My comments on choosing books by looking at age level in my last blog seems to have either struck a raw nerve, especially among capable and competent librarians, or brought back wonderful library memories. To follow up, I’ve listed my last stack of books checked out from our excellent Oak Grove Library. To make my choices, the question I asked was not, “What age level is this book?” but “How much fun would this book be?”
By the calendar, I’ve been considered an adult for some time now, but one might have a hard time guessing my age from the bag I toted out of the library. On this trip, it contained books from the easy reader to adult, from fiction to non-fiction, from prose to poetry:
• War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
• Charles Dickens: A Life – Claire Tomalin
• Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick
• Never Knowing – Chevy Stevens
• The Forest Lover – Susan Vreeland
• Drawing from Memory – Allen Say
• Built – David Macaulay
• The Underneath – Kathi Appelt
• The Battlefield Ghost – Margery Cuyler
• Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet below the Chilean Desert – Marc Aronson
• The Poet Slave of Cuba; a Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano – Margarita Engle
A couple of days later I added the other books they had to order from within the Lamar County system:
• Secrets of a Civil War Submarine – Sally M. Walker
• Tracking Trash – Loree Griffin Burns
• Grandfather’s Journey – Allen Say
You might ask which are for business and which are for pleasure. I would answer, “All of them.” For business, because a writer must be a reader. For pleasure, because I don’t have a specific reading list and can read whatever excites my fancy. At this point, I’m sure you are wanting my job, but that’s before I get into rejection letters. I’ll save that for a different blog.
Even if you have been a grown-up for a while, I hope you ask my second question when you go to the library. I also suggest spending some serious time with Jerry Pinckney’s picture book The Lion and the Mouse, which has not a word of text or find Mo Willems’s book to learn why he doesn’t want to let the pigeon drive the bus. Moving into more text, read some books by Richard Peck, Gary Schmidt, or Kimberly Willis Holt, who know how to tell a good story. There’s no way to make a complete list of good books written by excellent authors so just troll through the children’s, middle grade, and young adult sections of your library. Your librarian can match you up with books you will enjoy. The secret that some of the best artists today are painting for picture books and some of the best writers are doing their work for children and young adults is far too well kept.
Libraries have come a long way from the days when I waited for the bookmobile that came every two weeks – except when it didn’t – and limited me to two books at a time. My library’s limit is 30 books, and they seem to have no concern for my reading level. They have never even looked at me funny for checking out picture books.