Paul reads to the kids each night, but because they’re so spread out in age, he reads to them in three groups: first to just Henry (age 4), then to Elizabeth and Edward (age 6), and then to Rob and William (12 and 10). (The plan is to eventually combine the two younger groups, but right now Henry is still a little disruptive in a group and does better one-on-one.) Henry still likes picture books. Elizabeth and Edward like the short chapter books like the Franny K. Stein series. But Rob and William are in YOUNG ADULT. Well, or maybe in “old childhood”—they don’t quite go for the ones about pimples and dating yet.
Old Childhood / Young Adult is a strange field to navigate, especially if you have children who are a little…sensitive about scary or violent stuff. Young Adult assumes that kids can start to handle some more serious plotlines: some social commentary, some unhappy home life, some not-always-turning-out-right, some GRIM.
I like to put a book in each kid’s Christmas stocking, so I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite books from when I was that approximate age range.
Beloved Benjamin is Waiting, by Jean Karl (photo from Amazon.com). As a child and young adult, I loved the sort of books where children had to handle their own care. In this one, a girl named Lucinda has a family life that has disintegrated to the point where it’s no longer safe for the children to live there. Lucinda hides in the abandoned caretaker house in a graveyard, hiding not only from her home life but from a gang of kids that starts picking on her. In the caretaker house is a broken monument statue of a little boy—and the statue starts talking with her. I looked this up at my library but they no longer have a copy, so I ordered a used one from Amazon. Childhood books are often disappointing when re-read as an adult, so I’m a little worried, but I also wonder if my kids might be as fascinated with it as I was.
The Children Who Stayed Alone, by Bonnie Bess Worline (photo from Amazon.com). This is another from the “children taking care of themselves” category I liked so much. I’m pretty sure this is the one where the oldest girl is named Phoebe and I pronounced it fo-EEB. It takes place in Laura Ingalls Wilder-type times. Five children are left to fend for themselves for an extended period of time when a blizzard keeps their parents from coming home from separate errands. (Spoiler: they do fine.) Oh! Speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder, it’s a little like that section in Farmer Boy where the kids have to stay by themselves and not eat ALL the sugar—but a whole book of it, and more anxiety because the weather is bad and the circumstances are unanticipated.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (photo from Amazon.com). Oh, man, ROMANTIC much? Well, to a 6th grader, or whatever I was at the time. Re-reading it now, I’m as freaked out as I am by Twilight: even if an immortal person has the BODY of a teenager, why would their MIND still be attracted to teenagers? At my age, I’M already not attracted to teenagers anymore. Thinking of a 200-year-old man being attracted to a high school kid is…really icky. And in Tuck Everlasting, the girl isn’t even a teenager yet. But I lovvvvvvvvvvved this book as a child, and didn’t see it as icky at all: I thought of the immortal guy as having a mind stuck at the same stage as his body.
Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit (photo from Amazon.com). On long car trips, my parents limited us to five or ten books each (depending on how much room we had in the car). My brother and I always chose this as one, because we both liked it and we were trying to double our bringing-power. (In fact, it was a bit of a cheat: our library had a single-volume set that also included The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet. Like getting SIX books for the price of one, since both of us could read all three!) Five children find a wish-granting creature and they try out all the classic wishes: wishing to be able to fly, wishing to be rich, wishing to be big.
What were some of your favorite books as a young adult (or as an older child)?
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