Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Hardest Age to be a Bibliophile

I've been thinking about what to write this week. Next week, of course, is the big Reformation Week celebration, so I didn't want to start in on the advertising series until after that was over.

I decided to dub this week "Juvenile Reads". Now by juvenile, I'm not talking about little children. I'm talking about 10-12 year olds who have a budding thirst for adventure stories, and are torn between the children's section and the adult's at the library. I've been there. It's a hard age, because while we're ready for more than the kid-running-away stories, we're not quite to the point of harrowing love affairs and difficult moral decisions. By the age of 9 I was reading Jane Austen and Robert Louis Stevenson. By age 12 I was reading John Buchan and Agatha Christie. And come to think of it, I was twelve when I first picked up "A Study in Scarlet" and started a long infatuation with everything Sherlock Holmes. I was also twelve when I started listening to BBC radio dramas of the same, which probably wasn't the wisest decision ever. One day I would be reading Little House in Brookfield, and the next I would be reading Prester John (I think I really was 12 or 13 when I picked that up...um, wow.)

12 is a difficult age to be a bibliophile. Granted, it's somewhat easier than it used to be. I didn't have the Crown and Covenant books and Pearl Maiden and the Chosen Daughters series. The problem that age 12 faces is that they simply have much more time to read, and less to read than any other age bracket. Some of them are honestly not ready for Jane Eyre, and would be scarred for life after attempting Prester John. Treasure Island is fine for many kids, but the murders and skeletons and spooky Old Pew may put others off. It's an age for girls when emotions can be at an all time high, and they themselves don't know what's going to bother them and what isn't. And it's an age for boys when the moral introspection often found in adult novels just isn't interesting.

The more I think about what I tackled at age twelve, the more grateful I am that God protected me in ways I never knew. Some of it was safe--George MacDonald is fairly discreet. But some of it was not--like when I kept trying to order a Les Miserables dramatization from the library and it never came in. Honestly, with that one I tried time after time, and it never came in--or I never got a chance to pick it up--or I chickened out at the last minute and sent it back. Then when I heard the Focus on the Family drama at age 15, I'm very glad that I didn't listen to it sooner. It was a good drama, but it wouldn't have been appropriate for me at a younger age. The Scarlet Pimpernel, James Herriot's animal series (Unedited. Yeah.) and believe it or not, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

So today, I'm going to list some books that I think are great for 12-year-old bibliophiles. Note that just because a book is recommended doesn't mean I necessarily recommend all of the author's books to be read at age 12. Also, just because I place it on the "great for 12" list doesn't mean it should be called a children's book. Also, some children are more sensitive than others. I made this list for an all-around adventurous twelve-year-old who doesn't mind a little blood but isn't yet ready for the gory details. Works marked with a star need to be edited for language.

Top 31 Children's Reads---Fiction (made in no particular order)

1. Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson*
2.Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens*
3. Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery (any books after this contain some questionable theology that would need to be discussed with them if they read the whole series.)
4. Jane of Lantern Hill, by L.M. Montgomery
5. The Martha Years series, by Melissa Wiley (Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother from Scotland)
6. The Charlotte Years series, by Melissa Wiley (Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother)
7. The Caroline Years series, by Maria D. Wilkes (Laura's mother, and my personal favorite.)
8. The Cricket on the Hearth, by George Selden
9. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne* (for the dedicated 12-year-old bibliophile)
10. Crown and Covenant trilogy, by Douglas Bond (lots of gory beheadings. May not be suited to all 12-year-olds)

11. Carol Watson Rankin's books, specifically the Dandelion Cottage series
12. Pearl Maiden, by H. Rider Haggard
13. The Elsie Dinsmore series, by Martha Finley
14. Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink
15. Moody family series, by Sarah Maxwell
16. The Chosen Daughters series (various authors)
17. Pollyanna, by Eleanor Porter
18.  The American Adventure series (various authors, Barbour press)
19. The Works of Jane Austen*
20. The Black Stallion series, by Walter Farley* (excluding The Island Stallion Races and up until The Black Stallion Challenged, published in 1964. I do not recommend any of the series written after 1964, and strongly urge you not to  try reading them.)
From The Wind in the Willows
21. Misty of Chincoteague and other books by Marguerite Henry
22. The Scarlet Pimpernel series, by Baroness Orczy*  
23. The Kathleen MacKenzie books, by Tracy Leininger Craven
24. Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink
25. A Father's Promise, by Donna Lynn Hess
26. The Hidden Hand, by E.D.E.N. Southworth* (Lamplighter)
27. To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston (Vision Forum edition)
28. The Kingdom Series and The Knights of Arrethtrae, by Chuck Black
29. Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss (the Puffin Classics edition is the best.)
30. Works of Patricia M. St. John
31. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graham (be sure to get an edition with the E.H. Shephard illustrations. It won't be the same without it. The above illustration is not one of Shepherd's, unfortunately.)

So there you have my 31 recommendations for 10-12 year-olds. There are many more I could list, but I'll draw the line there for now. I would be happy to recommend more to any twelve year old who has gets through all these (there are over 100). ;)  I would love to see your recommendations  as well! And be sure to join us on Friday, when Junior B. has a very special guest post. :)

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Dear Lady B,
    Oh,oh,oh!!! You picked some really WONDERFUL treasures. I would highly recommend the ones I've read. Treasure Island was way too spooky.

