Thursday, 2 June 2011

Best of show

Despite the intermittent rain, June is bustin' out all over here in our little West Berkshire corner of England.
May is usually my busiest gardening month of the year, but this spring I've been resting on my laurels.  Except for a frequent circuit with the watering can, and very occasional weeding, I've let well enough alone . . . and my roses and peonies have rewarded me anyway. 

I spent most of May sowing a different kind of seed, and it's kept me so occupied that I've had little time for gardening, blogging or anything else.  (Like my generous roses, I hope you will excuse my neglect.)

As a brief explanation:  last September, I organised a Book Club for my youngest daughter and her friends.  This venture has mushroomed into several new book-related projects which started in April:  another Book Club, for 11 year olds this time, and two reading classes.  All of a sudden, I've been given free rein to develop what amounts to three different reading lists -- and not just for this spring, but for next year, too.  Reading for pleasure, reading for enrichment, reading to encourage more reading:  these are my only imperatives. 

It's a dream job for me, really.  As one of my best friends said yesterday, "You get to read all day and justify it as WORK."  Yes; exactly.

But it's a responsibility, too, and I really want to get it right.  I've always thought of the age of 11 as one of the golden ages of reading.  It's the age of unconscious delight -- of really getting lost in a book.  Most readers are outgrowing predictable texts and series books and discovering books with much more emotional and intellectual richness.  In England, at least, it's the age before cell phones and social networking -- and thus maybe the last, or at least the best, chance of turning a child into an avid reader.

I've often talked about book-love in this space, and it has been gratifying to realise that my blog-friends are a bookish bunch.  I can't resist, then, asking for some recommendations. 

What books (classics or contemporary; British or American) did you love best when you were 11, 12 or 13?  What books have your children or students loved best?


spudballoo said...

Hello lovely Bee...oh I adore your flowers and your reading groups! How perfect...just at the age to be really inspired.

I can't 'quite' remember because it was a long time ago...certainly by 12 I adored Daphne du Maurier. A little younger and I loved The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. It's a much overlooked series, a 'little' bit Harry Potterish but much more elegantly crafted. I have re-read a good few times as an adult and still adore it.

I think I was still re-reading some Enid Blyton...St Claire's...Malory Towers and loving it. Smith by Leon Garfield is wonderful.

I have read fabulous reviews of My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece (aimed at 12ish year olds) recently. It's a new book, published to rave reveiws by adult and adolescent reviewers alike. Seems a kind of weird topic but thought I'd pass along the recommendation.

Oh i also love anything by Noel Streatfield.


Anonymous said...

I love the photos of your roses. I am in awe of their beauty.

All I remember reading at 10-12 are Nancy Drew mysteries. And the Little House on the Prairie series. Certainly there must be something snazzier to read now. [Not much help am I?]

Star said...

Lovely post and I'm glad you've found an outlet for your love of books, one that will do so much good.
Like you I love books and I agree with you that 11 is the golden age for reading. Luckily for me, it stayed with me because when I was 11 there were no social networks. We got our first TV when I was 11 too so reading was my main pastime. The trouble is, it was a long time ago and I can hardly remember. Maybe I was a little younger when I enjoyed The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbitt and of course all the Enid Blyton books especially the Famous Five and the series River of Adventure etc. I also had a book I loved all about Norse legends. I loved that one because it took me to another world, a world where it was dark all the time in the winter and the families sat around their fires and told each other stories. It's a shame we don't do that nowadays too. However, what you are doing is the next best thing.

Kelly H-Y said...

GORGEOUS flowers! I can't remember what I was enjoying/reading when I was 11!

Lucy said...

Left to my own devices I wasn't very literary! I liked Arthur Ransome, and Monica Edwards, which were also sailing boats and wild landscapes (Romney Marsh) but with horses too (straight pony books were a bit boring and formulaic). When school or Mum reading aloud (we still did at 11 I think) got me into something different I enjoyed it though, so a push to something more challenging was a good thing.

One thing I did find for myself and love was 'The Sword in the Stone', by TH White, which might be good for boys too, and appeal to something of the same tastes as Harry Potter, though many times better written. But I wouldn't encourage them to try to read on with the rest of 'The Once and Future King'. I did, despite my brother's warning, and was almost traumatised by the shocking and brutal turn it took in the second book.

Gorgeous flowers, and good luck with the book club!

