As the great children’s author C.S. Lewis noted, “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” Our children need heroes, adventures, and villains in their literature to illustrate for them a world in which they could be brave. From the following books, that might – might but I really can’t say – my top three favorite books. In these books, each of the main character(s) grapple with a reality presented to them that involves loss or absence of parents and new places. In each of the books, there is an adult who fills the vacuum of love and virtue. Within each relationship, as the child protagonist deals with sufferning – real suffering, they find a way to continue on and trust in love again.
It helps that the books also illustrate lovely, cozy nooks and books along with countrysides and homes that make the reader want to jump through the pages. This books are timeless treasure for your shelves and can be loved by readers of all ages.
“This sort of love, the children knew only from one another- and from books.”
― Kate Albus, A Place to Hang the Moon
“The first words of a new book are so delicious—like the first taste of a cookie fresh from the oven and not yet properly cooled.”
― Kate Albus, A Place to Hang the Moon
“I’d rather be happy and odd than miserable and ordinary,’ she said, sticking her chin in the air.”
― Michelle Magorian, Good Night, Mr. Tom
“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”
― Roald Dahl, Matilda
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
After reading the glowing reviews of this relatively current publication, I tore through it in one afternoon on my couch. It’s rare for a book to touch me this deeply, but, oh, did I love this story of these siblings sent to the countryside during the evacuation of children in the London Blitz. I want nothing more than to spend a cozy evening in Nora’s cottage eating toast and drinking hot chocolate.
Goodreads: It is 1940 and Anna, 9, Edmund, 11, and William, 12, have just lost their grandmother. Unfortunately, she left no provision for their guardianship in her will. Her solicitor comes up with a preposterous plan: he will arrange for the children to join a group of schoolchildren who are being evacuated to a village in the country, where they will live with families for the duration of the war. He also hopes that whoever takes the children on might end up willing to adopt them and become their new family–providing, of course, that the children can agree on the choice.
Moving from one family to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets, and the hollowness of empty tummies. They seek comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Muller, seems an excellent candidate–except that she has a German husband whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Nevertheless, Nora’s cottage is a place of bedtime stories and fireplaces, of vegetable gardens and hot, milky tea. Most important, it’s a place where someone thinks they all three hung the moon. Which is really all you need in a mom, if you think about it.
Goodnight, Mr. Tom: Michelle Magorian
This book, with the 90s cover, has been imprtined on my heart since 4th grade. I followed the tearful and sad journey of Willie who lived in a tough, poor world before his evacution to the country side. I felt righteous for him when Mr. Tom treated him with a grumpy exterior and when he was shunned in the local school. I cheered for him as he began to grow out of his shell and live more peacefully. This book will bring tears and laughter to the reader.
Goodreads: London is poised on the brink of World War II. Timid, scrawny Willie Beech — the abused child of a single mother — is evacuated to the English countryside. At first, he is terrified of everything, of the country sounds and sights, even of Mr. Tom, the gruff, kindly old man who has taken him in. But gradually Willie forgets the hate and despair of his past. He learns to love a world he never knew existed, a world of friendship and affection in which harsh words and daily beatings have no place. Then a telegram comes. Willie must return to his mother in London. When weeks pass by with no word from Willie, Mr. Tom sets out for London to look for the young boy he has come to love as a son.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
What more is there to say about Matilda except that Roald Dahl was a brilliant author, and she’s one of the best protagonists in children’s books.
She fights the dual foes of her ridiculous parents and the terrible Trunchbull all while keeping her curiousity alive. Her love of the story carries her through, and she is able to meet Ms. Honey and find a soul who can care for her like a parent. There’s laugh out loud humor, sadness, and joy all in this chapter book by Dahl. I can’t imagine a bookshelf without this timeless tale.
Goodreads: Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world…
For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will, and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.