Sunday, January 27, 2008


I should explain first that my niece and nephew are, respectively, six and five years old. I have already given them hundreds of books and have many more books already purchased for them. However, I read each book to be certain it is appropriate. Conclusion: I read a lot more children's literature than most adults who are not parents.

Cornelia Funke:
In Dragon Rider, the dragons in a valley somewhere in the British Isles have been warned that the humans are coming into their valley to build. One silver dragon, Firedrake, and a brownie named Sorrel set out to find the legendary "Rim of Heaven" where dragons can live in peace. They are assisted in their quest by a rat who draws maps of the world. Along the way, Firedrake and Sorrel meet a human named Ben, a homunculus named Twigleg, four dwarfs, a very unusual archaeologist, and some monks. They also encounter, Nettlebrand, a giant golden dragon who wants to destroy all other dragons. But is Nettlebrand really a dragon? This book would be particularly good for grades 4 - 8.

Christopher Paolini:
In the first book, Eragon, young Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone in the forested mountains above his home in Aagaesia. Along with his blue dragon, Saphira, Eragon is stumbling about because things are happening to him which he does not understand. His inner goodness and common sense enable him to muddle through and he has some help from a couple of humans and some dwarfs. In the second book, Eldest, the dwarfs, elves, humans, Eragon, and Saphira have joined forces against evil. Eragon and Saphira have begun training to understand and improve their skills. A new, red dragon makes an appearance. I've been told that in the third book a golden dragon will appear. It has just been announced that the third book, Brisingr, will be available on September 20, 2008. Originally planned as a trilogy, Paolini has recently decided that there will be four books in his Inheritance Cycle.

John Beachem:
Storms of Vengeance is John's first novel and I've been told that it is part of a series of 8 to 10 books. There is a murder mystery to be solved. Who did it and why? There is a mythical Lorradda Stone to locate. There are three parallel stories as we follow the actions of three different groups of people. There are also some ogres, two elves, several sorcerers, a troll, and one very impressive river monster. One reason that young people gave for liking Harry Potter was the detail in the stories. They will find plenty of detail here as well.

David Eddings:
There are three stories in Volume I of The Belgariad: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician's Gambit. Volume II of The Belgariad has two stories: Castle of Wizardry and Enchanters' End Gambit. If you are looking for grand adventure and plenty of detail it is here. Some may object to the slow progression and limited action of this tale. A sorcerer and his daughter, a sorceress, have gathered together a group of individuals to fight evil. It seems that the particular make-up for this group is necessary based upon an ancient prophecy. The group includes: the Nimble Thief, the Man with Two Lives, the Blind Man, the Dreadful Bear, the Knight Protector, the Horse Lord, the Bowman, the Queen of the World, and the Mother of the Race that Died. A young boy named Garion, who was raised by his Aunt Pol, is caught up in all of this, though he doesn't know why. But then, is she really his Aunt? There is so much detail that I have not as yet confirmed there are no mistakes in the mapping of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed The Belgariad and look forward to reading the sequel, The Mallorean.

Ken Follett:
The Pillars of the Earth was written many years ago, but is currently on the bestseller lists for two reasons. First, the sequel set 200 years later has recently been released and Oprah has placed Pillars on her book list. The Pillars of the Earth is a historical fiction set in the Middle Ages. It gives a very realistic portrayal of life at that time. It also describes the conflict between Church and Crown as well as the struggle over the succession to the English throne. The detailed descriptions of Cathedral building would make David Macaulay proud. I strongly encourage any high school or college student studying World History/Western Civilizations to read this book. It is an extremely impressive work. Having said that, I did not like this book. I don't want to go into detail about my reasons because I don't want to ruin the ending. I will say only that I truly disliked William. He is a vile, despicable character. I will also add that, I suspect a higher percentage of men than women will like this book, though all should be impressed.


My childhood is now at some distance. Obviously, any specific book I recall reading as a child made a big impression. So, I welcome you to my memories.

1. I enjoyed biography and Grosset and Dunlap had a series they called "Signature Biographies." I read biographies about the following people and most were from that series.

Abraham Lincoln
Amelia Earhart
Andrew Jackson
Annie Oakley
Benjamin Franklin
Buffalo Bill
Christopher Columbus
Clara Barton
Crazy Horse
Daniel Boone
Davy Crockett
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eleanor Roosevelt
Florence Nightingale
Francis Marion ("Swamp Fox")
Franklin D. Roosevelt
General George Armstrong Custer
George Washington
Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I)
Helen Keller
Jim Thorpe (*not signature series)
Joan of Arc
John J. Audubon
John Paul Jones
Leif Ericson
Louis Pasteur
Louisa May Alcott
Madame Curie
Marco Polo
Mark Twain
Napoleon Bonaparte (*not signature series)
Robert E. Lee
Stephen Foster
Theodore Roosevelt
Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Jefferson
Ulysses S. Grant
Winston Churchill

Though this series is now out of print, the individuals in this list are all quite famous and other biographies are available. If there are any names on the list you do not recognize, perhaps you would enjoy learning about them. Happy reading.

2. Grosset and Dunlap also published a series of historical fictions (We Were There ....). I don't remember nearly as many of these, though I know I read many. The ones I do remember were about:

Traveling on the Oregon Trail
The Driving of the Golden Spike (After the Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad)
The Launch of the Nautilus (The 1st Nuclear Submarine)
The Battle of the Bulge (War not Dieting!)

3. I read all of the Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, and Cherry Ames books which were available at that time. More Nancy Drew books have since been written. Trixie Beldon books are being republished. Cherry Ames books are unfortunately out of print. The American Nursing Association would do well to try to have those republished.

4. Fantasy/Science Fiction - I know that I read lots of science fiction, especially those by Heinlein and Asimov, but these are the only specific titles I recall reading as a child.
Gammage Cup by C. Kendall (Fantasy)
Podkayne on Mars by Robert Heinlein
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

5. Books I read as a teen:

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (This book is told from the perspective of the horse. It will definitely make you cry. By the way, the movie follows the book closely.)

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (This is on many "banned books" lists.)

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

Hiroshima by John Hersey (Warning: This is very descriptive of the horrors the victims of the bombing endured.)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (This is an extremely funny book, unless you have been in the military and know first-hand some of the senseless things that happen. As I think back on it, this book is in many ways like the TV show M.A.S.H. Hawkeye needed an incubator to run bacterial cultures, so the Army offered a pizza oven. In the middle of winter, they needed boots so the Army sent hundreds of ladies' high heels.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Warning: Very Sad)

The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain (The Chalice is the cup which Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.)

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas (This refers to the robe Jesus was wearing on the way to his Crucifixion.)

Essays by Francis Bacon - I was particularly fond of his essay "Of Books".

New Atlantis by Francis Bacon - He described a utopia and many inventions and devices which didn't exist in his time, but which we now take for granted.