Teresa O said...

Oh what glorious blooms!

So many years have gone by and then tend to blur in my memory, but I think it was around 11 or 12 that I discovered English history and fell in love with the Medieval and Renaissance eras. I was and am an avid biography reader and became engrossed in any book I could find about Anne Boleyn. It was around the junior high age that I fell in love with Heathcliff and went on to read the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. I'm not sure any of these fit your reading group, but you never know what might interest young,impressionable girls.

What a marvelous way to share your passion, Bee.

Vintage Jane said...

Gosh, long time ago but I do remember reading and loving the Nacy Drew mysteries, a book called Marnie?, stig of the Dump and the Born Free series. I have recently re-read Stig to my little man and we are currently reading an original Famous Five book. He loves it despite the 'old fashioned' wording, which is reassuring.

Charlotte said...

Beautiful flowers... I wish mine looked as good.

A book list for 11 year olds... that is a major order. I teach this age group and they are very difficult to please.

Successful books I have used are:
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book and Coraline (appeals to the gothic and horror lovers)

Michael Morpurgo: most are good, but for the reluctant reader: This morning I met a Whale is wonderful.

Terry Pratchett: Nation, A Hatful of sky... He gets it! what more can I say.

Cornelia Funke: Inkheart trilogy. Fabulous and far better than any HP.

Eve Ibbotson: The River Journey. a lyrical trip through South America.

Malory Blackman: anything from her will do, she is a great writer.

Goodnight Mister Tom: the language works and the story is wonderful.

Anything by David Almond, Skellig is a good start.

I still read masses of children's fiction, for my kids, my job and for pleasure.

As a child I loved Beverly Nichols: The tree that sat down, the Stream that stood still and the ... (something Mountain, can't remember the name). CS Lewis: Narnia and the Screwtape letters.
Anything by Alan Garner, Leon Garfield; I also loved the Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and all of the Greene Knowe stories.

What I would say is that there are a range of readers out there, some reluctant some less so. Look for books that have escapism, facts, magic and horror. Some love to get away and others want reality.

Good luck: we are in a golden age of publishing for children and young adults: don't knock Harry Potter, the first three are good and they get kids reading.

Polly said...

Hello Bee! What a great job you have, I'd love to do that any day...

Growing up in Central Europe I guess my reading was very much influenced by local flavors that may not be popular or relevant to English 11 year olds - not sure how many of them would appreciate Anna Karenina! But I also remember that at age I was getting totally lost (for the fifth or sixth time) in any of the L M Montgomery books - the Anne of Green Gables series is so lovely and any girl would love it, I also really enjoyed the Emily series.

I remember reading Treasure Island and loving it. I remember reading Count Monte Christo and absolutely adoring it! I think any adventure Dumas book would be suitable, actually.

Another one - The Borrowers - not a terribly ambitious read but for some reason it stuck in my head so there must be a reason for that!

PS real shame the mini blog camp didn't happen - please let me know when you come to London and fancy a coffee at the London Book Review shop, it would be really nice to catch up! Pxx

steven said...

bee at age eleven i was lost in books and now i teach that age, so i completely share your unbridled joy in the pleasure of knowing that you are helping kids read and really know that magical feeling of devouring books the way they will devour food in a handful of years!!! steven

Tracy said...

Hi, Bee! Lovely to be back and catching up with you here after some travels. LOVE gorgeous blooms from your garden! Our peonies are just about to bloom... and hoping out pink climbing rose will revive after being hit bad due to hard winter here. Young reading...
When I was young I loved the books of L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables epsecially. Also the works of Louisa May Alcott, Little women. The books of Laura Ingalls Wilder were also tops on my reading list as a young adult. Then in my early teens I discovered Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, and my whol readin world changed and I became obsessed with English literature of all sorts--still am! ;o)

herhimnbryn said...

Well done you. What a great job!

My list
Anything by Alan Garner
C S Lewis
George MacDonald (especially, The Princess and the Goblin)
Russell Thorndike (Dr Syn)
Georgette Heyer
Charlotte Bronte
Poetry for example The Highwayman, Hiawatha.
Hope that helps!

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Bee

Love the flowers! The books I enjoyed reading at 11 and 12 were--Nancy Drew books. I was taken with her books and can remember checking them out of the library.

I wish you much luck on your new job!

I also love books and reading!!

