Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Review of Children's Books

For my class on "Writing for Children," I need to keep an annotated list of all the children's literature I have been reading. It is fun to read books that I have not read since middle school and high school. I will be posting my reading list here to keep all of you updated! Enjoy and remember the joys of childhood reading!
Reading List

Writing for Children

Book 1:

January 22, 2010

Jane Eyre. Author: Charlotte Bronte. Publisher:London: Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill. 3rd edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s. Year Published: 1996. Book style: classic novel. 441 pages.

Plot: A novel that was considered ahead of its time, Jane Eyre, abounds with social criticisms and the journey from youth to adulthood. It tells the life story of young Jane. The story takes us from her childhood at the abusive hands of her relatives, to Lowood School where she acquires friendship and role models while still having some hardships, to her position as governess at Thornfield where she falls in love with the Byronic character Mr. Rochester, to her time spent with the River's family where her cousin St. John proposes a marriage that would be without love, till finally when she is reunited with her beloved Rochester.

Learned and Observations: I have been reading the story of Jane Eyre since I was a young girl. The first time I received the novel was as a gift from my Aunt Chickie. I immediately fell in love. It is a love story that shows the harsh realities of life. The author, Charlotte Bronte, is an amazing author. She truly knows how to spin a tale that keeps your interest from start to finish. When Jane is away at school she meets a young girl named Helen burns. This is the first time we really see someone being a friend to young Jane. It shows a sign of hope. Helen teaches Jane about humility, religion, and how to hold her tongue. The author shows children that sometimes it is necessary to think before you speak which is a very important lesson. Throughout the novel Bronte teaches important lessons such as this in a way that a child or young girl could relate. Jane's new life at Thornfield Manor is very different from her life at Lowood. During this section of the novel Jane really changes from having a young girl's feelings to a woman's love. There is a lot of foreshadowing in this section and always that under current that there is something about Thornfield that we do not know. I think the author does an amazing job with foreshadowing the events that will come about in the novel. I hope to be able to do half as good a job in my own writing. Jane Eyre is a classic novel that everyone should read at some point in their lives. It is a great novel for young women to read. It shows the signs of first love and first heartbreak. Bronte uses many techniques in her writing that make the novel the classic that it became.

Book 2:

January 23, 2010
The Boxcar Children. Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner. Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company. Year published: 1990. Book Style: Youth Chapter book. 154 pages.

Plot: The Boxcar Children, is the first book in a series of books called The Boxcar Children. This first story introduces us to 4 siblings, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. These 4 children have lost their parents and are living on their own because they do not want their grandfather to find them because they are afraid of him. They believe he is cross and will not like them. The children are out in a storm one night when they come across an old red boxcar. It provides them with shelter from the storm and they decide to make it their home. The children are doing fine on their own till one day young Violet gets ill. This is when Henry brings the doctor to their boxcar, although the doctor already knew where they were living. The children go and stay with the doctor for a few days and he brings their grandfather to meet them. He doesn’t say who it is though so the children learn to like their grandfather before they know who he is. In the end everything works out and the children go to live with their grandfather. He ends up bringing their boxcar home to his backyard, so the children will always have it to go visit if they want to.

Learned and Observations: The author uses many interesting facts in her story to really bring the reader in. it shows children living on their own and taking care of themselves so it serves as a way for children to be independent from their parents. The children also come up with inventive ways of doing things. For example they make refrigerator out of a whole in a rock near the water. They also make a pool by making a dam in the water near their boxcar. The oldest brother, Henry, works in the town for a local doctor and earns them a little bit of money each day. This story is great for young children because it inspires independence and mystery. The author has the children inventing things and managing to take care of themselves. The chapters are short and to the point and are well illustrated. Each chapter is well named for what it is talking about. The way the author named each chapter does a good job of dividing up the story for the reader. It is a great introductory novel for what is a wonderful mystery series for young children.

Book 3:
January 29, 2010
Don’t Hurt Laurie. Author: Willo Davis Roberts. Publisher: Aladdin Books Macmillan Publishing Company. Year Published: 1988. Book Style: Youth chapter book. 166 pages.

Plot: “‘You have no consideration for anyone else! Now clean up this mess!’ Laurie bent down to pick up the things she’d dropped. And Annabelle kicked her…” In the story, Don’t Hurt Laurie, a young girl is keeping a very dangerous secret. Her mother, Annabelle, is hurting her. Laurie lives with her mother, and her two step siblings, and once in a while her stepfather comes home. The family moves a lot because Annabelle does not want Laurie to make any friends, and she also doesn’t want hospital personal to recognize Laurie. As soon as both of these things start to happen the family moves. Luckily this time the family moves in next door to a family with a young son named George. George has health issues; he has a bone disease and problems with his legs. He becomes Laurie’s first true friend and one of the reason’s things will finally change in her young life.

Learned and Observations: In this book a lot of important issues are brought up. Through the main character the issue of child abuse arises. The author shows children the scary and dark side of child abuse, but in a way they can relate to. Laurie has these serious problems at home but she is also like a regular kid. She is scarred her first day at a new school, she fears that adults will not believe her, she has a mean teacher at school, and she gets excited when she is invited to a birthday party for a friend. Laurie’s character goes through ups and downs and you really come to care about her in a short few pages. The book isn’t very long, but it does a great job of covering the issue and all that would come along with it. It covers Laurie gaining the courage to talk with a teacher. But then the teacher ends up leaving the school before she can. It shows her making friends for the first time and relating to her step brother. In the end when Laurie finally gets hurt so badly that she tells an adult it is done very well. The step grandma in the story is the one the kids go to and it is written very well. When Laurie finally has someone to believe her I actually cried. It is such a happy part of the book and yet sad at the same time. I hope to be able to write with enough emotion to convey that sort of feeling in my readers. I learned from this book that it is possible to teach children about important issues in a short concise way that still catches their interest. Even when the subject matter is sad or scary it still needs to be dealt with and it can be done in an interesting relatable way.

