Books My Kid Will Read in the Future

These are books that I am determined, DETERMINED to somehow convince my daughter that she must read in the future. I am holding onto these books until she’s old enough to enjoy them. Fine, I know she’ll probably hate them (I really hope I’m wrong), but these are the books that I think any growing kid NEEDS to read before they become an adult.

Father's Day Reading

Scene of the crime…

With Father’s Day hitting this Sunday, it inevitably got me thinking about my dad, specifically about my dad and reading. My dad died when I was ten. A huge portion of my memories of my father involve watching him read. My dad read ALL THE TIME. He would take piles of books out from the library and sit on our couch, all day and night, and he would read and read and read. He would chain-smoke Benson & Hedges 100s while he read and he would never, ever return those books to the library.

NEVER.

We had mountains of past-due library books in every room in our house, topped with sliding whitecaps made from all of the overdue penalty slips that arrived in our mailbox every day, begging us to return all of the publically-owned books we were hoarding. Those slips were largely ignored.

My dad loved our local library and so did we. And the librarians loved my dad. He was well-read, charming, had an adorably thick Scottish brogue, and always treated the librarians with respect, which is ironic, given how little respect he paid the library’s return policy.

Father's Day Reading

This was our preferred branch for “borrowing” books…

I have vivid memories of driving carloads and carloads of long-hoarded books down to Detroit’s main library branch after – if I’m remembering correctly – some kind of legal action was finally threatened. Fortunately, a friend who worked in the library system “fixed” the problem for us, but only after we did our best to return as many of the ill-gotten books as we could. I remember us meeting him after-hours at a side door of the main branch and just throwing what looked like hundreds of books onto carts, so he could log them back into the system and prevent the library police from taking my dad away to the overdue debtor’s prison. (At least, that was how it felt at the time.)

In retrospect, I am struck by three main thoughts about our long period of familial library larceny.

#1). That was just crazy behavior. Crazy. Seriously, who does that?

#2). I can’t help but wonder if that whole mess was even a partial inspiration behind my own desire to create such a large “bought-and-paid-for… look, I even have the receipts!” home library for my daughter.

And, #3). I wonder if that’s why I never had any books that belonged to my father.

Because, even though you could easily describe my father as a voriacious reader, after he died (which wasn’t that long after our “Great Midnight Library Return” adventure), we barely had any of “his” books left in the house. I’m a person who owns a lot of books. If you went through my bookshelves at home, you’d find an odd mix of titles, but you’d also find copies of every book that ever really MEANT something to me. So, with that in mind, it feels very odd to me that my dad, who also, apparently, treasured books, didn’t do the same thing.

Now my father grew up really poor in Scotland and we were pretty broke when I was a kid, so maybe book-ownership was just an extravagance that he simply didn’t have. Maybe he relied on public libraries completely to supply himself with books, which makes for a nomadic reading existence, because, eventually, you have to give those books back. (No matter how hard we fought to prove that rule wrong.) But it always felt unusual to me that my father, the big reader, left such a non-existent book footprint in our home. There was no “Robbie Burns Memorial Library” left on our bookshelves after he was gone. (On the flip side of that, after I die, my daughter is going to be stuck with figuring out what to do with forty different copies of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

BUT that book footprint got a little more distinct last year when my mother moved out of my childhood home after living there for thirty-six years. As I was helping her clean out our house, she pulled a very dusty box-set of three books off a high shelf. It was a 1965 edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. In the decades I’d lived in that house, it was the first time I ever noticed them.

Lord of the Rings

One box-set to bind them all…

“These were your dad’s,” my mom said. “They were a gift from his friends.” She opened to the title page of Return of the King and showed me the inscription – “To Robbie from the Boys – June 1973.” [read the rest of the post…]

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I love the variety of book spines on my kid's bookshelf...

I love the variety of book spines on my kid’s bookshelf…

I’ve never been a big fan of lists like “50 Books Your Kid HAS to Read” or “The 100 Best Children’s Books OF ALL TIME.” Typically, they make my blood pressure spike, tossing me between joy (“Ooh, good pick!”) and rage (“No Sylvester and the Magic Pebble? Those Philistines!”), and I spend more time debating their selection criteria and omissions than enjoying their recommendations. That said, I do think there are certain TYPES of books that every kid should be exposed to, the kinds of books that truly introduce them to the best of what the written word has to offer.