Nimble said...

Oh yes, The Borrowers. I can remember the bedroom I had at the age I read it very vividly. I thought "Arrietty" was the prettiest name.

Sarah Laurence said...

Welcome back to blogging, Bee! Your flowers are gorgeous and I love your new banner too. You already have my list for 11 year olds, but it was interesting to read the comments from others. It is the perfect job for you, and those kids are lucky to have you. I was out buying a rose corsage today - my son is going to his first prom!

mary said...

I loved Daphne du Maurier, too; that's just the right age to fall besottedly in love with the Frenchman in Frenchman's Creek. I was also besottedly in love with some of Elizabeth Goudge's young men. Was it Gentian Hill? And what was the medieval one about Oxford?

mary said...

Towers in the Mist, that was it ... I wonder how I'd feel if I read it now? I think 12 is probably the perfect age.

Dick said...

In reading through these lists, it's interesting to note what's prevailed and what's gone with the years.

My constant re-reads were 'Le Morte d'Arthur', 'The Hobbit', anything at all to do with the Middle Ages (my handbook was Herbert Marshall's 'Our Island Story'), the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels and Anthony Buckeridge's 'Jennings' series.

By 12 I had developed a passion for Western frontier history and I devoured anything published in the yellow-spined Corgi paperback Western series. And then it was First and Second World War memoirs, which were abundant in the late '50s and early '60s.

May the book club flourish. Please keep us posted as to developments. I'd be interested to find out what continues to appeal and what's authentically new.

elizabeth said...

Bee, I will really have to think about this one to give you a proper answer. This is a super topic.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned
The Good Master
and The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
(about Hungary in the First World War
published in the 1950's or earlier.
At that age I read Huck Finn --and thought it was about camping near a river and adored Jane Eyre.
I agree with Spudbaloo that Susan Cooper is stunning.
E Nesbitt --of course.
Secret Garden may be for younger/

The old different colored Fairy Books
blue, red etc etc.

Enid Blyton (much despised) was a jolly good read, despite being "B" books at my prep school.

The Silver Sword by Ian Serralier
Treasures in the Snow (unknown author) tear jerking.
Eagle of the 9th (Romans in Briton).
Sorry for not writing to you before but overly busy and things calming down now.

So many more

karen - Simply Inspired said...

just a thought...
Author Rosamunde Pilcher, wrote in the 10th anniversary introduction (in 1997) of her "The Shell Seekers" the following:
"All I can say is that I would like to think that perhaps it will be bought as a present for some twelve-or thirteen-year-old, sated with comics and teenage mags, and ready and waiting to sink his or her teeth into an adult book that will arouse their interest and attention, keep them turning the pages, and start them off on the long and wonderful road of reading for pleasure."

...and what a wonderful thing you are doing for others (and yourself, too)...thank you for sharing.

kristina - no penny for them said...

your roses look absolutely stunning, bee! and what fun to have a reading club...

Marcheline said...

A lady at the pottery store we went to yesterday had the flower in the center of your bottom row in a vase on her counter! Deja vu!

Jude said...

Congratulations Bee! The job sounds perfect!
I would agree with the Emily of New Moon series - wonderful!
May I also suggest two other series we have enjoyed recently:
Toby and the Secrets of the Tree and Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombell. Environmental message and suspenseful and quite wonderful!
Also, the The Time Quake/Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer was good - very exciting, history and time travel.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Hello Bee, the kids at my school where I was librarian enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, The Giver by Lois Lowery, Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson, and Mathilda by Roald Dahl, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (and it's sequels), The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, Holes by Louis Sachar and The Secret Garden. A few of these stories are definitely about kids in the U.S., but that may be a good thing for yours to read & discuss how life is different.

Lisa said...

What beautiful roses!

I second the recommendation for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Neverwhere might be good as well.

Sophie recommends Small Steps by Louis Sacher who also wrote Holes, The Seekers Series by Hunter, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Charlotte said...

When I was 11, I moved from the world of UK books and authors back to the United States (my mother left all the Enid Blytons behind...sigh).

But that year I found out that my favorite author, Elizabeth Goudge, had written books I didn't know about! So many of them, all in front of me in the library... And even though they were in the adult section, I was old enough to read them...City of Bells...Island Magic...Pilgrim's Inn. Some of them were not to my taste, being too concerned with grown up things, but even those had such wonder and detail to them.

