Along with my quest to read the Top 100 Picture Books (as compiled by Betsy Bird), I’ve also decided to tackle Betsy’s most recent list, the Top 100 Children’s Novels. Certainly this list will take a bit longer, but I hope it will familiarize me with even more titles that I have not yet been exposed to.
My library partner-in-crime and conference buddy (though she will not be attending ALA with me next week, unfortunately) Becca questioned why I would want to tackle such lists, noting that she hates reading anything she feels like she has to read. The honest answer is that I like lists, crossing things off lists with an end goal in mind and, well, having things to blog about. But I also think of the lists as an extension of my education in children’s literature. I did take a children’s lit class at UNT, but one semester is simply not enough time to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the subject. And as I remember, I didn’t even make it through all of the required reading for the class (it was pretty much impossible, unless you were able to sit at home and read all day, which I’m sure is delightful, but not really a viable option for anyone with a job… or a family… or any other responsibilities). Also, the lists are a group effort, complete with suggestions from individuals who have been paying to attention to children’s literature a lot longer than I’ve been alive (as you’ll see from the first title off the list).
Zilpha Keatley Snyder
April has been shipped off by her aspiring actress mother, Dorothea, to live with her grandmother, Caroline. She’s pretty miffed, until her grandmother arranges an introduction to another girl her age, Melanie, who also lives in their apartment building. April and Melanie both have a love for playing pretend, and the two invent the Egypt Game, eventually including Melanie’s brother Marshall (and his stuffed octopus, Security), and two boys from school in their secret game. When a crime threatens the neighborhood, the gang risks losing access to Egypt forever.
First off, I wasn’t wild about this book, but it is a Newbery Honor (for 1968) and certainly has merit. For being published in 1967, the main characters are delightfully multicultural and, surprisingly, race is never mentioned. The kids all have excellent imaginations and go to the library on several occasions to do research for the game. I think the book would hold up well as a movie, but it’s not something that would necessarily grab the attention of the average kid today (it’s a bit slow moving, but completely satisfying). On the plus side, the interior illustrations were delightfully retro (I can do without the late ’80s cover illustration on the edition I read).