Friday, October 10, 2003

Friday Five

Chris' Topic:
"I want to expose my son to the very best literature as he grows up -- "best" being defined as "engaging his interest, challenging his intellect, and building his character." Based on your own life experiences, what five books would you recommend?"

This question is problematic (and not because of any gender implications - I am quite certain that, aside from personal taste, boys and girls should all be exposed to the same basic canon) - I'd pick different books for different age children, but here's 5 that I think everyone should have read by the time he or she is an adult.

1. A good edition of Greek myths - Graves' is good. There are also some good versions for younger children, including several comic style ones.
2. The Illiad and The Odyssey, in good translations. For the youngsters, Marcia Williams has done a comic version of both stories that is clever and accesible.
3. A selection of Shakespeare - I've started my kids with Marcia William's comic versions. Something like Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare would also be a good introduction. By the junior high years, I hope my kids will have read at least A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet in the original.
4. A good anthology of poetry, fables, fairy tales and literature for children - My Book House is a wonderful series that starts with a volume of nursery rhymes and ends (at volume 12) with excerpts from Don Quixote and Chaucer's Tales. Each version includes short biographies of historical figures as well as myths from varioius cultures. The series is certainly not perfect - it was originally assembled in the 1920's and revised in the 1950's so it presents a very anglo, male version of the canon and some of the writing sounds stilted to a modern ear, but it is one of the best efforts at cultural literacy for children. Sadly the series is out of print, but it is readily available from used book services (except for the first volume - In the Nursery, which is missing from many sets, including mine.)
5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

Honorable Mentions:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien , The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, some version of the Matter of Britain - Le Morte d'Arthur would be great, but any version that sticks close to the traditional story will do, a good collection of traditional fairy tales - any edition is good, so long as it's not too Disneyfied or whitewashed, and I could go on and on here (children's literature is one of my pet obsessions) so I'll just stop without mentioning Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. . .ok, I'm really stopping now.

Also playing: Adam, Will, Merideth, Gina, Colleen (?), Dave (?), Craig, Gord, Adrienne, Nanette, and introducing Marvin and Rob.

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