help me avoid disappointment

My good friend over at Sanity and the Solo Mom has a great post up tonight about the books she wants to make sure her daughters own–not just check out from the library. Obviously, the topic of kids’ books is one I have a lot of strong feelings about. One of my all-time favorite things about parenting is introducing the kids to books that I loved as a child, and I absolutely have a similar list of books that my kids must own. In fact, there’s a fair amount of overlap between her list and mine.

I’ve spent the last seven years trying to catch up on what happened in children’s lit after I grew up. There are a lot of really wonderful books that came out. A whole lot transpired in Ramona’s life after I stopped paying attention to her, for instance. Then of course, there’s Cornelia Funke, who followed a great tradition of writing books where readers are the heroes. Philip Pullman–the Dark Materials series is brilliant. Eoin Colfer–I love the Artemis Fowl series. And of course, J.K. Rowling, the god-mother of 21st century children’s fantasy.

And on the picture book side, there is great work being done by Tomie DePaola, Ian Falconer, and Doreen Cronin, just to name a few.

But there’s also been some stuff that I’ve considered tremendously overrated. To wit? Lemony Sn*cket. Also? Christopher Pa*lini.

Over. Rated.

What about you? What kids books have you found over-hyped, under-written, and just basically all-around disappointing? I’m particularly interested in hearing from those of you with middle schoolers, and the children’s librarians in the house. It seems like there is a fair amount of pap being put out daily to feed the ravening maw of the tween set, and I want to know what to avoid. Or at least what to insist should be checked out, not paid for.


January 28, 2007. books for kids.


  1. Kimberly replied:

    Loathe Lemony Snicket with a deep and firery passion. Derivitive, repetitive Drivel. I do like Paolini though. I enjoyed Eragon, but I’m big on Dragons. (Crap! Pern’s not on my list! Better go edit.)

    Some Boynton is infintely ownable, but some should nevr be opened (I’m looking at you, Doggies.) Ditto Eric Carle.

    The Artemis Fowl books are definitely Library reads. I like them, but they aren’t fabulous. Better than those stupid Left Behind or Gossip Girl books though.

    The Georgia Nicholson books by Lousie Rennison are also Library, to me. They’re a sort of chick lit version of Adrian Mole. Funny, but lacking that charm that makes Adrian so palatable.

    If The World Were a Village is a great concept, but I find the 30 minute video infinitely more palatable (I know! If I’m saying that, it must mean something, eh?)

    Ok, better let some other people speak up. But I’ll be back!

  2. Jennifer replied:

    You know, I never thought about it this way. There are books I want my kids to own so that *I* can read them again, but I hadn’t thought about them loving the same books that I did.

    I do love to run to the library when they express an interest in some subject — partly on their behalf and partly, admittedly, so that I discover new books!

    What about Roald Dahl? I remember my mom reading Charlie & the Chocolate Factory to me, and I’m looking forward to reading it to my kids, too.

  3. Lady M replied:

    I used to love the Elizabeth Enright books (The Saturdays, The Fourth Story Mistake, A Spiderweb for Two). They aren’t new, but it’s fun to read vintage sometimes too.

    I received Eragon for Christmas, so I have yet to read it.

  4. elise replied:

    Keep an open mind about Lemony Snicket since my son loved them and really didn’t like Harry Potter. I haven’t read either one but figured I would let you know his opinion. Maybe he sees something in them that others don’t…I even considered buying some for him for Christmas. Maybe I will have to read one and form my own opinion! heh heh

  5. Kimberly replied:

    Loved The Saturdays! Oh, Betsy Byar and Caroline B. Cooney are other authors that are are good, but I don’t necessarily think need to take up shelf space. Lois Lowry is situational; I have all three Giver books and will buy anything in that series, but much though I love Anastasia Krupnik, I think they can go to the library for her.

    Kids do seem to like Lemony Snickett. Diva Girl likes it too. Doesn’t make it interesting or well written though. Which means Library all the way. And to be read by yourself, not aloud by me.

  6. alala replied:

    Snicket, bleah. I found it heavy-handed, and not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. And I only read half of Eragon… it reads like it was written by a 15-year-old boy. Or the Moody Blues.

    I really, really love writers who really, really love language, and it seems to me like that should be a prerequisite for a publishing contract. So often I read books and think, “great premise, I wish they’d handed it over to a better writer” (yes, Magic Tree House, I am looking at you). Actually, Cornelia Funke fit into this category for me, but so many people have loved her, I may have to give her another try.

    So I agree with most of your list, and Sanity’s, and will be writing them down somewhere for future reference. Some things, off the top of my head:

    My favorite illustrator is Trina Schart Hyman, I loved her fairy tales.

    And I would add Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books to my list – well, I already have. We are also buying Michael Ende’s books (like the Neverending Story), though of course in the original German because Mr Husband is German. He’s got good stories.

    I’ll be back if I think of anything else.

  7. Sandi replied:

    Eragon was written by a 15-year-old boy! At least he started it when he was15! I am a middle school librarian so here’s my opintions. I am not a fan of Caroline Cooney. I despise R.L. Stine and can’t believe no one mentioned him yet. I am not a fan of Lemony Snicket, but much like the Harry Potter books, “he” got kids reading, especially boys. It’s hard to find books that really get middle school boys reading, so I can’t bash the series too much. The Redwall series is excellent–again it also appeals to boys.

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