The word on the street is that some kids don’t like to be encouraged to read books. I never had that problem, or if I did, I don’t remember it. Betsy Hoke told me to read this book, if I remember correctly. She made me read Bridge to Terabithia, too. That’s the first book I remember crying to.
Anyway, The Castle in the Attic. It has been a long time since I read this book, but here’s my recollection: This book starts out with a slightly whiny protagonist. He’s borderline annoying. A person very important to him is moving away, and he’s being left with a toy castle.
But then, as is common to great books, the toy castle is not what it seemed. Adventure ensues. If you have a boy aged 7 – 11, this is a great read. They will have fun. I remember reading this book and immediately handing it off to my little brother, who also loved it. It’s a fun read.
Sometimes books you remember as a child or adolescent disappear from shelves. Walt Morey is one of those authors. Some publisher had, cleverly, published a set of seven or eight of his stories in the 90s as the Walt Morey Adventure library. My parents bought them for us boys at Christmas one year, if memory serves.
They are almost impossible to find now.
Walt Morey is best known for writing Gentle Ben (his first children’s novel, proving that sometimes the first one is the best?). I’ve actually never read Gentle Ben. Walt Morey will forever be in my head for writing the best “boy” books of my early teens. His stories were transitional — the stakes were no longer non-existent. There was tragedy and drama.
He was a master of setting — his books are mostly set either in Alaska or in the Pacific Northwest. He loved those landscapes, and he writes them compellingly.
I wish I could say I had a favorite, but I don’t. I loved them all — Deep Trouble, Angry Waters, Scrub – Dog of Alaska, Runaway Stallion, Home is the North, Run Far, Run Fast, Year of the Black Pony, and Gloomy Gus.
I was telling Rebecca this morning that I need to go ahead and buy used versions of them all. They’re delightful. Especially if you have boys, these books are worth having around. I lost myself for hours in Walt Morey’s adventures. They’re a fun read.
(Boom… use of Title in Post… +10 bonus points!)
Like many people who once were kids, I love The Chronicles of Narnia. Perhaps unlike many people who once were kids, The Horse and His Boy is my favorite of the seven tales C. S. Lewis wrote for kids.
The Horse and His Boy feels the most out of place of the books in Narnia. It’s set in the same universe, but it’s hard to know that at first. It has wonderful mystery — a boy who feels out of place with his father, who discovers that his father is not, in fact, his father. It has lions and knights and caves and escapes and battles. It is, in a word, magnificent.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan remains one of my favorite reading memories. Although it was published in 1990, I was in my late teenage years when I first discovered it. It sticks out in my head as one of several completely satisfying reads during those years. (Dune, from last week, was another.)
The Eye of the World begins by introducing a cast of characters. I think that’s what worked so well for me. It was one of my first experiences with a novel that had more than one protagonist. Robert Jordan’s management of his characters feels quite deft in this first book. The story moves quickly, the world feels very big, and the characters we’re following feel important, even when we’re not sure how.
The Eye of the World is the first book in a fourteen volume series. The whole series weighs in at 4.4 million words, so this is an endorsement with a necessary caution: while this book is light on its feet, later books (especially around books 8 – 11) feel as though the characters feet are encased in concrete by comparison. While I love the series, my wonderful wife still hasn’t made it all the way through, thanks to the series bogging down in the middle.
But, if you’re looking for a fun read with a fast pace, The Eye of the World is one of my favorites.
Reading brings people together. I really believe that. It might even be one of the things I believe in most. Don’t get me wrong, I think TV, music, and movies can do the same thing. So can affinity for a certain dog breed (I’m particularly inclined toward St. Bernard mutts) or any number of other things.
But, I don’t know if there’s a quicker way to make a friend than connecting over a mutually-loved book. I recently interviewed author (and my friend/brother-in-law/partner in crime) S. D. Smith about a book he’s got coming out. My favorite question was definitely the one about books he remembered from his childhood. There are shared experiences there. They provide common language, common emotion. It’s the same for fans of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Foundation Trilogy, Dune, Ender’s game, Harry Potter, and more. It’s probably even true for fans of the Twilight Saga, although I wouldn’t know it.
So, it occurs to me, why not share a little bit about what I’m reading? And I’m going to. I’m going to call it fun reads. It’s going to be focused on reading I’m doing to help me stay on top of what’s current and classic in sci-fi and fantasy. Occasionally you’ll see titles that don’t fit that, but that’ll be unusual.
Connecting over books is magic. I hope I can connect you to some great books. Maybe you can connect me to some great books, too. Leave a comment — my reading list is always growing.