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Good Books for Great Readers

You know about The Great Books and even the best books, but what about plain old good books? These books are the meat and potatoes of a child’s reading life especially those children who read constantly. My son James read The Hobbit in one day. I don’t recommend that but it happens. My oldest son, Timothy, and I spent all evening quizzing James on minute details from the book to refute his claim but he had indeed read it all. With an appetite like that it was hard to keep James in books which is why if you come to my house today you will find book shelves in every room and the garage.

Often parents and teachers with a voracious reader on their hands resort to the public library. The library can be a fantastic place for the avid child reader but I have found that the library is only as good as we make it. If we aren’t careful our children will spend all their time reading the latest gross-out literature or mindless series. While some modern book series are not too bad, it can often be the case of the OK being the enemy of the good. Ever since Harry Potter refreshed the children’s book market we have been barraged with mediocre attempts to repeat the phenomenon.

I hate this situation because many old faithful children’s authors are being pushed off of library shelves to make room for selections from the new book mills. Someone once gave me a rule of thumb for choosing fiction for children. Avoid books published after 1960. This rule worked well in our family. With a little work you can educate yourself to recognize old library cast-offs for your own home or school library or you can use this knowledge to make your trip to the library less a game of chance.

Here is a list of 11 (I just couldn’t keep it to 10) often overlooked authors with their most well-known work in parenthesis. Each of these authors has written numerous titles to keep your book-hungry child satisfied.

  • Walt Morey (Gentle Ben)
  • Albert Payson Terhune (Lad, a Dog)
  • Jim Kjelgaard (Big Red)
  • Jack O’Brien (Silver Chief) Highly recommended. I try to buy used hardcover copies of these books for my grandsons.
  • Stephen Meader (possibly The Black Buccaneer)

Mr. Meader’s many books are still collectibles so it is rare to find one available at a reasonable price but if you keep your eyes open you may find one at Goodwill or a library sale, and there is at least one title free for Kindle which means that more will become available in the future. Your library will likely still have Meader available to check-out.

  • Walter Farley (The Black Stallion)
  • E. Nesbit (The Railway Children)
  • Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons)
  • Gene Stratton-Porter (Freckles)
  • Carol Ryrie Brink (Caddie Woodlawn)

Most people have heard of Caddie Woodlawn but don’t forget to try some of Brink’s other titles. Our family enjoyed Family Grandstand the best.

  • Piet Prins (Scout)

This Dutch Christian writer deserves a special award for highly literate Christian historical fiction for children. Once you read one you will want to read all of his titles.

These are just a few of the many excellent authors who wrote for children before the current library climate, mostly before 1960. I hope you have heard of and enjoyed reading some of these authors already and I also hope that the list contains a few surprises for your child’s reading pleasure.

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