Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

Recommended Posts

I'm re-reading that Circe thread from 8 or so years ago as I think about literature for my daughter. I agree with the idea of the "good books before the great books." But I'm not inspired by the lists of "good books." (Example - The Thousand Good Books by John Senior I am not going to introduce literature to my 9 year old daughter that is racially insensitive or contains misogynistic ideas. 

Is there a list of modern "good books?" Books that are well written, with complex vocabulary but with modern sensibilities? I've used the Bravewriter Arrow lists to find good books. I appreciate that Julie Bogart selects books about diverse characters. 

My daughter is in the 7-12 age range and I doubt we would ever read most of the books on the linked list for that age range. Also, whenever I review the John Senior I always wonder why these books? What makes them "good books?" Is it because they are old? I can't help but suspect that there is a matter of taste here. John Senior liked these books so they are "good books." There definitely appears to be a prejudice towards "boy books" on the list. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I checked out the reading lists for Angelicum Academy because its curriculum is supposedly based on the "good books." The list for 4th grade is below. Some of these books strike me as strange. I read Jules Verne as a child but is it really a classic? Classic enough to make up for its problematic views on women and race? I'd never heard of the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs so I researched them. Some people consider these books to be racist. Angelicum likes it well enough assign FIVE books in the series in the 4th grade. More than Alcott, Twain, or even Henty. What makes these books good enough to be assigned reading? IDK. 

LITERATURE – THE GOOD BOOKS PROGRAM
Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
Captain’s Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
Call of the Wild by Jack London
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Kidnapped! by Robert Louis Stevenson
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Knight of the White Cross by G. A. Henty
Story of a Bad Boy by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Cat of Bubastes by G. A. Henty
Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Tale of the Western Plains by G. A. Henty

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My favorite for girls that age is Esperanza Rising. DD loved it. It is a 'good book' with complex  vocabulary, characters and storylines. I don't have a comprehensive list tho. One Crazy Summer is also a good book. The language is less complex but the storyline can challenge students to think deeply on a number of levels.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Sneezyone said:

My favorite for girls that age is Esperanza Rising. DD loved it. It is a 'good book' with complex  vocabulary, characters and storylines. I don't have a comprehensive list tho. One Crazy Summer is also a good book. The language is less complex but the storyline can challenge students to think deeply on a number of levels.

Thanks. We listened to both of these books on Audible. Esperanza Rising was one of my DD's favorites. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Man, you and I are on the same page here. Are you okay with a VERY LONG LIST? Also, other than the isms, is there anything you want/need to avoid? Obviously you have to pre-read because everybody has different standards, but...?

  • Like 2
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Man, you and I are on the same page here. Are you okay with a VERY LONG LIST? Also, other than the isms, is there anything you want/need to avoid? Obviously you have to pre-read because everybody has different standards, but...?

I don't mind a long list. 

My daughter is very sensitive to the deaths of animals so I try to avoid books with animal deaths. She's still sad about Charlotte from Charlotte's Web. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking of old versus new books, I've been very impressed by some modern children's books. These books are very different from the books on the "good books" list in many ways One being that they are about female characters and include characters from diverse backgrounds. We recently listened to "Sweep, a Girl and her Monster" on Audible. That was a great book. Why read "Around the World in 80 Days" or Kidnapped instead of "Sweep?" 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your Angelicum list that you posted... I mean, some of those are still classics that are commonly read... I do think Verne is to some extent, but parts of it can be dreadfully dull. Little Women is still enjoyed by some families. So is Howard Pyle. Jack London is absolutely still a classic. But... Henty was a racist and nothing in the quality of the cheesy boy-centric adventure stories he mostly produced makes up for that. And what kid is reading Burroughs these days? None of them. 

The Mensa and Arrow lists, as well as the Newbery and other ALA lists are good starting points. I also often go searching for summer reading lists from libraries and schools if I'm curious what is being widely read as "on level" for a particular grade. All of those things are harder to sort through if you don't know the books as well though. I'm sure Tanaqui will give you a solid list. She's got excellent taste.

I think there is a concern to be had about the reading level in books. There are a lot of beautiful books that are at a really pretty low reading level. The One and Only Ivan and many of Kate DiCamillo's books come to mind. So that's actually a good thing in many ways - it gives kids something in between Dick and Jane and Dickens. Plus, harder does not equal better for books. Being obscure and dense in your writing doesn't make it automatically better. Being more readable doesn't make it automatically worse. So I don't think we shouldn't be reading books simply because they're readable. Plus, all those negative themes and tropes that disqualify some of the old books... we can get positive ones in new books that you can't find elsewhere as easily. Like, I had my teens read The Hate U Give. Was it the most beautiful piece of literature? Nope. But the themes and discussions to be had were really meaty and worthwhile. Literature has lots of purposes.