Here are my (very subjective) picks for the EIGHT essential kinds of books that every kid should have in their home library:

BOARD BOOKS

Board books are more of a format than a literary genre, but their impact can be profound. They are the training wheels of literature. They can be given to crazy little toddlers and those ankle-biters can browse them, chew on them, do whatever they want with them, and those thick cardboard pages will ENDURE. They teach kids that books are there to stay AND they allow their chubby little fingers to perfect the art of the page flip, which is possibly the greatest technical innovation in the history of reading. (Sorry, eReaders, but you can’t compete with the awesome power of the perfectly-placed page turn.)

MYTHOLOGY

Our world has a ridiculously rich and involved cultural history and it would be a shame not to introduce your child to it at a young age. And I’m not just talking about Greek Myths, which, granted, can have a bit too much god/animal coupling for young readers. I’m talking about the stories, the BIG STORIES, that everyone in our world knows. The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, Noah and the Flood, Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights, stories of Anansi, King Arthur, Superman, and Strega Nona – the foundational stories. The stories that are referenced throughout every other story your kids will be reading for the rest of their lives. That foundation HAS to be laid somewhere and it should start at home.

BOOKS YOU LOVED AS A KID

Yes, you can’t expect that your child will have the exact same taste as you do, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to share your favorite books with your kid. At the very least, it will show them what it looks like when a book truly has a profound effect on a person, when a book is treasured and loved. And who knows? They may surprise you.

BOOKS THAT SUIT THEIR PERSONALITY

This may be hard to hear, but, if your kids love talking about farts, burps, and boogers, you should buy them some books about farts, burps, and boogers. That doesn’t mean that you should ONLY let them read about what they want, but, if you really want your child to enjoy reading, they have to know that their interests are represented in the books they read, even if those interests are completely incomprehensible.

Reading only one kind of book is boring...

Reading only one kind of book is boring…

POETRY

I know a lot of adults who don’t enjoy reading poetry personally, but I can’t stress enough how powerful poetry can be for young readers. If normal prose is a Volvo, poetry is a Lamborghini – it takes language, floors the accelerator, and really shows you what words can do. Poets like Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein teach kids that, when assembled correctly, even in ways that don’t seem to make sense, words can make a person feel a ridiculously deep range of emotions, and kids LOVE THAT. [read the rest of the post…]

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It’s a sad fact, but, if you’re the parent of a young girl, at some point, there’s a better than average chance that you’ll have to deal with the creeping horror that is the princess book genre. The princess craze is an amazing thing to behold. It’s like an airborne pathogen or some kind of morphic field cultural memory download. It just worms your way into your child’s subconscious with no obvious point of entry. Even if your daughter is the most tomboyish tomboy on the block, eventually, there’s like a 90% chance that you’re going to have to buy her a princess dress and a cringe-inducing selection of princess-themed reading material at some point. (No parent should have to read their child a book this pink at bedtime.)

Cinderella

How can something this boring be considered a “fantasy”?

And, trust me, resistance is futile. I’ve spent countless hours already trying to shape my daughter into a gender-proud feminist (and she’s FIVE) and yet there I was – taking her to a Disney Princess breakfast at EPCOT (by myself!) and making sure that we saw every damn princess in that park. Why? Because she simply loves princesses and fighting against their appeal is just going to make me the common enemy of both my daughter and the princess industrial complex. And I won’t survive if they unite to take me down.

So, how do I fight back? I mostly do it through books. I am still a MAJOR gatekeeper when it comes to my daughter’s reading material, so, at the moment, I do have the ability to keep her away from cheap throwaway titles like Barbie: The Princess Shoe Party Fashion Show and Cinderella: A Sparkly Royal Thanksgiving… which are EVERYWHERE and are just as soul-crushing as they sound. While I hide those titles behind the periodicals at the local library, I spend a good deal of time searching for really engaging princess stories that I then subtly push her way.

