Two Brilliant Children’s Books
August 6, 2013 | My Jottings
I have such good memories of reading out loud to my children. I read to them long after they were able to read for themselves, often in the car on a road trip or right before bed. During the last year of home schooling, Sara and I read 54 books together, and one of my favorites came from that time.
Our literature-based curriculum said we had to read Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman, and when I looked at the cover I said to myself, “Bleh.” I try never to judge a book by its cover but a story about a boy climbing a mountain just wasn’t something I wanted to delve into that year. We sat on the couch and started reading, though, while the snow fell outside and a tiny fire burned in our living room fireplace. The first chapter was okay. The second chapter better. And by the third chapter, Sara was saying, “Mom, please read another chapter!” and we couldn’t put it down after that.
I read this book out loud to my grandson Mr. McBoy last year, and the results were the same. He kept begging for me to read the next chapter and then the next, and it was a book that made our hearts thrill. This book would be a wonderful gift to any child/pre-teen in your life, definitely one you’d want to own. In fact, recently I realized that I’d forgotten who I loaned my copy to, so I bought a new one. I don’t ever want it not to be on my book shelves. 🙂 If you read this to a child, they need to be a good listener. I don’t think a five year-old would understand it, but I think a seven or eight year-old could. And as it is with most good children’s books, Banner in the Sky is fantastic for adults too.
The other book I would like to tell you about today is one of my all-time favorites. I just finished reading it out loud to three of my grandchildren and to say they loved it and hung on every word would be quite an understatement. It’s out of print (to my knowledge) but you can get used copies, and it’s worth every dime or dollar you might have to pay. It’s called The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein by one of my favorite children’s authors, Carol Ryrie Brink.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve read this book. It’s the story of a brainy, sensitive, lonely little girl named Irma who tells a whopper of a lie. The consequences of that lie and the lessons learned are so huge that I found myself sobbing as I read the last few chapters to my grandchildren this week.
My first copy fell apart and I sent away for another one, and it’s one I will always want to be on my shelves. There are a few grandchildren I haven’t read this to yet, and I’m anxious to begin again with them.
I’ve always loved Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations as well, and every time I came to a page with a drawing on it, the children crowded around me to study the details and smile at each one. Hyman was such a gifted artist — in the past I’ve checked books out of the library just because she was the illustrator.
Here’s one of the drawings from The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein:
Now I’ve started another book with one of my grandchildren — Fred Gibson’s Old Yeller. I’m familiar with the story from the movie so I know we’ll be crying before the last page is turned. But that’s okay. Crying over good literature with someone you love is one of the best things in life, in my opinion.
Some of you have shared the titles of your favorite children’s books before, but I’d love for you to share again if you would. There are new readers here and we all could use a good recommendation on how to bless the lives of the children we love!