Plus, there are more modern books that do have that denser language. A lot of recent fantasy may be a trifle in the dense text department, but there are exceptions like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. Plus, there's a whole era of books from decades past that just aren't from centuries past like those lists, that have great vocabulary and density.

Edited by Farrar
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My 9 year old and I have loved many books, which led to great discussions, and few of our most loved books are on the lists of classics. I’ve really wrestled with the reverence of classic books over the last few years, primarily because the vast majority at least normalize racism and sexism, and those aren’t concepts I want to have normalized. Yet I want her to be well read, and that’s usually defined as including a heavy amount of classic books.

Some that we’ve especially lived in the past couple of years are The Girl Who Drank the Moon, several books by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Graveyard Book by Nail Gaiman, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship or Her Own Making.

Edited by Jackie
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My weirdo kid is the one out reading Burroughs - Barsoom forever lol

Another good source for lists is the Battle of the Books lists. Also check out the medal winners - Newbury, and Coretta Scott King. And of course, ask your Childrens Librarian! 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I look at various lists such angelicum academy, 1001 books to read before you get old, and the Mensa lists to come up with reading material for my kids. I will say that I've found a lot of the modern books are no longer available at the library. It would seem a lot of books written 10 20 years ago haven't withstood the test of time. That being said a lot of the "classics" haven't withstood the test of time either. I'm so glad that I preread Tarzan because I was shocked at how racist it was. Beatrix Potter was one I was I was really looking forward to, but I found it a slog and so did my kids. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, MarieCurie said:

I look at various lists such angelicum academy, 1001 books to read before you get old, and the Mensa lists to come up with reading material for my kids. I will say that I've found a lot of the modern books are no longer available at the library. It would seem a lot of books written 10 20 years ago haven't withstood the test of time. That being said a lot of the "classics" haven't withstood the test of time either. I'm so glad that I preread Tarzan because I was shocked at how racist it was. Beatrix Potter was one I was I was really looking forward to, but I found it a slog and so did my kids. 

Children's publishing moves super fast and libraries have very limited shelf space and the wear on books is probably greater than you'd realize. Basically, it's a winnowing process, but there are literary books from the last two decades still going strong.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I assume the Burroughs books are a set of 5; kind of like the Chronicles of Narnia (although that is listed as a single volume it is of course techinically many books).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Wrinkle in Time (and rest of that series) - I think this one checks all your boxes.   It's a great story with modern sentiments and a strong main female lead.   It's got aspects of sci-fi and fantasy, and some really deep philosophy and complex vocabulary...but, it's still very much a book for kids.   I read this to my son when he was 9 and he did fine (though they say it's for 10-14).   It starts a little slow, so get her through the first couple chapters and it will speed up from there. 

Treasures of the Snow by Patricia M. St. John - This one is a Christian book and possibly my favorite chapter books for Children ever.   My mom read it to me as a child and I read it to my son recently (it's a little older - published in 1952).   It has two primary characters, a 12 year old boy and a 12 year old girl, and it is told from one or the other's viewpoint (not in first person, but the focus changes from one to the other).   Both are equally heroes and villains in this at various times and you get to see them change through the story.   I love how you get to see the WHY in what they do.   It's exquisitely written (just beautiful prose).    A lot of the adventure is internal but there's a good deal of traditional adventure too (literal cliff-hangers).   I don't recall anything racially insensitive as I don't think race came into the book at all.   (Some of her other books have a few instances that made me cringe...though overall I thought it was worth reading with my child and explaining those places.   But this particular book didn't seem to have any instance where that came up).   There was some stereotypes about gender, BUT...the main female character is a strong character (even mentions that she wishes she could do some of the things boys do).  She's strong in that she's fully fleshed out too.   (BONUS:   The main girl character is homeschooled for a few years...even though most of the book takes place after that.) 

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye- Such a fun read (and plenty of good vocabulary).   A fairy tale where the fairy god-mother blesses a princess with the chance to be ORDINARY.   It also involves a love story, but one where the two meet and become friends first and like each other for themselves before they love each other (and of course it's totally kid appropriate).   The illustrations are amazing, the humor is great...I loved this as a teen but would have loved it at 9 too.    This one is older too...I actually didn't realize it was published in 1885 until right this very minute when I was looking up something about it for you.   I always thought it was written recently (like, during my lifetime!    It definitely has some modern sensibilities in spite of when it was written.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by goldenecho
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/8/2019 at 7:55 PM, Jackie said:

My 9 year old and I have loved many books, which led to great discussions, and few of our most loved books are on the lists of classics. I’ve really wrestled with the reverence of classic books over the last few years, primarily because the vast majority at least normalize racism and sexism, and those aren’t concepts I want to have normalized. Yet I want her to be well read, and that’s usually defined as including a heavy amount of classic books.