And that’s a challenge. It’s not easy finding princess books where the princesses aren’t passive, aren’t beholden to a prince, and have lives and agendas of their own. And, on the flip side, I also don’t want to give my daughter really hacky, didactic propaganda pieces where the author is just out to scream, “AND THE PRINCESS COULD DO ANYTHING THE PRINCE COULD DO! AND PROBABLY BETTER!” (If I could find the video of 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon as her high-school football place kicker, missing an easy kick and cheering “Equality!”, I’d put it here.) Even if I agree with the message, if it’s not a well-told story, forget about it.

As a service to you parents out there who may have children suffering from princess mania or who just simply can’t face down another royal Disney bedtime, here are six really impressive princess books that your kids will enjoy and that won’t make you curl your fists in post-feminist rage.

1. The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herm Auch

The Princess and the Pizza

The Princess and the Pizza

This is an extremely fun title – particularly if your child is already familiar with the normal Disney princess canon. Princess Paulina is struggling with peasant life now that her father, the king, has given up his throne to become a wood-carver. So, when she hears that Prince Drupert is seeking a wife, she hurries over to “get back to princessing” and finds herself in a competition against other potential princesses to be his bride. The humor in Princess and the Pizza is really irreverent and clever – it reminds me a lot of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre – particularly as Princess Paulina realizes how ridiculous the competition is. She’s competing against nicely exaggerated versions of classic princesses like Snow White and Rapunzel and, after a cooking competition where Paulina accidentally invents pizza, the book ends with a great twist – Paulina sees the value in what she’s created, tells Drupert to shove it, and opens a successful pizza joint. This is a very silly take on the whole notion of princessing, but Paulina is such an expansive, resourceful character that your princess-jonesing kids will love her. (Age range: 3 and up. It’s more of a storybook than a picture book, so there’s a fair bit of text on its 32 pages.)

2. Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith

Readers of this blog won’t be surprised at all to hear me praising a book by Florence Parry Heide and Lane Smith, but, all of my preferences and biases aside, Princess Hyacinth is one of the best books either of them has ever done. (I will one day write a much, much longer appraisal of Princess Hyacinthfor the blog, but I couldn’t leave it off this list.) The concept is elegantly absurd – there was a princess with a problem. She floats. She can’t stop herself from floating into the air at any time. And, around that premise, Heide and Smith craft a story that just feels fresh and unique – you’ve never read a princess book like this before. Hyacinth is annoyed that she can’t play outside with the other kids (particularly with Boy, the young man she has a crush on), but she also longs to take full advantage of her unique condition and soar among the clouds. After a close call where she almost floats away into the stratosphere, Hyacinth becomes much more comfortable with who she is and decides to stop fighting against her problem and learn to enjoy it.

Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated

Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated

Smith delivers some of the best work of his career here, but, for me, it’s Heide’s prose that really makes Princess Hyacinth a classic. Her text reads like it was mined directly out of the mind of a kid, like the smartest seven-year-old in the world is telling you the greatest story she’s ever heard and, in my experience, kids eat that up. They can’t get enough of it. In my mind, the closing words of the book say it all: “The problem about the floating was never solved, and that’s too bad. But Princess Hyacinth was never bored again. GOOD.” Yes, it is. (Age range: 3 and up. There’s more text than some picture books, but it’s fairly large and fun to read.) [read the rest of the post…]

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The Princess Bride

You love the movie, right? The book is even better. Well, most of it is…

I’m currently having a minor internal dilemma, dear readers, that I wanted to run past you. The dilemma revolves around my desire to share William Goldman‘s tremendous fairy tale, The Princess Bride, with my six-year-old daughter, and how exactly I should do that. Like a lot of people from my generation, I discovered The Princess Bride thanks to Rob Reiner’s 1987 film adaptation, an epic adaptation that has endured as one of the most rewatchable, quotable, and downright iconic movies of the past thirty years. While I’m still debating when my daughter will be old enough to see the movie, my primary concern is how and when I’m going to read Goldman’s original book to her.

And the operative word in that sentence is “how.” Because, at the moment, I don’t think I want to read her the entire book. I think I only want to read her the “good parts” of The Princess Bride, a statement that anyone who’s read the original book will find funny, ironic, or, at the very least, very, very “meta.”

