Sunday, July 1, 2007

Kid Stuff: Classic YA Reads

By April D. Boland

The apostle Paul once wrote somewhere in the Bible, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." He recognized that there comes a time when all of us put away the Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes and relegate our beloved childhood pastimes to a cardboard box in our parents' basement. This is a rite of passage, albeit a sorrowful one, as we gallop headlong towards our future as straight-laced, boring adults.

But doesn't anyone else get tempted, every once in a while, to crack open that box again?

I know I do. I'm not talking about my old Barbies, though; I'm talking about my old books. I have nothing but fond memories about the books I used to read and sometimes I get "cravings" for them like any other book. Here is a list of "YA" or "Young Adult" reads that are worth a read for adults as well:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I first encountered this masterpiece through the Cartoon Network, which aired the 1970 movie version starring Butch Patrick (more commonly known to the free world as Eddie Munster). I was around ten or eleven and I sat glued to that thing and fell in love. Being bookish, I immediately bought the book and began reading it at lunchtime in the cafeteria at school. When my sixth grade social studies teacher taught us about coats of arms in medieval times, I excitedly showed her the cover after class, which contains a drawing of one on one of its pages. She squinted at me in her usual mean way and asked, "Aren't you a little old to be reading this? Is this for your level?" According to, which unfortunately was not around at the time, it was exactly right for my age, but as I said, she was mean.

Anyway, this book is allegory mixed with myth mixed with symbolism and metaphor, and it is totally fun. Milo, the protagonist, winds up in this magical world where you've got to use letters and numbers and all types of knowledge to survive. I could pick that book up today, at 23 years old, and still love it.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Perhaps of interest mainly to women, this is still a book worth noting. This was the coming-of-age tale that all mothers bought for their daughters, mine included. It's the story of a girl praying for her period, and what life was like for her in the seventh grade. Poignant, beautiful and real, we cheer Margaret along in teenage life.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

In fact, anything by Roald Dahl is wonderful, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of those incredible classics that really remains with you. If you enjoyed the movie (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ... the Gene Wilder version!) then you will really enjoy the book, which fleshes out the story more, as is often the case with books versus movies.
There you have it. There are many, many more titles that could be added to this list, but were not for the sake of brevity. Why not start your own? Summertime, when we are relaxing and taking it easy, can be the perfect time to reread some of your favorite books from childhood. It's also interesting to see how your perceptions have changed since the last time you read these books, all those years ago.

Estella's Revenge also recommends:

  • Matilda, by Roald Dahl

  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry

  • The Arabel and Mortimer series, by Joan Aiken

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