Book 4:
January 30, 2010
Who let girls in the boys locker room? Author: Elaine Moore. Publisher: Rainbow Bridge. Year Published: 1994. Book style: youth chapter book. 144 pages.

Plot: The plot of this book is very simple and straightforward. It is all about what happens when budget cuts cause the girls basketball team to be eliminated. At Jefferson Junior High School three girls, Smidge, Skye, and Keisha join the boys basketball team. The story goes through how the girls and boys learn to get along together and really whether or not they can in time for the big basketball game against their arch rivals.
Learned and Observed: This story is great for kids who like sports or even for those who don’t. It goes through the experiences that a young kid would face when they first start Junior High School. That change when you’re not in elementary school, but you’re not in high school either. The author does a good job of showing that important time in a tween’s life.

Book 5
January 30, 2010
Claudia and the Phantom Phone calls. Author: Ann M. martin. Publisher: Scholastic Inc.. Year Published: 1986. Book style: youth chapter book. 153 pages.

Plot: Claudia and the Phantom Phone calls, is the second book in a series of books called The Baby-Sitters Club. The Baby-Sitters Club is a club formed by 4 girls, Kristy, MaryAnn, Claudia, and Stacey. They have meetings three times a week in Claudia’s room, because she has her own phone line, and all the parents in their area can reach the baby-sitters to schedule when they need them. In most of the books there is some kind of mystery that needs to be solved and of course the girls are there to solve it. In this book there is a Phantom Caller in the area who is a jewel thief. The caller calls houses and doesn’t say anything when people answer and than he robs them of their jewelry. The girls worry about what would happen if a burglar ever came to the houses they baby-sit at. They make plans and talk about what they would do. The girls get frightened because they keep getting prank calls just like the phantom caller while they are baby-sitting. They all go through jobs where they are frightened and their regular lives in Junior High School. Eventually the mystery is solved and everything works out.

Learned and Observed: This book is one of a great series of books. I read this series when I was younger. They have well over a hundred books, plus specials, super editions, and mystery editions. When I was growing up it was a very popular series. Children still read them today. While the girls in the book are in seventh grade it would most likely be fourth or fifth graders reading the books. The book does a great job of being relatable for young girls. In this book Claudia, has to hide candy from her parents, has an older sister she feels she cannot live up to, and a group of close knit friends. One of the girls is an artist, one is very shy, one is a tom-boy, and one is very pretty and from New York so she seems older. There is a girl for all types of kids to relate with. The girls go through waiting to be asked to a school dance, dealing with crushes on boys, and having to study for a math test. All sorts of things that a regular tween would have to deal with. The book is well written and a fun mystery for young girls. There is really only one problem I have with the book that I think is unbelievable. At the very end of the book the girls talk about how much money they each made from baby-sitting that week. For one it really has nothing to do with the story so it’s a strange way to end it. On the other hand the amount of money the girls say that they made is very unbelievable by today’s standards. It is also unlikely for the nineties which is when I originally read the series. It is the one factor in the book that doesn’t really make sense and isn’t really relatable for kids who currently baby-sit. Otherwise on the whole this book and the whole series is great for young girls.


AJ Harbison said...

I took a Children's Lit class in college and absolutely loved it. Actually Eleanor took the same class and had the same teacher, which was fun.

Is Jane Eyre really considered a children's novel?

I read The Boxcar Children a long, long time ago, but I remember really liking it when I read it.


Nicole said...

Hey AJ,
Yes Jane Eyre is really a children's book, not a young book obviosuly but more like a YA (young adult) novel. It's a classic. You'd be surprised how many of the classics are considered children's books. In like the Victorian age and on it was a golden age of children's literature and so many classics were written for children. In the olden days children were just expected to read at a higher level than they are today. Which is actually a good thing. I think children today honestly don't have enough expected of them, they can do more than we think! That's great that you took a class with Eleanor. Must have been fun. Make sure you check out my Hamlet VS Satan paper and my How to one as well I hope you'll like them!

Lauren Bishop-Weidner said...

My kids loved Boxcar Children (I didn't so much, but they did). Jane Eyre--I don't agree that it is appropriate for YA, but what do I know. One thing I do know is that love does NOT take away the difficulties of dealing with blindness, and even in high school, with romantic blinders firmly in place, I questioned Jane's "victory" in getting to take care of Rochester for the rest of her life. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but it really bugs me that the ending is so pat. Also, I recently did a reread of both Bronte girls' classics (Wuthering Hts and J.E.); I was struck (and surprised, and a little saddened) to discover that these novels that I loved as a nerdy teenager struck me as overly simplified, overly romantic, as an adult. Especially Heathcliff. I thought he was just about the sexiest thing I'd ever met, as a teenager. As an adult, he's nothing more than an abusive ass. These are fun, Nicole:) I will try to read more.

Nicole said...

See you just said you do not think that Jane Eyre is appropriate as a YA novel and yet you enjoyed it as a teenager so apparently it was for you? Isn't that a bit of a contradiction love? I know the book is full of romantic notions but I think as a young teenager so are we and that is why it appeals to that age group. Yes at first it may be a little harder to read or understand but I think that is good for kids. They should read the classics and push themselves to learn more! I'll keep writing if you keep reading!