Now, as a professed “book person”, the idea of selectively reading passages of a book to my daughter feels like a big cheat and a huge violation of the unspoken bond between author and reader – I hate playing backseat editor – but The Princess Bride is a special case. Let me give you some back story…

Even though I adored The Princess Bride movie the first time I saw it in 1987, it never really landed with me that I should seek out the original book that it was based on until I was in college. After a few weeks of hunting, I came across a tattered paperback copy of Goldman‘s The Princess Bride in a used bookstore and quickly devoured it. (It was originally published in 1973 with the eyebrow-raising tagline “A Hot Fairy Tale.”)

What Happens When the Most Beautiful Girl in the World Marries the Handsomest Prince in the World - And He Turns Out to Be a Son-of-a-Bitch?

This might be my favorite back cover copy of all time.

And the book didn’t disappoint. It’s wonderful. When reading the book, you really get an appreciation for how faithful and spot-on Rob Reiner’s adaptation was. Princess Bride the book is INCREDIBLY similar to Princess Bride the movie, right down to the priest mispronouncing “Mawidge” to the now-legendary “Hello, My Name is Inigo Montoya” showdown (which reaches its climax on page 276 of my paperback). While there are little variations in the details here and there, I can only recall two MAJOR differences that stood out when I first read the book. [read the rest of the post…]

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Hey Readers – Remember all those posts back in September where I was so excited about finally reading The Phantom Tollbooth with my daughter? You know, the book that single-handedly inspired this blog and that I’ve been DYING to read to her for almost six years now? I even posted my initial “Phantom Tollbooth First Read” article where I recounted my experience reading the first two chapters with my kid at bedtime. Wasn’t that a fun article – an article that promised to give you a day-by-day breakdown of our joyous experiences reading The Phantom Tollbooth together for weeks to come?

I should’ve smelled the jinx coming a mile away.

Quick aside – Our family does a lot of road-trips together and, almost every time we’re on the last leg of our drive home, if we’ve had an easy day of driving so far, I inevitably say something like, “Boy, we’ve hit no traffic today, have we?” and you know what happens? Five minutes later, we hit construction or an overturned car and BAM – four extra hours are added to our trip. And, like an idiot, I do that almost EVERY single time. I jinx the end of the trip.

This is all a very long-winded way for me to tell you… sigh… we have officially stopped reading The Phantom Tollbooth for the moment.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Yeah, we know, Milo. We’re disappointed too…

And, yes, I am a little bit heartbroken. And, yes, I think I jinxed it. [read the rest of the post…]

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The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth

Perfect for Tollbooth obsessives…

Back on September 20th, we celebrated Building a Library’s first anniversary and announced that, the following week, I was finally going to start reading The Phantom Tollbooth – the book that inspired this blog – to my almost six-year-old daughter. And then… I took the following week off. Anti-climatic, I know, but it was a crazy week with swim classes and TWO soccer games and I was exhausted and blocked and I apologize. But, now that all my excuses are out on the table, I DID start reading The Phantom Tollbooth with my daughter last week and, so far, it’s been a pretty positive experience.

Let me state up front that I was a little worried that my daughter was too young for The Phantom Tollbooth. Norton Juster expertly plays with language and various abstract concepts throughout the book and I was concerned that aspects of the text would go over her head. As far as I can remember, I probably first encountered The Phantom Tollbooth when I was eight or nine, so I will admit that I am (still) concerned that I might be trying to introduce the novel to my daughter at too early an age. But, regardless of those concerns, I wanted to give Phantom Tollbooth a shot in our coveted bedtime reading slot last week and I’m going to periodically give updates on how the reading is going so far.

I’m calling this series “Phantom Tollbooth: First Read” and I’m planning to structure the updates in a similar style to the re-read or rewatch series that you can find on Tor.com or The Onion‘s AV Club. For those unfamiliar, in those series, the websites pick a book or a movie and a person episodically blogs their reaction to revisiting those works. For example, the blogger might post their ongoing reaction to rewatching all three seasons of Arrested Development or re-reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, chapter-by-chapter.

For Phantom Tollbooth, I’m going to adopt a chapter-by-chapter model, although some nights, we’ll be reading multiple chapters. For our first week, we started slow, only making it through the first four chapters. In the future, we may be moving through the book at a different pace, largely determined by what we’ve got going on that week. (Fair Warning: A trip to NYC will limit our progress this weekend.) I’ll give a quick summary of the chapter, my thoughts, my daughter’s reactions, and I might even toss in a few pieces of trivia from Leonard S. Marcus’ fantastic The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth as well.

