Saturday, August 15, 2009

Forgotten Fantasy (Yes, I Do Know That Sounds Like a Trashy Romance Novel)

The other day, my 7-year-old closed her Nancy Drew book and sighed. "You know what I hate about mystery books?" she asked. "You can't re-read them until your memory gets old." True, that. Even though my memory has gotten very old, I still can't re-visit anything I've read in the past 2 decades or so. Fortunately, though, my memory's aged enough that I can re-read books I enjoyed as a child. Thanks to Melissa's fabulous Top 100 list, volunteering with my kids' school reading program, and a recent IM chat with a friend, I have been re-visiting books I loved as a kid. In doing so, I've come to a grim realization - I seem to have skipped over an entire genre of children's literature. Yep, it's true. My reading repertoire included Nancy Drew, Amelia Bedelia, Babysitter's Club, Pippi Longstocking, etc. but few princesses, wizards, dragons or robots. In other words, no science fiction/fantasy. Looking back, I can remember reading only two books that fit into this category: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and A Wrinkle in Time. That's it, unless my memory's really, really, really bad. Once I had this epiphany, I raced to my computer and promptly put Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper and The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander on hold. Then, concerned that I might be missing newer children's sci fi/fantasy, I stuck the first Spiderwick book on my list, too. I'm still worried that I'm missing out, so I thought I'd ask all of you a question. It's this:

What science fiction/fantasy books did you love as a child? Which modern books are worth a look? Which titles should I go out and get right now?

Help me remedy the mistakes of my past. I'm working on The Dark Is Rising books as well as the Chronicles of Prydain (all of which I will review when I'm done with the series). I believe I still need to finish the Chronicles of Narnia, but at least I've read The Hobbit and LOTR (although I experienced both of these as an adult). So, what am I missing? Help out an ignorant reader, will you?

15 comments:

  1. Amelia Bedelia. Gosh. I haven't thought about her and her crazy antics in a while. I must get my hands on some copies!

    Kudos to you in your endeavor to read the scifi/fantasy selections of YA lit. I have tried so many times and come to realize that there are few books that I enjoy in that genre. I feel guilty at times because I'm sure I'm overlooking some really great pieces of works. For example, right now I have Dragon Slippers set aside to read. And I just.can't.do.it. Argh!

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  2. Heather is so funny. I just love her! :)

    You know I am not a fan of that genre either. Are we a product of our environment?! I even put off reading Harry Potter for like 9 years because I didn't think I would like it because it was fantasy.

    We have enjoyed all the Chronicles of Narnia. Harmony said she loves Spiderwick. Although the movie scares the kids to death!

    Sorry not much help, but good luck!

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  3. I'm like you - I was not a big fan of Sci Fi/Fantasy as a child. I guess it was too much like Twilight Zone and I did NOT like that! As an adult though I have really fallen for a lot of it. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet just seemed to weird to me as a child. I did love Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy though. When I was about 13 - my mom got me started on her books. How I adored the Crystal Cave. It was a fantasy I could somehow relate to. As a teenager I did read a lot of Ray Bradbury - Farneheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes,The Illustrated Man - but that was a little darker.

    As a young married I remember growing close to my new sisters in law. They were 8 and 10 - since I was only 10 years older it was like we were truly sisters!! We would talk for hours and share books and titles. I had them over often to spend the night and we made tents in the living room and read with flashlights. I was growing my own Book Buddies!! They helped me discover the new kind of young adult fiction and I have never looked back. I loved finding The Egypt Game and The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatly Snyder and seeing stories through their eyes.

    A few years down the road I read along with my own kids and we feasted on Piers Anthony (his Xanth novels were clean and appropriate for kids), we flew with Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsinger and found Pern. I had one son who truly enjoyed the genre and now I had a chance to read with another Book Buddy! Reading Ender's Game was a treat and all 4 of my boys loved it as well. We all still read it again every few years and pass the same copy back and forth.

    When I became a manager of a bookstore I had an assignment to become more well versed with the Sci Fi/ Fantasy genre again. Phillip Pullman and alternate worlds were more acceptable now. You can still find the techno, the weird and trashy, the far-fetched and the far-flung but what I read was a real pleasure. I must admit the sci fi/ fantasy I like has to be somewhat plausible. I'm not fond of totally weird names and places. I enjoy it more if there is a connection to our real world. But I guess I'm just more willing to experiment nowadays - -I've got more than a lot to share if you ever want to add to your TBR pile!!

    Sorry I went on so....I guess you tapped a great memory!

