In honor of Children's Book Week, I'm thinking about my favorite kids' books of all times. I'm inspired by one of my favorite writers- Barbara O'Connor. Check out her blog entry and read the comments to find out what some really good writers have to say about well-written books that influence their writing.
I think the first books that made me appreciate the excitement of being taken somewhere outside my reality (at the time my reading reality was probably Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, et al.) were the Alice books. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I still remember reading them during our family's required summer Polio Naps. After raising her twin daughters, my grandmother returned to college and taught 4th grade for about a million years so birthday gifts from her were always something other than Nancy and Cherry.
It was a while before I read books like a writer, however. Paying attention to the richness of the language, the characters, and dare I say it, the dreaded plot. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson was a favorite with my students and I remember reading it aloud to 5th graders at Bryn Mawr School. She was one of the first writers I actually met and had a conversation about writing with. As she answered the students' questions about how she wrote the book, I began to realize how this writing thing might become a possibility. I love the way Kate DiCamillo tells a story. More recently, I've appreciated the historical fiction of Laurie Halse Anderson, the close research required to write so truthfully of a time period. And until I discovered and dissected the Southern-themed books by Deborah Wiles, Kerry Madden, Barbara O'Connor, and Cynthia Rylant, I didn't understand "voice" in books written for kids.
So today's the first day of Children's Book Week, a day to begin thinking about what books influenced you as a reader. What did you read on those long summer days or after your lights were supposed to be out?