Are we all set? Excuses made and plans delineated? Great. And, with that, let us begin…

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH FIRST READ: CHAPTERS 1 AND 2 – “Milo” and “Beyond Expectations”

CHAPTER ONE: “MILO”

“I do hope this is an interesting game, otherwise the afternoon will be so terribly dull.” – Milo, The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth, Chapter One

Santa got my letter!

The opening passages of The Phantom Tollbooth were what sold me on the book as a kid. In a few short paragraphs, Norton Juster wonderfully captures the itchy, nagging boredom that can easily consume a child in the wrong frame of mind. I love comedian Louis C.K.’s inspired riff on how “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” and it shares some nice thematic parallels to initial mindset of Milo, the protagonist of The Phantom Tollbooth. To quote Juster:

There once was a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself – not just sometimes, but always.

When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’s bothered. Nothing really interested him – least of all the things that should have.

It’s an incredibly powerful opening and, after reading into it a few paragraphs, I turned to my daughter and asked, “Do you ever feel like that?” “Yes,” she replied. “I get bored a lot.” [read the rest of the post…]

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The Phantom Tollbooth

OK, 50th anniversaries are “way” more impressive, I admit…

Today, September 20th, is an important day. It marks the birth of Alexander the Great, Upton Sinclair, George R.R. Martin, Jesus Christ Superstar‘s Ted Neeley, Slappy White, Anne Meara, the great Gary Cole, Sophia Loren, and The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal, to name a few. It happens to be the ONE YEAR anniversary of the Building a Library blog!

It’s been a really great year for me personally. I’ve loved writing my long, rambling odes to the books on my daughter’s bookshelves, and I hope that some of you have been able to benefit from a few of my recommendations.

To celebrate our anniversary, I invite you to check out the two posts that kicked this whole thing off: Our “ABOUT” page (where I outline WHY I wanted to start Building a Library) and our very first review, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer (the book that inspired me to start this blog in the first place).

And come back next week for an anniversary contest and some more Tollbooth-related news…

OK, I’ll give you a hint on the Tollbooth news. This weekend, The Phantom Tollbooth is going to stop being a “Book My Kid Will Read in the Future” and, in fact, become a book that my kid starts reading with her overly-excited dad. Expect some updates on her reaction to our first forays into Dictionopolis next week.

And thanks again for reading, wonderful faceless internet people. You’re the best.

Tom

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Scarecrow and Tin Man are babies compared to Baum - they're only 112 years old.

Today would’ve been the 156th birthday of L. Frank Baum, the visionary author best known for his landmark children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and everything else that spun off from that wild American fable about a young woman named Dorothy carried by a cyclone into the magical world of Oz. And, by “everything else,” I’m, of course, talking about more than just the 17 or so subsequent Oz books that were published both before and after Baum’s death. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a critical and commercial literary phenomenon, Baum adapted it himself into an acclaimed stage musical, The Wizard of Oz became one of the (if not THE) most famous movies of all time, Dorothy and her friends have become pop culture icons, there have been comic books, novels, musicals, video games, movies, mini-series, toys, clothing lines… all from that one little new-world fairy tale that L. Frank Baum and his illustrator W. W. Denslow published in 1900.

There’s a wonderful essay on the legacy and power of Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz at Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac today that can tell you far more about the Oz books that I can. I don’t own any of the Oz books, though I’ve come close to buying my daughter a copy on several occasions. Even though we haven’t read it yet, The Wizard of Oz is definitely on her radar – largely, I’ll admit, because of the movie. However, movie aside, I think that the story of Oz has evolved into one of those modern storytelling landmarks, the kind of story that just seeps into our collective unconscious without us really knowing how it got in there. My daughter has only watched about 60% of The Wizard of Oz movie – the witch and flying monkeys freak her out – but, even before that, she knew who Dorothy Gale was, she knew the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and she understood the “ignore the man behind the curtain!” reference. To me, when a story becomes that ubiquitous, it moves out of the realm of being a “really great kids’ book” and moves into the realm of folklore, myth, and legend.

