Saturday, August 11, 2007

Five best: children's books

Meghan Cox Gurdon, who reviews children's books for The Wall Street Journal, selected a five best "children's books that are especially enthralling when read aloud" list for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

No one questions the civilizing utility of reading aloud to children, nor is there much doubt that the young will cheerfully sit still for almost any story, so long as it's read with a bit of style. The trick is to find picture books for small children that can stand frequent re-readings ("Again! Again!") and longer narratives for older listeners that won't drive you half-mad with over-long sentences, irritating digressions or endless landscape description. This children's favorite is, in my opinion, the gold standard of read-alouds for ages 5-12 and when read aloud far surpasses any of its flashy film versions: The sentences are crisp, the plot is full of surprises and, best of all, virtually every character lends itself to a rich, fruity accent. In our household, for instance, the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka is German ("Velcome to ze fectory!"), Grandpa Joe is Irish and the intolerably spoiled Veruca Salt comes from Dixie ("Ah've decided Ah want a squirrel! Git me one of those squirrels"!). That this approach creates a pig-pile of regional twangs only adds to the mad joy of the story.
Read about the other titles on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue