Here is a list of books that Aunt Book believes worthy of your
attention, Dear Nieces and Nephews. If you wish to share your
comments about any of these books, do, please, Tell Aunt Book.
(Alas, Aunt Book does not have time to post the recommendations of
others, and suggests that they may wish to start their own web
sites). The books are, at the moment, listed in no particular
order. Aunt Book would be very interested in learning whether you
find this charmingly informal, or so disorganized as to drive you to
BONNIE DUNDEE, by Rosemary
Sutcliff. Bodley Head, c1983; American
edition Dutton, 1984.
A fictionalized view of the life of John Grahame of
Claverhouse, first Viscount Dundee, known variously as "Bonnie Dundee"
and "Bloody Claverhouse" (that latter by nitwits who know no
better). If you don't pitch headlong into love with the man, Aunt
Book will be considerably surprised.
A TRAVELLER IN TIME, by Allison
Uttley. Faber & Faber, c1948.
When Penelope goes to stay with relatives in
an old, old
farmhouse in Derbyshire, she sees people who are no longer there and
walks through doors that no longer exist into the past at the time of
the captivity of Mary, Queen of Scots. A lovely, dreamlike
book. If you would like to see the real house that is called
Thackers in this book, there are some pictures here.
MOVEABLE MABELINE, by
KarenAckerman. Philomel Books, 1990.
If you are a collector of dolls, as Aunt Book
is, you will enjoy this story of "the doll that got away," but not
The Green Knowe books by L. M. Boston. These include THE CHILDREN
OF GREEN KNOWE, A STRANGER AT
GREEN KNOWE, THE TREASURE OF
(also known as THE CHIMNEYS OF GREEN
KNOWE), THE RIVER AT GREEN
and THE STONES OF GREEN KNOWE.
Mrs. Boston based these stories on
the ancient house she bought and restored, and they are magical.
You might also enjoy MEMORY IN A HOUSE,
in which she tells of buying
and restoring the house at Hemingford Grey. You can find out more
information about the real house here.
THE WONDERFUL YEAR, by Nancy
Barnes. Messner, 1946. Ellen
and her family leave their city home in Kansas and go to Colorado to
live in the country for her father's health. Her new life turns
out to be wonderful (hence the title, of course!), as she makes friends
with the British boy on the next ranch and explores her new
home. You'll wish that you could join
MAGIC ELIZABETH, by Norma
Kassirer. Sally, with great reluctance,
goes to stay with her Great-Aunt Sarah in a scary, old-fashioned
house. Through an old diary and through her dreams, Sally learns
about Elizabeth, a doll who belonged to another Sally years ago and who
disappeared and was never found. The illustrations are by Joe
Krush, half of Aunt Book's favorite illustrating team.
SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS, by Arthur
Ransome. A family of children,
spending a vacation in England's Lake District, given permission to
sail in the Swallow to camp on an island (their father's reply from
overseas: "Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won't
drown") meet up with the Amazon, crewed by two sisters. They
befriend and compete with each other. Aunt Book chortles
gleefully over the fact that Captain Nancy of the pirate ship Amazon is
actually named Ruth, but as everyone knows that pirates are
ruthless... This is the first in a series of books, all of which
Aunt Book heartily recommends.
ELISABETH, by Claire A.
Nivola. Elisabeth the doll and her owner,
Ruth, live in Germany. Ruth and her family have to flee (from the
pictures, though not the text, we can see that it is because of the
Nazis) and Ruth is forced to leave Elisabeth behind. Years later,
they are reunited. The magical thing about this story is that it
is true. The illustrations are lovely, bright yet soft, and
childlike. Aunt Book is very fond of doll books, and this is an
THE COLOR KITTENS, by Margaret
Wise Brown, illus. by Alice and Martin
Provensen. Bounce and Pounce, the Color Kittens, discover how
colors combine to make other colors. The soft, bright colors of
the illustrations are a large part of the charm of this book, and one
of them, where all the different colors make a lovely, swirly pattern
in spilled paint, is Aunt Book's very favorite children's book
THE LIBRARY, by Sarah
Stewart. Aunt Book finds Elizabeth Brown,
the protagonist of this book, to be a kindred spirit, and knows quite
well the joys and fears of having a house that is filled to
overflowing with books.
THE NICKEL-PLATED BEAUTY, by
Patricia Beatty. The Kimballs' stove is falling apart, and the
children hear of a miraculous thing called "C.O.D.," used for ordering
things when one has no money. It is only after the lovely
Nickel-Plated Beauty arrives that they realize that they must, in fact,
pay for it, and set about earning the money, secretly, to surprise
their mother. Set in 1886 in Washington State, it is one of a
number of excellent historical fiction books by Patricia Beatty, either
alone or with her husband, John. Mrs. Beatty's deal largely with
the western U.S., and include such titles as THE QUEEN'S OWN GROVE, THE LADY FROM BLACK ROCK and O THE RED ROSE TREE, among many
CAMPION TOWERS, by John and
Patricia Beatty. One of history's more exciting episodes is the
escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. With
Parliamentarians hunting for him, he was concealed by loyal supporters
and eventually made his way to safety in France. Mr. and Mrs.
Beatty create a fictional character, Penitence Hervey, a Puritan from
the American colonies, to accompany King Charles for part of his
journey. The King's story is only a part of this novel, however,
which concentrates more on Pen's interactions with her Royalist,
non-Puritan English relatives. Another interesting book covering
the flight of the King is Georgette Heyer's ROYAL ESCAPE, not a children's book
but a superbly-researched novel. Like every other person with two
X chromosomes, Aunt Book cherishes a soft spot in her heart for Charles
THE BORROWED HOUSE, by Hilda
Van Stockum. Janna's parents are actors, and so popular with the
German government and army that they are given a house in occupied
Amsterdam in which to live, and can finally send for their daughter to
stay with them. Janna, who has accepted unquestioningly the Nazi
theories of German superiority, begins meeting people and experiencing
events that shake the foundations of her world. Hilda Van Stockum
also wrote a series set in Ireland (starting with THE COTTAGE AT BANTRY BAY) and one
about wartime in the United States (starting with THE MITCHELLS: FIVE FOR VICTORY),
but this book is Aunt Book's favorite of the lot.
THOSE MILLER GIRLS, THE MOTORING MILLERS, DOES ANYBODY CARE ABOUT LOU EMMA MILLER,
by Alberta Wilson Constant In the first book of this trilogy,
sisters Lou Emma and Maddy Miller move from Ohio to Gloriosa, Kansas,
with their college-professor father. On the way, they buy that
newfangled gadget, an auto, which becomes almost another character in
the book. The girls adjust to their new life without a
housekeeper and make friends with their new neighbors and fellow
Gloriosans, including the independent, beautiful milliner, Miss
Kate. The characters are lifelike, the story is delightful,
and the illustrations are by Beth and Joe Krush, two of Aunt Book's
favorites. The sequels are also excellent.
MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH,
by Robert C. O'Brien. A widowed mouse with several children, one
of whom is quite sickly, finds out that her cinderblock home is in
danger, and goes for help to the nearby colony of extraordinarily
intelligent rats. Aunt Book remembers her fifth-grade teacher's
reading this aloud to the class, and it was one of the first hardcover
books she bought (or, rather, persuaded her parents to buy).
THE CHANGELING, THE VELVET ROOM, THE EGYPT GAME, and BLACK AND BLUE MAGIC by Zilpha
Keatley Snyder. These three books are not a series, though the
author has written several of those. THE CHANGELING was the other
hardcover book that Aunt Book first bought (as described under MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH).
It covers many years in the story of the friendship between quiet, shy
Martha Abbott and Ivy Carson, wildly original and imaginative child
from a family from the wrong side of the tracks. In THE VELVET ROOM, Robin's family,
migrant workers during the Depression, find work at a ranch which holds
an old, deserted house, and Robin's attachment to the house leads to
her having to make a decision about the importance of her
family. In THE EGYPT GAME,
a group of children recreate Ancient Egypt in an abandoned lot. BLACK AND BLUE MAGIC, the author
tells us, was written when her son told her he was tired of sad stories
about girls and wished that she would write a funny story for boys,
instead. Harry is given the ability to grow wings, and, of
course, misadventures result!
GONE-AWAY LAKE and RETURN TO GONE-AWAY, by Elizabeth
Enright, illus. by Beth and Joe Krush. Portia and her cousin,
Julian, discover an elderly brother and sister living in the remains of
what was once a colony of summer homes near Lake Tarrigo, until the
lake vanished. Elizabeth Enright's writing has understated humor
and vivid descriptions, and both books are a joy to read. The
detailed, almost cluttered line drawings match the atmosphere of the
THE SATURDAYS, THE FOUR-STORY MISTAKE, THEN THERE WERE FIVE, and SPIDERWEB FOR TWO, by Elizabeth
Enright. Another series by the author of the two GONE-AWAY LAKE books. The
Melendy family, first in New York and then in a new, old house in the
country have realistic yet absorbing and unusual adventures. The
author illustrated these books hereself, with simple but expressive
RABBIT HILL and THE TOUGH WINTER, by Robert
Lawson. Little Georgie the rabbit and his family, Mother, Father
(with fond memories of Kentucky Bluegrass), and cantankerous Uncle
Analdas, as well as their many animal friends, are wary when new Folks
move into the Big House in the first book of this twosome. In the
second, the Folks depart on vacation just before the hardest winter in
living memory challenges the animals' survival.
JANE-EMILY, by Patricia
Clapp. Aunt Book, in her youth, made the mistake of reading this
terrifying ghost story while home alone on a stormy night. She
recommends it for anyone who wants to feel cold shivers down the
spine. Louisa and her niece, Jane, go to stay with Jane's
grandmother, only to find that the grandmother's willful daughter,
Emily, who had died years before, is still there, still willful, and
THE LION IN THE BOX, by
Marguerite de Angeli. A poor family, living in a tenement,
receives a giant box packed full of surprises for Christmas.
Marguerite de Angeli has written a number of excellent books, but this
is Aunt Book's favorite; she simply adores stories involving Christmas
THE GUINEA PIG ABC and GUINEA PIGS FAR AND NEAR, by Kate
Duke. Lively guinea pigs, packed with personality, teach children
the alphabet and opposites. The drawings are cartoonlike,
bright, and cheerful.
THE ARK and ROWAN FARM, by Margot
Benary-Isbert. These were originally written in German and tell
the story of a family, displaced from what became East Germany in the
immediate aftermath of World War II, trying to find a new home and
settle into it. Funny, sad, happy; full of memorable, well-drawn
characters; what more could anyone ask?
THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE, by
Elizabeth Goudge. An enchanting,fairy-tale-like story.
Young Maria Merryweather, newly orphaned, goes to stay at her family's
home of Moonacre Manor near the village of Silverydew. She tries
to find out about the mysterious sadness in her family's past, and the
cause of the trouble between the people of Silverydew and the nearby
fisher folk, with the help of the boy Robin, whom she had met long ago
in her dreams.
HENRY REED, INC., HENRY REED'S JOURNEY, HENRY REED'S BABY-SITTING SERVICE, HENRY REED'S BIG SHOW, and HENRY REED'S THINK TANK, by Keith
Robertson, illus by Robert McCloskey. Henry Reed, who has always
lived overseas because of his father's job in the diplomatic corps,
starts spending his summers in New Jersey with his aunt and
uncle. He and Midge Glass, a neighbor, try different schemes to
raise money. The books are written in the form of Henry's
journals, and the straight-faced way in which he describes the most
outrageously hilarious occurrences make these especially enjoyable.
THE KING WHO RAINED, A CHOCOLATE MOOSE FOR DINNER, THE SIXTEEN-HAND HORSE, and A LITTLE PIGEON TOAD, by Fred
Gwynne. Have fun with homophones (which were called homonyms when
Aunt Book was a mere slip of a thing in elementary school) as Fred
Gwynne illustrates what a child thinks of when she hears, for example,
about the Foot Prince in the snow.
