This week, I am merging some personal history with a love of books. I am going to offer a list of books for young readers (some of which are series), from my earliest reading years. Some are CanLit titles while others are from the American tradition. I think they were and are exemplary in different ways. However, it is obvious that they are highly gendered as well. So, I will offer a final title from a wonderful scholar and writer based at Trent University here in Peterborough.
- Scott Young’s Scrubs on Skates. The story of Bill Spunska and his learning to skate and play hockey is quite simply, classic. Kids who don’t play organized sports should be able to relate to his early outsider status and ability to persevere. Kids who do enjoy hockey will blaze through the series. The other two titles in the trilogy are also great.
- The Encyclopedia Brown series is memorable in that the kids are amateur sleuths, bright, willing to learn and take risks, and engage with adults on a relatively similar plane. The stories always moved quickly and for readers under 10, they will likely be amazed by Leroy “Encyclopedia Brown” and his powers of deduction.
- Thomas W. Burgess crafted a beautiful series of books with anthropomorphic animals that take young readers on adventures in a rural setting. I was always impartial to The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk but all of the books involve metaphorical and physical journeys that should keep youngsters entertained.
- The Great Brain and the books that followed from John Dennis Fitzgerald seemed to float rather than gallop along. I remember the storytelling matching the pace of small-town Utah in the late 1900s. They were interesting because they broached some ‘heavy’ topics such as family health and in particular religion, but they did so with a wink and a skilled touch.
- Are You a Boy or a Girl? from author Karleen Pendleton Jimenez is poignant, direct and important. Published in 2000, this book is a must read for children who are beginning to ask questions about gender, bullying, and ‘race’. Beyond that it will invite them to discuss difference, and to ‘think outside the box.’ The short film based on the book is also excellent and available on YouTube.
I hope these provide some of you with some ideas for book titles during the holiday season, birthdays and beyond.