Archive for the ‘Children’s Literature’ Category

When You Reach Me Cover    Splendors and Glooms Cover

Most avid readers are familiar with the dreaded reading slump.  You have piles of great books, but you can’t seem to read more than a few pages at a time.  So you try another book and abandon it.  And then another.  Nothing seems to hold your interest and the time you usually spend relaxing with a book you spend Facebooking and watching TV (thank God for Hulu, because oh Revenge, let me count the ways that I love you).

What causes my reading slumps? Well, I seem to be experiencing the whole trifecta right now.  Really intense workload, two books in a row that have been less than enjoyable, and spring fever all rolled into one.  I know the signs and the fact that I’ve spent the last two nights binge watching Glee on Hulu can only mean one thing (other than that I’m a total dork who loves musical television).  I’m in a slump.

So what’s my trick for getting out of it?  Children’s literature.  Even though we’re married with books instead of with children (for now at least), I really enjoy kid’s books.  As adults, I think we tend to assume that kid lit is overly simplistic or boring.  It’s not.  I figured this out last year when I started re-reading some of my childhood favorites.  I picked up a copy of  Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, which I read over and over again when I was a kid, and I couldn’t put it down.  It was just as good as I had remembered.  Same thing with E.L. Konigsburg’s From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Because I was so happy re-reading my childhood favorites, I started to think about all the great books that have probably been written since I was a kid.  It’s not like childhood classics stopped being written because I’d grown up.  It was pretty exciting when I realized there were all these classic stories out there that I’ve yet to discover.  It’s also kind of great that when we do become married with children, I’ll already have an awesome selection of books for them to read someday.

Luckily, there are a lot of sources for finding excellent children’s books.  The Newbery Medal is an obvious and reliable one.  There’s also the School Library Journal’s annual Battle of the Kids Books, which is a lot of fun.  And of course, there are the blogs.  Author, teacher, and Newbery judge Monica Edinger blogs about children’s lit at Educating Alice and writes book reviews for the New York Times.  If she likes a book, you can trust that it’s a good book.  Gretchen Rubin, the former lawyer, author and blogger behind the Happiness Project, has an online book club featuring her favorites.  While I’m not really into the whole self-help happiness thing, I appreciate Gretchen’s love of children’s literature.  She has really good taste in books.

I definitely wouldn’t want to read children’s literature all the time, but it’s great when I’m looking for an easy read that’s still going to be enjoyable and smart.  So it’s perfect for breaking out of a reading slump!  I convinced one of my friends to give it a try when she couldn’t read a book to save her life last year.  That time, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting and Elizabeth Enright’s Gone Away Lake totally did the trick.

Two newer children’s books that I’ve really enjoyed this year are Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, which won the Newbery Medal in 2010, and Laura Amy Schlitz’s Splendors and Glooms, which was a 2012 Newbery Honor book.  When You Reach Me  is a fantastic tribute to another childhood classic, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  It also stands on its own as a beautifully written story about life in the sixth grade.  There’s a bit of a mystery and a little science fiction that keep the plot moving, but it’s also a wise reflection on friendship.  Miranda is such a likeable, memorable heroine that I think this one’s an instant classic.

Spendors and Glooms is a dark, Dickensian fairy tale set in Victorian England.  There’s a magician, a witch, a puppet show and three kids who get mixed up in all of it.  It’s atmospheric, imaginative and a page-turner.  This is one that will appeal to fans of The Night Circus or Harry Potter.  I finished it in one sitting this past Februrary when I was too sick from the world’s worst cold to do much else.  It was such an escape from the real world I almost forgot how crummy I felt.

So what am I going to read to break out of my current slump?  I just ordered a copy of Rebecca Stead’s newest book, Liar and Spy, which I’m pretty excited about.  A bookseller at our local indie told me it was great and I’m a sucker for stories set in New York.  It went down to Splendors and Glooms in this year’s Battle of the Books, but it seemed like a close call.  So that’s my trick for breaking out of the spring reading slump.  What’s yours?


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