WHILE MRS. COVERLET WAS AWAY, MRS. COVERLET'S MAGICIANS, and MRS. COVERLET'S DETECTIVES, by Mary
Nash, illus by Garrett Price. The adventures of the three
Persever children: sensible Molly; Malcolm, cursed with a
complicated conscience; and the six-year-old Toad. Aunt Book
chortles madly whenever she thinks of the Toad singing one of his
favorite Christmas songs, "Good King Wence's Car Backed Out On a Piece
SNOW TREASURE, by Marie
McSwigan, illus by Mary Reardon. This book is based on a
true story. During World War II, with Norway occupied by the
Nazis, a group of children work together to smuggle a cache of gold to
a ship where it can be taken to safety. Aunt Book once bought an
old newspaper in an antique shop, and was startled to discover that in
that newspaper was the original news story telling about this event!
THE CLOWN OF GOD, by Tomie de
Paola. Aunt Book was first introduced to this book in one of her
college classes on children's literature (or Kiddie Lit, as we called
it with wild whimsy). The professor mentioned that she read the
book aloud to a class and then promptly burst into tears, startling the
children. Aunt Book quite understands; she cannot even describe
the book to others without being moved to tears. It is a
retelling of the lovely medieval story of a juggler and his gift to Our
Lady and the baby Jesus.
THE CARROT SEED, by Ruth
Krauss, illustrated by Crockett Johnson. This story of a little
boy who has faith that the carrot seed he planted will grow, in the
face of doubts from his family, is quite delightful. Aunt Book
first heard it on a record when she was a child. The recorded
version had musical accompaniment, and to this day Aunt Book will
occasionally sing (mercifully, to herself), "I watered it, I pulled the
weeds. Carrots grow from carrot seeds!"
MOLLY'S PILGRIM, by Barbara
Cohen. Molly is an immigrant to America, and the children at
school tease her. When the teacher has them make dolls of
pilgrims for a Thanksgiving display, Molly's mother, when it is
explained to her that "a pilgrim is someone who came from the other
side to find freedom," creates a doll that teaches a lesson. This
is another of the books that make Aunt Book sniffle delicately and dab
at her eyes.
MARTHA SPEAKS, by Susan
Meddaugh. Martha the dog discovers that, after eating alphabet
soup, she is suddenly able to speak. And speak. And
speak! Enough to fill this and several other books, MARTHA CALLING, MARTHA BLAH BLAH, and MARTHA WALKS THE DOG.
ROXABOXEN, by Alice McLerran,
illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Marian and her sisters and friends
build the town of Roxaboxen of stone and boxes and pieces of pottery
and glass, on the lovely desert terrain near their homes. The
author's mother was the real Marian, and Aunt Book has just discovered
that the real Roxaboxen has now been declared a natural desert park by
the city of Yuma. She thinks you might want to visit the author's
website to find out more: Alice
SHEEP IN A JEEP, by Nancy Shaw,
illustrated by Margot Apple. Aunt Book could easily (though not
legally, of course!) type the entire text of this book here, but it is
the combination of the simple text and the gleefully expressive
pictures that make this book such a delight. The sheep have other
adventures in SHEEP ON A SHIP,
SHEEP IN A SHOP, SHEEP OUT TO EAT, SHEEP TRICK OR TREAT, and SHEEP TAKE A HIKE.
LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May
Alcott. There is a reason that this book has been popular for
well over a century. Aunt Book first read a sixty-page
illustrated version, then the Scholastic paperback abridged version,
and finally the complete edition. The characters are like old
friends, though Aunt Book is firmly of the opinion that Jo should have
married Laurie, and nothing anyone says will change her mind.
HEROES, by Ken Mochizuki,
illus. by Dom Lee. A Japanese-American boy is always forced to
play "the enemy" in the soldier games his schoolmates play, until his
father and uncle, both decorated war heroes, quietly teach them a
THE HOUSE ON PARCHMENT STREET,
by Patricia A. McKillip, illus. by Charles Robinson. An American
girl visiting her cousin in England finds him very uncongenial until
they have to figure out why there is a ghost walking through the wall
in the cellar.
THE CABIN FACED WEST, by Jean
Fritz, illus. Feodor Rojankovsky. Ann, used to elegant
Gettysburg, despises her family's new life on the frontier of western
Pennsylvania in 1787. Aunt Book suggests that you find an older
copy of this, because the printing of the illustrations in a more
recent edition was quite abominable.
