I’m not an expert on what makes a good book. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been writing, but I know I still have a mountain more to learn. In the last several years I’ve tried to read as many young adult and children’s books as I can get my hands on. I’ve searched libraries, garage sales, and half price book stores for stories that are different. Of course I have my writer friends to recommend books and even lend them. It occurred to me that I want to tell you about what books I like. Maybe you'll discover something new.
I first discovered The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien as a young mother, a century ago. I think I’ve read the four books twice, and each time I never wanted them to end. I’m a reader that jumps into the story so that it surrounds me, flows in and out of me, and when I’m finished reading for the day, I’m still in Rivendale. What magical elements go into creating a story like this? Is it vocabulary? Is it action verbs? Is it character description and development? Is it plotting twists and turns? I’d say yes, yes, yes, yes, and more. Oh how I would love to write like Tolkien!
I came to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, later in life. I loved it that there were seven books to tell the whole story because it was almost as if it would go on forever. It’s the story of Narnia, a wild and miraculous world where animals talk, the ruler is the lion Aslan, and humans visit. Narnia is a place of growing up. It’s a place of discovery. It’s a place of becoming so much more than you ever thought you could be.
Madeline L’Engle’s books come next. My boys were too old to discover her in school. A friend of mine introduced me to her in A Wrinkle in Time and I was hooked on everything she wrote. I found a set of five books called the “time quintet’ involving the Murray family: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. What an imagination she had! That reminds me that if I’m going to write children’s stories I need to free my imagination from all confines of convention.
Look for more jewels to come....