Re-engaging with the classics

Literary classics have a bit of a PR problem – while they have stood the test of time because of their brilliant plotting, excellent writing and timeless messages, their longevity can also mean archaic language and a fusty image.  If you love the classics, but don’t know how to introduce them to your young readers, Booko can show you how.  Here are classic literature ideas for young readers – from babies all the way to young adults.

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up edited by Julia Eccleshare

Everyone loves a list, and this one is great fun to browse as well as a fantastic reference.   These 1001 titles have been chosen by Julia Eccleshare, a writer, reviewer and editor who has worked with children’s literature for almost 40 years.  It’s a good overview of the best children’s books from across the ages and around the world, including translated titles.  The books are grouped by reading age, and there are reviews of favourite books written by beloved authors including Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and Philip Pullman.  Leave this book lying around and everyone will want a turn flicking through.  For those with teen readers, pair it with it’s grown-up cousin, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall.

Little Miss Shelley: Frankenstein – an Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams

The super-cute BabyLit series enables discerning parents to introduce babies to their favourite literary characters! The sturdy board book format is perfect for little hands (and mouths); the artwork is stylish, colourful and fun; and each title matches a classic story to a related concept.  The latest titles include Frankenstein (about anatomy) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (about fairies). There’s also Jane Eyre  (counting), Jungle Book  (animals) and many more.

 

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales retold by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales is a classic example of a book gift that can be enjoyed for years to come.  It is a bumper edition of twenty stories, ranging from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, to The Dancing Princesses and Tamlin.   Pastel illustrations in jewel tones add a vibrant yet dreamy quality. These beloved stories have been retold in hypnotic, poetic language by the award-winning Geraldine McCaughrean – her style makes these stories seem ancient and fresh all at once.  If myths and legends are more your style, Geraldine McCaughrean has also done excellent retellings of Greek Myths and Roman Myths, with illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark.

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Add a superstar comic artist to a beloved series and you get a modern classic ready to engage with new (and old) readers. Raina Telgemeier has amply demonstrated her ability to depict tween/teen relationships in bestselling graphic novels such as Smile and Sisters; The Baby-Sitters Club was a hugely-successful series, now celebrated for its girl-power message and its efforts in highlighting issues such as divorce, chronic illness and racism.  This full-colour graphic novel edition of Kristy’s Great Idea is gorgeous to look at, and introduces readers to how the series begins.  Books 1-4 are also available as a box set, while the original novels have also been republished.

 

Burning Maze (The Trials fo Apollo Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Burning Maze is the latest instalment in the Trials of Apollo series, where Apollo finds himself stranded in the body of a teenage New Yorker, as punishment for angering his father Zeus.   To return to Olympus, Apollo has to complete five impossible tasks – without access to his godly powers.  In Burning Maze, it’s two down, three to go.  Rick Riordan has won many fans with his action-packed adventures firmly rooted in Greek / Roman / Egyptian / Norse mythologies. Not only does he achieve the seamless blending of modern fantasy with ancient mythology, he has also updated the deities in witty ways.  For other modern updates for middle-grade readers, try Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.

 

 

Hamlet by John Marsden

The challenge in making Classics appeal to teens is how to minimise the daunting reputation of the historical language while letting their gripping plots – full of love, grief, angst – shine.  The solution (particularly for Shakespeare’s works) lies in re-imagining these stories in vivid, modern prose.  While John Marsden’s terrific version of Hamlet stays close to the original, he views Hamlet as a teenager – young, vulnerable and relatable.  Other retellings give fresh perspectives through the eyes of a different / minor character – such as I am Juliet by Jackie French, Ophelia by Lisa Klein, or The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet by Natasha Farrant.

Top Picks for Reluctant Readers

The term ‘reluctant reader’ is a tricky one because there are a number of reasons why a child may pause before picking up a book…we think it’s super important to recognise why somebody is reluctant and the reasons range from low reading confidence to a lack of interest. Here are our top picks that are bound to pique interest from children who would rather do anything else than pick up a book.

 

Laugh Out Loud by James Patterson

James Patterson creates books kids love, and his latest book is all about a boy who decides to create books kids love by setting up his own book company. Jimmy is determined to follow his dream of a company run by kids for kids, despite the scepticism of parents, teachers and the bank. The story mixes real life and fantasy, and along the way slips lots of recommendations for other unputdownable children’s books. The pacey narrative, variety of scenes and events, and Jimmy’s straight-to-camera narrative keeps the pages turning nicely.

 

 

 

Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland

Whilst leaving footpaths should never be done, Straying from stories is all sorts of fun!

Little Red Reading Hood loves reading books and making up stories of her own. When she meets a cunning wolf while on her way to the library, he convinces her to stray from the path and read for a little while. But hasn’t she read this in a story before? Perhaps it’s time she came up with a new ending . . .

This is a contemporary and fun take on the classic fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. Created by incredible new picture book partnership, Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle, Little Red Reading Hood will inspire children, and adults, about the magic of books and reading.

 

 

The Superhero Handbook by James Doyle

There’s no excuse for anyone who, having read this book from cover to cover and followed its instructions carefully, does not emerge a superhero. Contained within its pages is a complete superhero training course. Not only do you learn how to invent your superhero name, and how to choose a sidekick, but you can also have a go at some special superhero activities, such as making a mini jet-pack (you’ll need string, a straw, sticky tape and a balloon), or an electro-magnet. The superhero fun and games are very entertaining, as are the science bits, and it’s all delivered in a friendly, knowing and thoroughly engaging way. An unusual information activity book that cleverly mixes science learning with the allure of superhero-dom.

 

Planet Stan by Elaine Wickson

Space, family relationships, friendships are all cleverly and vividly described in this entertaining story. Stan is a nerdy but very likeable hero, who wants nothing more than to win a telescope in the science fair so that he can study space. The main obstacle to this and indeed all Stan’s hopes and wishes, is his little brother Fred, a dinosaur-obsessed five-year-old tornado of destruction and unpredictability. Super-orderly Stan resorts to a range of charts and measuring devices to fill us in on his life – pie-charts, ordinary charts, illustrated diagrams, Venn diagrams – and together with his lugubrious, sometimes agonised delivery, it makes for fast and very funny reading. Readers will be on Stan’s side from the start, and this will speak to anyone who has, is or knows a younger brother or sister.

 

Just Plain Weird by Kaye Umanksy

The Primms and the Weirds are two totally different families. The Primms are fish-eating, hedge-trimming, neighbourhood-watching, they are as strait-laced as they come, while the Weirds are just, weird! Mum is a stunt woman, Dad is an inventor, Gran is very, very small. Despite their differences, when the Weirds move in next door, Pinch Primm becomes friends with Ott Weird, and their adventures make wonderfully comic reading. There are three different stories, each is short, very funny and with a momentum that keeps the pages turning right until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams

Are you ready to meet the World’s Worst Children? Five beastly boys and five gruesome girls! Like Sofia Sofa a TV super-fan so stuck to the sofa that she’s turning into one! or Dribbling Drew a boy whose drool gets him into trouble on a school trip! and not to forget Blubbering Bertha a girl who bawls and tells terrible tales!

David Walliams has created a collection of wickedly funny, deliciously mischievous tales, illustrated in glorious colour by the artistic genius Tony Ros.

 

Enjoy!