The DANNY DUNN books by Jay
Williams and Raymond Abrashkin. These science fiction books have
been rather overtaken by events - the primitive computer described in DANNY DUNN AND THE HOMEWORK MACHINE,
for example - but the stories are entertaining and the poems written by
Joe are always worth reading.
THE DUCHESS BAKES A CAKE, by
Virginia Kahl. When the Duchess sets out to bake a lovely, light,
luscious, delectable cake, she uses too much yeast and finds herself
with a huge problem. Aunt Book loves the rollicking rhymes and
alliteration in this book. Other books about the Duchess and her
family include PLUM PUDDING FOR
CHRISTMAS, THE HABITS OF
RABBITS, GUNHILDE AND THE
HALLOWEEN SPELL, THE BARON'S
BOOTY, GUNHILDE'S CHRISTMAS
BOOK, and HOW MANY DRAGONS ARE
BEHIND THE DOOR.
"I CAN'T," SAID THE ANT, by
Polly Cameron. Tragedy in the kitchen, and the inhabitants have
to work together to help. This story in rhyme has a pictograph as
well as the word for it in many of the lines. If you read this
book Aunt Book is reasonably sure that you will find yourself mentally
reciting, "'I can't,' said the ant; 'You must,' said the crust; 'Please
try,' said the pie..."
LETTING SWIFT RIVER GO, by Jane
Yolen, illus. by Barbara Cooney. A little girl's memories of the
town where she lived and how it and many others like it were drowned by
the damming of Swift River to make a reservoir for Boston. The
illustrations mesh beautifully with the story, and Aunt Book finds the
thought of the drowned towns quite haunting.
SUMMER, by Alice Low, and SNOW, by Roy McKie. These two
charming books are about two children and their dog and the adventures
they have in summer and in winter. They are Beginner Books by Random
House, easy to read, and written in catchy rhymes. Even more fun
than the rhymes are the pictures. Aunt Book is especially fond of
the dog with his little whiskery nose.
THE KING WITH SIX FRIENDS, by
Jay Williams. A tribute to the quality of leadership, often
overlooked. The six friends in question each have an amazing
ability, and together they are able to reach their goal. Someone
then asks what the king, who has no apparent extraordinary ability,
did, that he should be given any credit; and the friends reply, simply,
"He led us."
AUNT CLAIRE'S YELLOW BEEHIVE HAIR,
by Deborah Blumenthal. The joys of gathering family information
and memorabilia by way of making a scrapbook are told in this
STEADY, FREDDIE! by Scott
Corbett. Donna is plunged into a great deal of frog-related
trouble simply because, on a trip to the zoo with her Girl Scout troop,
she happens to be carrying her Girl Scout purse.
ADOPTED JANE, by Helen F.
Daringer. Jane Douglas lives in an orphanage in the late 1800's
or early 1900's. One summer she receives invitations to visit not
one but two different homes: a warm, friendly farm family, and a
rather remote, controlled woman living in a town. The story is
rich with description and detail, and is a lovely, cozy thing to read.
THE THIEF, THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, THE KING OF ATTOLIA, and A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, by Megan Whalen
Turner. The first of these books was a Newbery Honor Book, and it
is a crime against humanity that the other two did not win the Newbery
Medal itself. They are set in an imaginary place that shares
features of Ancient Greece and later Byzantium. The first is an
adventure in quest of an ancient talisman, told in the first person by
a protagonist who gives readers the distinct feeling that he is hiding
something from them. The second book involves conflict between
the kingdoms of Eddis, Attolia, and Sounis; especially the first two,
each ruled by a queen. The third is a tale of political intrigue
within the kingdom of Attolia. This bare description barely hints
at the magnificent complexity of the books and the characters, but Aunt
Book does not want to give anything away. She will say that she
herself read The King of Attolia first, which had the disadvantage of
ruining some of the surprises in the first two books when she did read
them (as soon as she could get her little claws on them, that
was). On the other hand, it had the advantage of making some
things in The King of Attolia surprising, which they would not have
been to someone who had already read the first two. In whichever
order you prefer, Aunt Book urges you to run straight out and find
copies of these masterpieces and read them immediately.
recommendations, page 2
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