In an attempt to force myself to get back into the habit of writing, I have decided to combine this passion with my love of reading and continue writing book reviews. While an editor at the Western Oregon Journal a few years back, I was fortunate enough to write a number of book reviews which was a process I loved. In addition to writing a variety of reviews for this publication, I reviewed Henry Hughes’ recent publication The Art of Angling: Poems about Fishing for the Hiram Poetry Review. This process was incredibly rewarding and has inspired me to continue this craft.
While trying to determine which books to review for this project to transition me back into regular writing, a friend and I came across the School Library Journal’s list of the “The Top 100 Children’s Novels.” After going through the list, the pleasant memories that frequented my childhood as a result of these books came flooding back. The thought came to me, why not reread these books and determine how they relate to children in today’s society? How are the lessons learned in a book written 100 years ago still applicable in the lives of children in the modern world?
Granted, I understand the reading a book that I will easily get through in a few hours is vastly different than a reading and reviewing 600+ page novel or a complex anthology of poems selected from across the world. To even out this reading level difference a bit, I will focus on the books on this list that are written for an older age group, late elementary school through early high school (9-14). For example, Harriet the Spy won’t make the cut where as books such as The Giver and Anne of Green Gables will.
I’ll be the first to admit that I may go into this reading and writing project with certain biases, such as personal genre preference, which may affect my experience. Thus, I am reading and writing these reviews with a set of standards that must be met to ensure a neutral review:
- Write a short review/blurb on the content itself. How well it was written, the quality of the content, the engagement of the reader in the plot, with the characters, etc.
- How is this book relateable to children in today’s society?
- What was the moral/lesson taught then and how does that lesson apply today?
- As an adult, what can you get out of this book versus what you would have understood as a child?
The first book to make this list is E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. As this book is intended for younger audiences, I have chosen to begin this project with book number two, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I honestly cannot remember if I ever read this as a child, so this will be a new experience for me that I am thoroughly looking forward to! Other books that are next I know I have read so it will be interesting rereading them as an adult to see what I get out of it at this stage in my life.
I am looking forward to this project that will throw me back into a regular writing project! In coupling these books with other books I typically have going (ranging in style, genre, and publication dates), this endeavor will provide for me not only a means of revisiting a more broad genre of literature, but a personal goal to meet that will force me to become a more regular writer. Happy reading!