Happy 4 July 2021 to our American readers! To commemorate this year’s Independence Day, Books2All has compiled a list of six popular children’s books from the United States that we think have enduring appeal for all age groups, from small children to young adults.
American children’s literature is awash with diverse and often hard to articulate topics brilliantly addressed in a creative yet realistic way. Our choices show how these versatile authors seek to educate children about the past, the present and a possible future.
As with all children’s books that stand the test of time, American children’s literature’s lasting legacy is in how it brings families together to allow children to explore the world safely. While gently developing a child’s emotions and intellect, the best stories always provide a necessary escape for the burgeoning young imagination.
4 July choice 1: Curious George by Margaret and H. A. Rey (1941)
Curious George describes the adventures of a mischievous monkey whose audience discovers that sometimes being too curious isn’t such a good thing.
At the centre of the story is the eponymous hero George, who is taken from jungle to jungle and explores different societies and communities on his travels. This charming adventure story is told with warmth and mirth, with illustrations throughout helping to fuel a young child’s imagination. Fans of the story can go on to enjoy a total of six further titles featuring Curious George.
4 July choice 2: Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (1957)
A much-loved series of children’s books about an endearing bear cub and his mother, Little Bear is still considered one of the best beginning reader series available. The stories in the collection follow the bears through their interactions with people, places and situations, showing how the characters develop as they face new environments and experiences.
Though amusing and simple, the stories of Little Bear and Mother Bear are also gentle, special and enticing. This collection captures perfectly the organic nature of childhood and a child’s bond with their mother, making it a well-deserved staple of many bookshelves.
4 July choice 3: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
It is now almost 60 years since this timeless American classic made its appearance. Winner of several medals and awards, including the Newbery Medal, the Sequoyah Book Award and the Lewis Carrol Shelf Award, A Wrinkle in Time continues to inspire children’s creative thinking worldwide.
The plot follows Meg Murry, Charles Wallace Murry and Calvin O’Keefe on a journey through space and time as they jump between different universes. The children race to save Meg and Charles’ father, who is imprisoned on the planet of Camazotz, where a fantastical brain named IT controls the minds of everyone there.
This fast paced science fiction tale keeps readers gripped through an adventured-packed plot, while simultaneously exploring themes of nonconformity, friendship and courage. Combining complex scientific concepts with sophisticated writing, it is a must for older readers.
4 July choice 4: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (1978)
Well-known for its recent film depiction, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a popular children’s story the world over, thanks to its humorous and creative plot. The tale begins on a seemingly ordinary day, in a family-oriented environment, with a grandfather tucking his grandchildren into bed and reading them a story. Using a scene comfortingly familiar to most children, the book then takes the young reader’s imagination, along with its young characters, on a wonderful journey.
Beautifully illustrated, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs cleverly blends fantasy and reality. Its exploration of the human response to changing weather conditions makes an excellent introduction for young minds to the everchanging environment they can expect to experience as they grow up.
4 July choice 5: Goosebumps – Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine (1992)
Published in 1992, Welcome to Dead House is the first title in the original Goosebumps book series. The plot follows the Benson family to Dark Falls, where Mr Benson has inherited a house that belonged to a late uncle. At an early stage, the Bensons’ children, Amanda and Josh, suspect that something is not quite right with the neighbourhood.
What follows is a blend of thrill and adventure that has kept children and young adults devoted readers for a generation. Welcome to Dead House is a must for those who have not yet reached the age to watch horror movies but enjoy the shock factor.
4 July choice 6: Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (2012)
Set in Moscow during the Stalin era, Breaking Stalin’s Nose is a historical novel that witnesses the disillusionment of a devoted Communist youth whose hero is Joseph Stalin. The novel is a powerful depiction of the realities of 1940s/50s Russian life, including the unexplained arrest of the protagonist’s father in the middle of the night.
This book is ideal for children already familiar with modern Russian history and looking to explore the topic further through a fictional lens and for those keen to investigate this period and region of the world. The poignant ending to the story is guaranteed to spark questions for young readers.
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