"But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do." -C.S. Lewis
My children and I really enjoyed traveling through books to far off lands and different centuries and meeting the people (and humanized animals!) who inhabited them, while coming back to ourselves at the same time by sharing with the characters not only their adventures, but also finding a common boundary of ideas and feelings about family and friendship, loyalties and truths. We would always return with a new perspective on others and a renewed perspective of ourselves...
TALES OF A CHINESE GRANDMOTHER, by Frances Carpenter. (Ages 9-12) Wonderful folktales of the Chinese culture, told by an old grandmother. Each chapter is a different tale.
THE CHILDREN'S HOMER, by Padraic Colum. Exquisite pen and ink illustrations by Willy Pogany. (Ages 9-12) My kids were entranced by this telling of Greek mythology because it allowed us to see the Greeks through their own eyes.
THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (series), by Lynne Reid Banks. (Ages 8-12) Exciting, absorbing, and thought provoking story, alive with magic as two boys discover they can bring their toys to life by putting them in an old medicine cabinet that one of them receives - along with a small plastic Indian - for his birthday. They are faced with the responsibility of this tiny person and the consequences of their actions. Gives new meaning to the phrase, "the dignity of human life".
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (series), by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes (Ages 8-12). It is so evident in these stories that Lewis respects children's imaginations - he does not dumb-down evil or sugar-coat goodness. At the same time, there is a wonderful sense of the everyday in these incredible fantasy books - hearth and home and the honest decency of ordinary characters who are movtivated by love!!! The children, talking animals and creatures, and especially the great Lion, Aslan, will become endearing companions that your children will never forget.
REDWALL (series), by Brian Jacques, illustrated by Gary Chalk. (ages 8-12). This series was read to my children by their father and I'm not sure who enjoyed the reading more, him or them! All the characters are animals, mostly mice and mostly heroic, with the exception of the villian, Cluny the one-eyed rat, and his horde. Matthias, a novice monk (mouse) at Redwall Abbey, has dedicated himself to the service of peace. But he slowly learns that, sometimes, it is virtuous to defend oneself and those one loves. (Many children have been known to read this under the covers at night with a flashlight, after read aloud time is over and dad and mom have gone to bed). Go to http://www.redwall.org/ for Brian Jacques' fun website and a list of all the books!
THE BRONZE BOW, by Elizabeth Speare. (Ages 9-12) Beautifully told story of a boy living in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. 1962 Newbery Medal winner. A family favorite of ours!
THE HOUSE OF SIXTY FATHERS, by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. (Ages 9-12). The Japanese invasion of China during World War II is the backdrop for this touching story of a little boy named Tien Pao, who becomes separated from his parents. He is eventually helped by American soldiers and airmen. Throughout the search for his parents, he is determined not to despair.
THE ENDLESS STEPPE, by Esther Hautzig. (Ages 10 and up). This book made a huge impression on us, probably because it is a true story and the heroine, only ten years old, never loses courage or perserverance in the face of extreme hardship after being forced to leave her beautiful home in Poland in 1942 and live in Siberia with her family because they are Jewish.