And that might be exactly what Baum had hoped would happen. Let me explain…

If you want a really cool way to celebrate Baum‘s birthday today, I’d suggest going to the Library of Congress’ Read.gov. On this excellent site – which does a wonderful job promoting literary and the joy of reading – the Library of Congress has included some remarkable, high-quality digital scans of original editions of classic children’s titles, including L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow‘s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Thanks to the Library of Congress, you can page through the entire text of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (or download a PDF of the entire book) and experience it in the same way that a reader would’ve experienced it in 1900. (Denslow’s illustrations are a particular highlight.) You can click here for some basic information on the edition and you can CLICK HERE to go right to the digital version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Library of Congress has a fantastic digital version of "The Wizard of Oz" that you can download or read online for FREE

One of my favorite things about this edition of The Wizard of Oz is the original introduction that Baum wrote for the text. In his ambitious introduction – which is dripping with equal parts compassion and hubris – Baum states that he hopes that his story can be seen as a “modernized fairy tale” and makes an interesting argument for rejecting the “fearsome morals” of the earlier Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. Here’s what Baum wrote: [read the rest of the post…]

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My daughter has a future date with The Graveyard Book.

As you may have inferred from previous posts, I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman, so it’s not that surprising that my shelf of “Books My Kid Will Read in the Future” has more than a few Gaiman titles sprinkled throughout. But the Gaiman book that I really want my daughter to start with and embrace, once she starts exploring the ever-growing shelf of titles intended for her future self, is The Graveyard Book.

And there are many reasons why any parent would want their child to read The Graveyard Book. It’s a wonderfully-told tale, one of the few books that I’m legitimately evangelical about. (“Every single person who’s read it on my recommendation has thanked me profusely afterwards,” he said with a painfully swollen head.) It’s a multiple award-winning title, receiving both the Newbery and Carnegie Medals (which is kind of a big deal). It’s just a very, very moving book for me – to the point where I don’t even feel up to writing one of my typical 2,000-word rants about it. Smarter people than I have written some really beautiful odes to The Graveyard Book, and I have this sneaking suspicion that I just can’t do it justice, which is probably a safe assumption.

I’ll just let Gaiman explain what the book is about himself:

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? Nobody Owens is this spectacular young boy being raised by ghosts in a graveyard and his maturation and development as a character and as a real, breathing person (amongst dead, non-breathing spirits) really is something to behold. But, if I’m being honest, that’s still not getting to the real heart of the reason why I’m determined to make my child read The Graveyard Book one day.

What’s my reason for pushing The Graveyard Book ? Fair warning: It’s a pretty dumb reason. [read the rest of the post…]

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Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night

Little Lit: It Was a Dark and Silly Night....

Parents: If you haven’t heard of Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly’s Little Lit books yet, man-oh-man, are you missing out. Little Lit is an extremely cool series of kid-focused comics anthologies, all organized around a specific theme. There have been three volumes so far – Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies, Strange Stories for Strange Kids, and It Was a Dark and Silly Night – and one collected volume of the whole series so far called Big Fat Little Lit. Each volume has attracted a murderer’s row of amazing writers and illustrators as contributors – people like David Sedaris, Ian Falconer, Maurice Sendak, Crockett Johnson, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Jules Feiffer, Neil Gaiman, William Joyce, Lewis Trondheim, Lemony Snicket, Spiegelman himself, and lots, lots more.

It’s a breathtaking collection of talent and we’ve already got two Little Lit volumes on my “Books My Kid Will Read in the Future” shelf. (Expect full breakdowns on them in the future. I’ve got a whole comics themed week of entries planned for sometime in October.) The stories skew a bit older than my daughter – I think a 7 or 8-year-old would think they were the coolest books they’ve ever seen – but there are a few stories that I think I could get away reading with my 4-year-old at the moment, namely David Sedaris and Ian Falconer’s Shrek-esque team-up “Pretty Ugly.” (After Squirrel Meets Chipmunk, I definitely want a full-on twisted kids’ book from Sedaris and Falconer sometime in the near future.)

I was reminded of the Little Lit series today thanks to Neil Gaiman’s new Tumblr blog where he posted an animated version of his contribution to the It Was a Dark and Silly Night volume (illustrated by the great Gahan Wilson) that was adapted by director Steven-Charles Jaffe.

Check it out below and get a taste of the chaotic fun of the Little Lit books.

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