Learning About Brain Fever

One great thing about having a child Maya’s age is showing her the books that I loved as a girl, and seeing if she enjoys them as much as I did, or not. Recently I went through my bookshelf and found a few she might enjoy:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
This book was HUGE when I was in the 5th and 6th grades. I think I got it from the bookmobile that used to come to our neighborhood. If you’re a man, or a woman who spent too much time living under rocks, so you don’t know this book, it’s about a girl named Margaret, who is going through puberty, moves to a new school, and is confused about her body, boys, friendships, and God. Maya has read several other Judy Blume books at school, and she really seemed to like this one. She stayed up way past her bedtime and read it all in one (school)night.

A Little Princess
Gosh, I loved this book growing up. Sometimes I still pick it up and read it. I loved Sara’s quiet dignity, her internal strength, her charm and her inherant kindness. I wasn’t so fond of the movies, mostly because they chickened out and had the father sitting in a London hospital with amnesia, and her struggle is to find him. Perhaps that’s because they are going for a younger audience than the book. In the book, if you are still hiding out under that rock, her father has died, (from Brain Fever…Maya and I didn’t know what that was. Turns out it’s bacterial meningitis, and often fatal. Blech.) and her struggle is much more internal…it’s about keeping her dignity, kindness, and sense of self alive against overwhelming coldheartedness and adversity. She lives mainly within herself, and plays a game that gets her through the tough times…she imagines what a true princess would do if put in harsh situations, and tries to behave accordingly.  That she has the strength and compassion to forgive and befriend her father’s partner, who unwittingly was instrumental in his death, is a true act of charity and grace. (And it’s probably a bit above the understanding of the 6 year olds for whom the movies were made. But it rubbed me the wrong way.) I loved this book, and it’s great to see Maya enjoying it so much as well.

Danny the Champion of the World
This is possibly the first Roald Dahl book I remember reading. It’s a wonderful tale about a boy who lives in a gypsy caravan with his father. He’s a car mechanic, and his father loves to tell him wonderful stories. Of course, there are evil adults as well, as in any delicious Dahl book, and Danny is able to outsmart them all, and he saves his father in the end. I really enjoyed it. Maya has read MANY Roald Dahl books, some that we have at home, some at school, and is planning on writing a report on Dahl for school this winter. I know she will enjoy reading this one. I realized the other day that she’s a smart cookie, too…She was telling me about the Dahl book, Matilda, and cracking up as she told me of the evil deeds of the Trunchbull. I told her that there is a film version of Matilda out, and that we can Netflix it if she would like. She said she would like that, but she knew already it wouldn’t be as good as the book, because, well, it’s a book. Love that kid.

The House of Sixty Fathers
I’m cheating on this one, because I haven’t actually read it yet. I bought it for Maya a few years ago, and then realized that she probably wasn’t ready for it yet, so I put it on my bookshelf instead of hers. It’s hard sometimes when you have a smart kid, because her vocabulary can be ready for a book, but emotionally she may not be ready to enjoy it. This book was awarded a Newberry Honor, which is almost always a good sign, and is the story of a boy fleeing the Japanese army by boat. He is seperated from his family, and with his pet pig, he has to find his way home to his family again. I hope it’s as good as it looks. Has anyone read this one? Maya hasn’t started it yet.

I’m submitting this post to the Carnival of Children’s Literature, which will be posted on November 23rd. I’ll remind you then, and if you’re interested, you should go see what people are saying. The theme is “What are you thankful for in children’s literature?” My answer, of course, is books that I can share with Maya, books that I loved, and that I hope she loves now.

20 thoughts on “Learning About Brain Fever

  1. Judy Blume is one of my favorite young adult authors, and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret? is one of her best. I can’t wait to have a little girl so I can introduce her to it.

  2. Read and loved the first two. I have a book that contains all three big stories from Burnett, including also “The Secret Garden” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”

    Somehow as a child, Roald Dahl completely passed me over, I had no idea of him even being out there. Which is weird, because I was always at the library.

  3. My daughter loves Judy Blume books as well. She seems to always want to buy more of her books after reading another. It would be one of her favorites. I also got the Little Princess book for her but she cant seemed to get interested in it. Goes to show you not all kids like the books there parents once did.

  4. I loved the Judy Blume books when I was a girl. Autumn, not so much. She did however love the Roald Dahl books that M loved as a kid. So that was kind of cool.

  5. It’s like a chain. Your grandmother shared books with her mother, and then with me. I shared some of those books and some others with you, and you link down to Maya. Reaching back and forward, not only with the specific stories but also with the love of reading.

  6. I loved and still love anything by Roald Dahl and my kids love him too! I think the reason he appeals so much to kids is because he’s tough on adults and kids just love that! πŸ™‚

  7. Wonderful, wonderful!!! I’m really excited to introduce my future children to the books I loved as a girl (including those authored by Beatrix Potter, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahll, & Judy Blume) Another of my favorites was called WILD VIOLETS, about a friendship between two depression-era girls.

  8. LOVED Judy Blume – no words to describe – One of my all-time faves was The Westing Game – I think I read it around Maya’s age – I still remember it all these years later

  9. Judy Blume was just about five years after my time. My personal hero was Harriet the Spy. In fact, I may actually pick her up again for a encore read. The stuff she wrote in that notebook is EXACTLY the way kids put thoughts into words. Loved Roald Dahl, too. His fiction for adults is also wonderful.

  10. I love all of those books except for the last one, because I’ve never heard of it. I’m in the same dilemma with my Maya. Intellectually she can read those books, but emotionally she is only a five year old (in two weeks anyway), so I have to watch what I let her read. But I have all of those and am just waiting for the day when she can handle reading them. We are currently reading Charlotte’s Web.

    How did you find out about the menengitis? I always wondered about that one myself.

  11. Sorry to say that I haven’t read one of these books. But Sawyer in “Lost” was reading Judy Blume’s book last season. That was pretty funny. πŸ™‚

  12. How odd, I posted a comment earlier and it doesn’t seem to have gone through…I was saying my daughter and I love all the Roald Dahl books. I think Roald Dahl appeals very much to children because he doesn’t let cruel adults get away lightly.

  13. Hi Lotus! My spam filter grabbed your comment. When I saw your later one, I went and unspammed it. πŸ™‚ I would have found it eventually…

    So far, lots of lovers of Dahl and Blume…no one seems to have read The House of the Sixty Fathers. Interesting…

  14. oh, i just love this post and i love kids lit and i have a million things to say but instead i’ll just say thank you! oh, and my kids (coincidentally) watched matilda this evening and laughed their heads off. they loved it. roald dahl’s books are anxiously awaiting h’s attention on our shelf… he’s a bit too young yet. i read judy blume’s “tiger eyes” more times than i could count.

  15. This is a great post! Thanks! I always buy the girls books for Christmas, and some of these might make it onto the list.

    On an unrelated note, I see that you have Bruce Cockburn on the sidebar. Have you heard his new cd “Life Short Call Now”? I LOVE it. It’s one of my favourites and I’ve already listened to it umpteen times.

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