Books we like (and why you should too)...


The Little Prince
Le Petit Prince
Antoine De Saint-Exupery, 1943
Harcourt, Inc.
83 pages
For children, and adults who still remember...

When Antoine De Saint-Exupery wrote "The Little Prince," he gave the world a gift. My son and I just finished reading it, and I think I enjoyed it more now than I did when I read it for the first time, many years ago. My son suggested we include it in our book reviews, so here goes.

Sublime, ethereal, and heart-achingly beautiful, this enchanting story cautions children and adults: Don't be too eager to forget the wonders of childhood. In Saint-Exupery's book, children understand things with clarity, while adults, caught up in their practical work-a-day world, miss out on the beauty that is found within the ordinary.

Written in the first person, De Saint-Exupery, a pilot, tells the story of being stranded in the Moroccan desert with plane trouble. He meets The Little Prince, a fragile extraterrestrial, who makes keen observations about life and what is really important.

Now, whether this is just a "children's" book is debateable. This is really a universal story that everyone can appreciate.

"Here is my secret. It's quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." The fox.




Rabbit Hill
Robert Lawson, 1944
Puffin Newbery Library
128 pages
Recommended ages: 8 through 12

Hard times have fallen on Rabbit Hill. Food is scarce and dogs are plentiful. When "new folks" move in to the farmhouse, Little Georgie, the rabbit, and all of his friends are excited and a little bit anxious as they wait and wonder about the new folks. Will they be kind and provide a bountiful garden for the animals or will they use traps and dogs to keep the animals away? Beautifully written by Robert Lawson, "Rabbit Hill" is a wonderful book for children and adults. I read this to my son and enjoyed it as much as when it was read to me for the first time. This timeless story will help promote kindness to animals and the environment. Highly recommended.




Ramona the Pest
Beverly Cleary, 1968
Scholastic, Inc.
192 pages
Recommended ages: 4 through (heck, I still love it)

Ramona Quimby is a smart, energetic and curious five-year-old who sometimes gets in trouble, or trouble seems to find her. Join Ramona on her adventures and see the world through the eyes of a kindergartner. Author Beverly Cleary really knows children and writes in a way that every child can identify with. Loved it as a child and still do! Great for preschoolers who have yet to make the move up to the "big show."




The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury
Celebrated Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud
Selected by Janet Schulman
Alfred A. Knopf, 1998
308 pages
All ages

This collection of children's stories, modern and classic, is a must-have for every parent. No kidding! This an incredible resource. The stories are color-coded by age range. For the youngest readers, there are "see and say" selections with few words to a page; the next step up selections are narrative stories with more words to a page, and then the next category are longer stories for older children.

We started reading these stories to our son when he was a toddler, and at age 10, he still finds great stories to read (and we still read and enjoy them together).

Great gift for new parents. Run out and get this book!




Henry and Ribsy
Beverly Cleary
Scholastic, Inc.
192 pages
Recommended ages: 7 through 12

Another great Beverly Cleary story. Henry Huggins (neighbor and friend to Beezus and Ramona) has to keep his dog Ribsy out of trouble so he can go on his first fishing trip with his dad. Now, for a dog who seems to find trouble, this is a tall order for Henry Huggins. This book is so entertaining, I found myself laughing out loud while reading with my son. Cleary really knows how to write for and about children. This is a fun book.




The Adventures of Captain Underpants (book series)
Dav Pilkey
Scholastic, Inc.
121 pages
Ages: 7 to 10 (And those adult children out there.)

Parents seem to be divided over Captain Underpants. If potty humor and intentional misspellings make you shudder, then these books probably aren't for you. Teachers we've spoken to like these books because they've found that they motivate children who aren't eager readers to begin with and get them excited about reading. All we know is that when our son was in first grade, he and all of his friends were big Captain Underpants fans, and as a result, they were constantly reading. And drawing pictures. Our son has made several comic books over the years that pay definite homage to Captain Underpants and his quirky creator, Dav Pilkey. (According to the author, when his name was misspelled as "Dav" on a name badge, he liked it and has been known as "Dav" ever since.)

Once your child has been introduced to Captain Underpants, they'll probably want to read more in this illustrious series with such titles as "The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby," "Captain Underpants and The Attack of the Talking Toilets," and many others.

For games and silly stuff, check out his website, pilkey.com.

For even more drollery, check out scholastic.com/captainunderpants. (check out the "Grownups Guide").

Now, go out there and be silly! "Tra-La-Laaaaa."




Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a novel in cartoons
Jeff Kinney
217 pages
Amulet Books
Just pre-teen, and adults who still remember...

Charlie, our middle schooler, brought home "Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a novel in cartoons" by Jeff Kinney the other day. I don't think I've ever seen him laugh so much at one book. Silly, gleeful laughter. The next day, he bought (with his own money) the next two books in the series and would have bought number four, the latest, but it was sold out.

Imagine that George and Harold of the Captain Underpants series have grown up and gone to middle school and you might have an idea of what the Wimpy Kid series is about. Kinney has tapped into his inner middle school self and offered up a glimpse into that mixed-up, angst-ridden, awful time. Charlie felt like the main character, Greg Heffley, was speaking directly to him. As I waited while Charlie had his orthodontic appointment, I read up to page 83 (it's a very quick read, with the pictures and all) and thoroughly enjoyed myself, laughing out loud (as quietly as I could in the waiting room).

So why don't parents like this series? We've heard that they're concerned with the occasional intentional bad grammar and Greg's sometimes questionable behavior. He's a slacker; not a motivated student. If you're offended by the word "booger" or the idea that a picture of Shel Silverstein is terrifying to young Greg, then this series probably won't work for you. Basically, as I said before, he's George and Harold a few years later.

My response to the concerned parents out there: Does anyone remember Mad Magazine? I grew up reading Mad, and, let me tell you, it was pretty bad. Much worse, in fact. And not only did I survive, but in high school I was reading Dostoyevsky by choice. In other words, I survived. When Charlie and I talked about adults not liking this series, he asked me, "Why do adults forget what it's like to be a kid?" That's a good question. We don't have to let go of our inner child. It's okay to laugh and be silly. Remember, middle schoolers are not fine, upstanding people. They can be pretty awful. Let them laugh. Give them something they want to read, and they just may grow up to be fine, upstanding adults.

Just don't get the cheese touch.