Some that we’ve especially lived in the past couple of years are The Girl Who Drank the Moon, several books by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Graveyard Book by Nail Gaiman, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship or Her Own Making.

 

My son read "Born a Crime" and loved it (but then he's a teenager).

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the responses. I've been thinking about this topic a lot recently. I had a realization that there are too many men taking up way too much real estate in my head. John Senior being one of them along with a lot of the other men in the classical education world, e.g. Andrew Kern, etc. They need to be exorcised from my head, KWIM? I paid way too much attention to all of that talk about virtue, etc. Like it's some thing you get from reading the right books, going to the right church, whatever. 

What is the purpose of literature? I wasn't an English major so I don't have the proper answer for that question. But I see good literature as something that opens our minds, introduces us to different people, cultures, etc, Good literature helps us to be in touch with our own feelings and helps us understand how other people feel. I'm sure that sounds insipid. 

What I want from literature in our home is not "western civilization" or "character training." I want my daughter to read about interesting and inspiring girls. I want her to read books with diverse characters. We're in a healing year after some bad years in school and I think books that show characters working through their feelings (facing their feelings, acknowledging them, etc) will help. 

After a lot of thinking and overthinking, I had planned to do Narnia this year even though <heresy alert> I don't actually like Narnia that much. I read them as a child and liked, not loved, them. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to DD a couple of years ago. I'm sure I'm missing something important but found it a bit disappointing. Obviously Aslan is Jesus. It seemed a bit heavy handed. But I choose Narnia because that's what other people chose, driven by fear and self-doubt. 

Now we're going in a different direction. I want to read good books about women/girls, diverse American characters, and children from other cultures. 

This is what is in my Amazon cart right now. 

A Wrinkle in Time - I read this as a kid. I remember a female lead who liked math and science. Showed me that sci-fi wasn't just for the boys. 

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - this was a favorite of mine as a child. I'm not sure it fits in with the theme. 

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer - I saw this recommended a few places and thought it looked interesting. 

P.S. Be Eleven - we listened to One Crazy Summer on Audible last year. 

Dash - I saw this recommended several places. I'm gradually introducing my DD to a more realistic understanding of US history. 

Princess Academy - I've never read it but have heard good things about it. DD loved the Princess in Black books when she was a new reader. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have very mixed feelings on this subject.  

E.D. Hirsch's The Knowledge Deficit is an excellent book that argues for the traditional "Classics"- NOT on their stand-alone virtue, but rather because the ability to know them and understand references to them is part of being literate in the Western world.  Their inherent merit is secondary to our need of them as background knowledge to other works, modern references, etc.  I highly recommend his book.  

Because I buy Hirsch's idea that this knowledge is part of being literate, I have changed my opinion on adaptations of classics.  For example, as a young mom, I was quite die-hard in my opinion that my kids would not read children's adaptations, abridgments, etc.  I never read these as a child, and had no problems reading 20,000 Leagues and etc.  But...  there are a lot of books in the world.  If we want to cram both classic classics and modern classics into our short years with our kids, something's gotta give.  And my kids have LOVED graphic novel versions of many classics, some of which they enjoyed so much that they have gone on to read in the original.  Our preferred Shakespeare versions are the graphic novels that include the original language.  The pictures make the difficult text understandable, and my kids will happily read these for pleasure.  Their reading of a Les Mis manga and me showing them one of Jean Val Jean's songs from Hugh Jackman's JVJ led to what was probably the most profound conversation we've had- the difference between being condemned by the law of Man and being damned by the laws of God.  From. a. manga. adaptation!!!    So this is now what I do.  If it's a classic that I myself am willing to put the time into, then we'll read the whole thing.  If I think it's an "everyone should be familiar with this work" book, I'll get them a graphic novel of it, and they will go on to read it in full if they'd like.  

