Those treasured books that I re-read endlessly. They must say something significant about who we grow up to be, but I can't say that I really can make the connection, based on the ones I read.
They were, in no particular order
- All That Katy Did, An Omnibus of What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School, and What Katy Did Next, by Susan Coolidge
- The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, by Margaret Sydney
- Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
Interestingly - all of them are available online via Project Gutenberg. Black Beauty is also one of the biggest selling books in the English language of all time. (Links above are to Wikipedia entries - scroll down to the bottom of those page to find the links to online versions.)
And they do all reveal fascinating insights into a time gone past, with lessons about being kind and fair, and a nice happy ending. I have to admit, I always felt guilty about "Five Little Peppers," even as a kid. It was clear, even then, that the happy outcome - being rescued from abject poverty by being befriended and adopted by a rich gentleman and his son - was a little too pat to be believable.
But reading about them now, (Wikipedia) is very interesting. "What Katy Did" was contemporary with Alcott's "Little Women" (which I read, but didn't like that much) - but actually also is an interesting window into the expected life of an paraplegic in the mid-1800s.
Oddly enough, the author of Black Beauty WAS a paraplegic in the mid-1800s - although that is nowhere mentioned in the book. And the author of "Five Little Peppers" eventually bought the home of Louise May Alcott. Strange connections there.
Of course, later, came the ad nauseum book series, the endless "girl/boy detective" novels with a million titles, the neverending "Black Stallion" books - the movie/series never really lived up to the potential there, and others.
Would I read or recommend them to kids now? Well - Black Beauty for sure. It's timeless. The others - I'm not so sure. Personally - I think that the Harry Potter series is great stuff, and His Dark Materials (Golden Compass, et al) is awesome too. And Eoin Coffler's "Artemis Fowl" books too.
But really - the more books you can squeeze into your kids the better, or your grandkids. You just never know which one is going to ring the bell!
And then, you can teach them to bead too. Good literary habits, so they can read the classics and get all the in-jokes, and a pleasant beady pastime. They'll be all set. ;-)