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  4. My reading childhood was during the seventies and for some reason I too totally missed reading sci-fi or fantasy. Until I read your post I hadn't realised this. A fleeting glimpse of Doctor Who on the television did give me screaming nightmares for an entire summer so perhaps scary sounding books were banned around me.
    Maureen Hume www.thepizzagang.com

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  5. My first thought was Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave, and I noticed Inside a Book mentioned it, too.

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  6. As a kid, I just obviously did not like sci fi/fantasy. I did go through a Piers Anthony phase in high school, but that's all I remember. I guess the recent sci fi/fantasy craze really introduced me to the genre, and now I'm as crazy about it as everyone else. Although, like Gaye, I don't go for "high fantasy" or super-techy sci fi - I need some connection to the real world. I think I'm like her - I'm more open-minded now than I was as a kid, more willing to experiment with different kinds of books ...

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm pretty sure I have the Crystal Cave on my bookshelves somewhere. The others sound good, too - I'll add them all to my TBR list.

    Gaye - I really meant it when I said give me suggestions. You can post them here or send me an email - blogginboutbooks[AT]gmail[DOT][COM]. I should have figured an elementary school teacher would have all the answers :) And, wow, what a fun SIL you were (and still are, I'm sure)!

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  7. I have the same problem as your daughter. I have a lot of mystery books I can't reread.

    I loved the Nancy Drew books as a kid. As far as Sci Fi/Fantasy? I don't remember reading any as a kid but they were some of my favorite movies.

    Would the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien be considered scifi? Read it after seeing the movie Secret of NIMH.

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  8. I was just crazy for Piers Anthony and Terry Brooks as a kid. The Xanth books (Anthony) and the Shannara books (Brooks) were my staples. I haven't revisited them as an adult, so I'm not sure how they stand up over time. I also really loved Patricia Wrede.

    Something in sci-fi that I did not read as a teen, but was surprised to love as an adult was Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game." I wonder how I missed that?

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  9. Do remember Judy Blume? My daughter also loved the Bearstein Bears. I enjoyed reading them to her now she's into The Tales of Emily Windsnap, Eragon, and Twilight. I've read Twilight--nice read, so I read New Moon--couldn't get into the 300 or so pages of self-deprecation, but the last 250 were pretty good.
    http://strategicbookpublishing.com/NoTearsForTheTeary.html

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  10. I loved The Indian in the Cupboard, which falls into the fantasy category, definitely read the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan (if you haven't already). James and the Giant Peach, The Cricket in Times Square, and The Borrowers were all favorites too. Oooh and The BFG and Matilda (Roald Dahl was obviously a favorite of mine). Hopefully some of those are helpful!

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  11. You know that old saying: It's never too late to have a happy childhood? I think it's true, but also that "There's never enough time to have ENOUGH childhood!" Most of the kid's lit books I've read have been read as an adult - I was a big Nancy Drew fan, myself. And then there's the fact that a lot of really good kid's books weren't written till I was all grown up. Sorry I can't help with a fantasy reading list, tho.

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  12. It is sad to me that you missed this selection of books, because it is one of my favorite.
    So here are a few of my recomendations: The Chronicles of Narnia are a must, The Shanarah Books by Terry Brooks are wonderful(especially The Sword of Shanarah) I also read the Golden Compass and sequels and really enjoyed them.
    More recently I have really enjoyed: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (along with Enna Burning and River Secrets), Ender's Game and of course Harry Potter! Hope this helps.

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  13. The Dark is Rising sequence, of course, the Naria books, anything by Robin McKinley--she started writing again recently (Yeah!!) and I haven't read her most recent stuff, but The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword are amazing. Hobbit, LOTR, naturally.

    For newer stuff (there seems to be more YA fantasy now than when we were kids) my boys are enjoying Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. I really wanted to start reading fantasy to my kids early (they're 8, 6, and 4), because I think there's a link between love of fantasy later in life and exposure to it early on. If your imagination is taught to believe in the impossible while it's still learning to create pictures in your head, it's easier to accept fantasy as an adult--or at least to suspend disbelief and consider the awesome question of "What if?" :)

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  14. Love your blog! Thanks!!
    I recently read
    -Enchantress from the Stars by Engdahl
    I enjoyed it and it gave me a lot to think about. Happy reading!

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  15. The only two fantasy/sci fi I read as a kid were Narnia and a Wrinkle in Time too. Though, actually, looking at the comments I did read the Indian in the Cupboard as well. I must not have classified it as fantasy though because I remember liking them :)

    I'm interested in what you think of Dark is Rising...I didn't like it much, but I now many who adore it.

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