out of the pig’s bladder after it was slaughtered, and how Ma at certain times of the year would strain grated carrots to add more color to the butter (at other times of the year, depending on what the cow was eating, the butter was already yellow enough), and how for guests they would buy white granulated sugar instead of the lowbrow brown sugar or natural maple syrup they had. I don’t think I understood any of that when I read it growing up in Hawaii.
At least with Little House, they weren’t missing a parent (or two) like so much kids’ lit. (Nancy Drew and Black Stallion both feature a kid with one dead parent.)
I didn’t see a real prairie until I was 35… Yup, on our cross country motorcycle trip, we ended up by accident on Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway.
Why would a little girl in Hawaii care about Little House on the Prairie? Because I think it had all of those universal themes, most important of which was how was Santa going to get to them during a record blizzard on Christmas?
I am fairly certain I never read any of the Prairie books. I was, like Tod and The Husband, more into spies. But, perhaps I’ll give them a shot one day. They are classics, after all. Plus I want to find out how to make a balloon from a pig’s bladder.
Are there any old, out of print, hard to find children’s books that were your favourites?
FOR MORE MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY POSTS, VISIT Shannon Messenger’s Blog