I make no attempt to avoid racism or sexism in books.  Encountering this is just another opportunity for history lessons and worldview discussions.  The shifting morality of what is acceptable and not acceptable make many books over 6 months old already objectionable.  50 years from now, Harry Potter will probably be condemned for using gendered pronouns.  Who knows?  What I'm saying is I judge a book based on the merits of the plot and the writing, and consider any objectionable content to be fodder for discussion.  (To a certain extent: I have not yet allowed my kids exposure to books I consider psychological horror or overtly sexual content because of their ages)

To go back to defending the classic classics, one of the reasons students should read the good books list is to develop an ear for more archaic language structure and vocabulary.  Pride and Prejudice is an absolutely hilarious book, but not if you have to re-read each sentence twice and look up six words per paragraph.  The Great Books will always feel like a chore and a bore if you've been limited to the relatively simpler sentence style and vocabulary of more modern books.  So, while I think my adaptations technique mentioned earlier is a good one, there is still something enormous to be gained from reading the classics in their original form.  Again, I have a "workaround," which is to get these books from audible.  It is hard to beat A Little Princess for a strong female protagonist, same with Secret Garden.  But both can be challenging to read when held next to Harry Potter.  We listen to these at lunch time as a family, and it's a lovely half-hour of peace and quiet and storytelling.

But in defense of Modern Classics- YES!!!  There are some amazing modern books out there, and my kids gobble them up as well.  Holes is my current favorite middle grades read, all the Roald Dahl children's books, everything by Scott O'Dell... my shelves are full of modern classics.  

 

Anyway, just some thoughts on the defense of the classics.  

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

And my kids have LOVED graphic novel versions of many classics, some of which they enjoyed so much that they have gone on to read in the original.  Our preferred Shakespeare versions are the graphic novels that include the original language.  The pictures make the difficult text understandable, and my kids will happily read these for pleasure.  Their reading of a Les Mis manga and me showing them one of Jean Val Jean's songs from Hugh Jackman's JVJ led to what was probably the most profound conversation we've had- the difference between being condemned by the law of Man and being damned by the laws of God.  From. a. manga. adaptation!!!   

Would you mind linking your favorites, please?  I like your ideas around compromise.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

24 minutes ago, domestic_engineer said:

Would you mind linking your favorites, please?  I like your ideas around compromise.

 

Sure!  A warning, these still contain all the graphic violence of the originals, and in the case of Les Mis the (non graphic) prostituation scene with Fontaine.  For my 10yo, it went right over her head, but i think my 12yo understood what was going on in that scene.  

For Shakespeare, we like the Classical Comics series.  These are available in 3 formats per play: original text, plain text (modern translation), and quick text (modern, simplified translation for struggling readers).  We use the original text version.  example: Midsummer Night's Dream

Beowulf graphic novel.  We enjoyed this one so much we went on to listen to a full-length translation/performance

Black Ships Before Troy (The Iliad) and The Wanderings of Odysseus (The Odyssey) by the same author.  We did these as audiobooks, which was great for hard-to-pronounce names.  

My kids read through all of the Manga Classics our library had, including Les Miserables as mentioned above.  I can't attest to their quality as I didn't pre-read them.  The drawings are typical manga, lots of cleavage and big eyes.  

For Jules Verne, we read a series of B.D. (French comic books) in French from our library.  Similar series for Oliver Twist and a few others, so I don't have a link to an English version.  But there are plenty of similar things in English.  If you search for "classic graphic novel" on amazon, you'll find lots of choices.  

 

For audiobook unabridged classics, we've done and enjoyed:

All of Narnia (we're halfway through our second listen for these, and my dd is also reading the physical books)

Mutiny on the Bounty

The Willoughbys (a modern classic, IMHO!  So much funnier once your child has read some of the classic children's books)

Hound of the Baskervilles

Norse Mythology by Gaiman (not a classic per se, but an excellent retelling of some Norse myths.  I consider myths and fairy tales to be part of that obligate knowledge for literacy)

The Light Princess

The Princess and the Goblins

A Christmas Carol (to be followed up with the Muppets movie version!)

Little Lord Faunterloy

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Peter Pan

Wizard of Oz

 

James Herriott's Chlidren's Treasury

Trumpet of the Swan

A Little Princess

Black Beauty

Heidi

All Winnie the Pooh books

20,00 Leagues, Voyage to the Center of the Earth (both of these in the original French for my kids)

The Hobbit (we've listened to this, read and re-read it, and my oldest has also read the LOTR books)

Beatrix Potter 

Wind in the Willows

Pippi Longstocking

By the Great Horn Spoon (a modern classic IMO, love this book!)

Howar Pyle's King Arthur, Men of Iron, and Robin Hood.  Say what you want about Pyle, if you can read/listen to his books, you'll be ready for anything.  

Treasure Island

Just So Stories

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

Gulliver's Travels

Three Muskateers (French version)

 

Hope that helps some!

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...