And at about that time I began to discover fantasy and science fiction...I remember falling in love with Anne McCaffery's books about Menolly, and when I was thirteen, I was stunned by Patricia MacKilip's Riddlemaster of Hed et seq.

Merisi in Vienna said...

When thinking of eleven year olds, authors that come immediately to mind are Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl, with "Coraline" and "Matilda", but also many more.

Congratulations on your work! Such a delight to know this important job is in hands like yours. Lucky children! Will you be able to share your list with us, once it is finished?

Your flowers are exquisite!

earlybird said...

What a fantastic job!

It's hard to remember exactly what I read at that age because I was rather a precocious reader and 12 is an awfully long time ago now!

I think Noel Streatfield, Laura Ingalls Wilder, C S Lewis, Francis Hodgson Burnett, Alan Garner, Elizabeth Gouge and Rosemary Sutcliffe might have been earlier but then there were Tolkein's 'The Hobbit' (followed by 'The Lord of the Rings' for the first time at 13). Arthur Ransome's Swallows & Amazons books and then of course Daphne du Maurier, T H White, Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau by Anthony Hope, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith... but I think I've taken up enough space! I also read the Chalet School stories but no idea now who they were by. (I wasn't allowed Enid Blyton but my kids loved the audio books - being bi-lingual they weren't very interested in reading English at that age but their first books in English were by JK Rowling)

Relyn said...

It's the age of unconscious delight -- of really getting lost in a book

Yes, exactly yes!!

I have been so excited to hear more about your new job. I am just thrilled for you.

I am eager, eager to read all the comments. I love children's lit and am always looking for more books to read and use in my classroom and with my daughter. It is great to have such a bookish bunch of friends.

Ok. I am going to go now and read what has already been said. Then, I'll come back with my recommendations.

Relyn said...

I have to say that I am with Spud. The Dark Is Rising series is superb. Ally mentioned something snazzier than Little House. I thought so too, but each year my students want me to keep reading the series. I teach eight year olds so we start at the beginning, but they totally love the first three. I think the older girls might really enjoy some of her later books.

I have to tell you about The Endless Steppe by Ester Hautzig. Haunting, unforgettable. I read it at eleven and every few years now. It's still amazing. (You can read a review of it on my GoodReads review of The Book Thief.)

I adore Eva Ibbotson and Gaiman. Also, Funke. Sloane is reading Inkheart now and LOVES it. I think all of those authors would be very relevant. I am surprised at how much younger children seem to be reading "older" books these days. I hope you can introduce them to some more old fashioned stories.

It's been mentioned several times, but the Anne series is sure to be a hit. Holes and Winn Dixie. are sure crowd pleasers, too.

I have a book recommendation for your specifically. It's called How To Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell. You will love it, love her, and come away so inspired. You have GOT to read it!

julochka said...

Little Women and LittleHouse .

tho' i fear my 10-year-old isn't really there yet...i see her much more lost in her computer than a book. i must remedy that this summer.

julochka said...

oh and the Narnia could i forget those?

and Trixie Belden. i loved her way more than prissy old nancy drew. look at me, i even capitalized her name!

that said, i read war & peace at 12. and have never really liked tolstoy since...such a preachy, pompous bastard.

julochka said...

sorry to leave a 3rd comment, but i just thought about charlotte's web. i read and read it again at that age. and cried every time.

Yvonne @ StoneGable said...

Not only do I love book, I love the smell of books. And roses for that matter. I could just pick a bunch from your page!
At age 12 I loved any King Arthur literature. And now... too many to list!

L.Wright said...

Hello Bee,
School is out and I'm in my garden and enjoying photos of your garden. I teach 4th graders here in Kansas, and we do have a few reading favorites. We love characters developed by Kate DiCamillo. Because of Winn Dixie is a favorite ...and also the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.I also love the books of Deborah Wiles, another American writer. Her characters have become real friends of mine. My favorite book is ..Each Little Bird That Sings. Try Deb's books with your 11 year old girl group. They'll love her characters because they make their way inside your heart and find a permanent home there. I enjoy books by Noel Streatfield as well.
A suggested read-aloud about a 13 year old girl, but good for plot, vocabulary, and just plain hilarity, is one titled Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It's about an English girl and her adventures in the chemistry lab and on her trusty bicycle, Gladys. You will LOL.

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