Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy Dr. Seuss Day!

I was surprised to discover when I tried to write admissions essays for college that my actual life wasn’t much to write about. My childhood was predictable, secure, and uneventful the way that most happy childhoods are. I lived half in an imaginative world when I wasn’t reading, and completely in an imaginative world when I was. 

The memories from the books were mixed with the memories of real life. The result is that when I looked back at my childhood, it took me a while to realize that I hadn’t done much more than go to school, go home, and read about people who were having much harder time of it than I was.

It’s a little sad to me that I don’t have the same ability to remove myself from reality that I used to. Maybe I just have a limited quota of what I can consider real and important, and real life started demanding more of it.

In any case, in honor of Read Across America (Dr. Seuss) day, I wrote down some of my favorite children's authors.

Diana Wynne Jones: Not enough people have heard about her, but she is awesome. The characters are not at all Mary Sue. They are selfish, flawed, and very relatable. The plots are so freaky, clever and unexpected. The great ones like Fire and Hemlock and Hexwood can withstand being reread once a year or so from age 7 to 22. Really.

Nancy Farmer: I loved House of the Scorpion. It’s a children’s version of Never Let Me Go, and just as good. I can't say anymore without giving away the ending. Clones.

Diane Duane: She wrote the “So You Want to Be a Wizard” series. At that age, I really, really did want to be a wizard.

Susan Fletcher: I don’t know if the “Dragon Chronicles” would still be good if I reread them now, but all I can say is that I really liked dragons back then. 

Patricia Wrede: “The Enchanted Forest Chronicles” is also about dragons, which, as previously mentioned, I really liked. Very humorous reconstruction of fairy tales.

Jean Craighead George: She wrote both Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain.  I don't want to reread Julie of the Wolves because at the time it felt so possible that girl could actually go live with wolves, and I’ve afraid now it’ll seem less realistic.

Tamora Piece: The book Alanna was one of my favorite birthday presents ever, because it introduced me to the works of Piece. They’re too Mary-Sue for me now,  but I really enjoyed them as a child.

C.S. Lewis: I can’t enjoy these books the same way now I know that it’s all a huge allegory. But I really loved these books when I was seven, and all the obvious references just flew over my head. I did feel really sorry for the dwarfs during the end of the world though.

Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials is probably the best known, but the Sally Lockhart series is also very good. I love the idea of daemons, although I didn’t really care for the backstory of Dust or any of the adults to be honest. The book introduced to the concept of a “fate worse than death”, which was certainly mind-expanding.

Donna Jo Napoli: She has such good, though dark, reinterpretations of fairy tales. And Stones in Water, along with Devil Arithmatic by Jane Yolen, is one of the most haunting children’s books about WW2 that I’ve read.

Jerry Spinelli: With a lot of books, I enjoy the story but I find the protagonists annoyingly boring and perfect. None of the protagnonists in any of Spinelli’s books have this problem. I especially liked Maniac Magee.

Roald Dahl: My mom read them to me in Dutch, so I got in a bit of fight with British boy in my class when he claimed Roald Dahl was actually English. Enough time has passed that I can admit I was wrong. The stories from Kiss, Kiss stayed with me the longest, especially "The Landlady" and "Pig". Don't ever drink tea that tastes of almonds. 

E.B. White: My dad read all his books to us. They’re really beautiful. Still a little sad about Charlotte.

And finally my favorite two quotes from Dr. Seuss:

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent!”

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

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