    So what other books on this list should I read?

    Love, Sister

    P.S. I'm looking forward to the guest post. Got to get editing... :D

    1. Thank-you, Sister Dear. :)

      I think you should read all of them. ;)

      Love and cuddles,

      P.S. I'm looking forward to the guest post toooo. <3

  2. What a great list. :D I have 11- and 13-year-old siblings, so I'm always on the lookout for books for them. Thank you! Books that can be enjoyed by multiple age groups, or on multiple levels, are pretty much the best thing ever.

    Haha, Sherlock Holmes. I read them at age eleven or twelve too...I loved them and still do, but I'm pretty sure The Speckled Band scarred me for life. I shudder to think what the audio drama would have done. :P

    (Sort of a rabbit trail: I'm curious what's not appropriate for kids in the Les Mis audio drama--I haven't listened to it in years but my siblings have been wanting to steal it (the FotF one) from my bookshelf. What am I forgetting? Was it mostly the violence/thematic elements/the fact that almost everyone dies?)

  3. I had fun compiling this list. :) Looking over our bookshelves this morning brought back a lot of memories.
    Haha, The Speckled Band is spooky enough to make one look under their bed before going to sleep. Or perhaps above their head, in that case. ;) I'm surprised the BBC dramas didn't spook me, as they are pretty realistic in their sound effects. Maybe because I listened to them over and over and over...

    Well, Les Mis probably depends on your siblings. At 12 the Fantine theme would really have bothered me, along with some of the intense escape scenes with Cosette and Valjean and the battle at the barricades. Even at 15 I was glued to the CD walkman for a really long time. And I started it at night. :P But I don't know what would bother your siblings, so you know best whether it would be good for them or not--if you don't see it bothering them, then great, go for it!

    Thanks for stopping by. :) I love to have you here.

    1. Hah, no kidding. Those vents... :P I didn't even know there were SH audio dramas--I should look those up.

      Ah, okay. Yeah, that's pretty much what I remember from the book too. Thanks!

  4. Ooohh, Lady Bibliophile, you brought back memories!
    I read #1-5 of Anne of Green Gables when I was 12 on our way to and while on Prince Edward Island!
    Jane of Lantern Hill - that was when I was maybe 13 or 14.
    The Martha Years were my favorite (Scotland!:)), though I read a few of the Charlotte and Caroline ones too.
    Elsie Dinsmore was around 12 as well.
    Oh, the American Adventure series! Andrew and I "lived and breathed" these (well, maybe not quite!) when we were "little"; we have about 20 of them, but they are well-worn!
    Which Patricia St. John books have you read? I enjoyed Treasures of the Snow.
    Several of the other series, like you, we didn't have until I was a bit older.

    What a great post! Many great reads and some (of the classics) I am still working on. This post could keep a certain person in our family of that age bracket reading for a long time!!! (We're working on her! Pearl Maiden is now her favorite!!!)

    God bless,

    1. I so enjoyed writing this post, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading it as well. :) I am quite impressed that you and Andrew enjoyed the American Adventure books! I thought that would be totally "American" and I'm glad to find that I'm wrong. ;)

      Hehe, I'm sure it would keep Liz busy. :) I would have to stop and count them, but with all the series there are well over 100.

      I've read Treasures of the Snow as well, and really enjoyed it. Others we read were "Rainbow Garden" (which was my favorite) "Tanglewood's Secret" "Three Go Searching" "Secret and Pheasant Cottage" and "Star of Light". The last two are much more bittersweet, though.

      I really am amazed at what I read at 12. Sometimes it's fun just to look back and remember...


  5. Oh, I so agree-twelve is a difficult age, especially for girls, who have lots of time to be reading, who (let's face it) need to be reading, who are usually brainy enough to be reading the more advanced things, but not yet emotionally mature enough to handle them.

    That said, I have a sister around that age who hasn't had any trouble--partly because of our huge library, partly because she's relatively mature for her age, and partly because so much of her time is spent reading for 'school'. My mum reads a lot of books with my sisters. Otto Scott's Robespierre was a highlight of last year: Mum edited out some of the nastier French goings-on (but not all) and didn't skip any or much of the gore involved in the Revolution--seriously, it's a book nearly as gross as Suetonius's 12 Caesars, which she also read them (skipping the nastier bits)--so I think their maturity in their reading has been developed through that. They've studied things like Herodotus, Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Austen together with Mum, so they've been tangling with higher-level books but in a guided fashion, with Mum there to hold their hands.

    Reading for girls with more time and less guidance is trickier and yes, in such cases, you do need books that will suit their level. One series of books that my little sister loved was Brian Jacques's Redwall.

    1. It will be so much easier for your siblings having someone help them. That was my problem--the mental capacity without the emotional readiness. And I find, too, that if there was something I shouldn't have been reading it was generally over my head anyway. Of course, I was the type to pick up Eusebius for fun(though I think I was 13 or 14 then)
      I remember seeing bits of a cartoon Redwall on TV. But I knew we would never see the end, as it goes on for quite a while. And *every* episode ended with someone on the point of death, which really irked me, because I knew we would never find out what happened...Sometime I'm going to look up the Wikipedia plot summary and satisfy my curiosity.

  6. I am curious about your thoughts on The Black Stallion series. Is there anything specifically you could point to in the later books as reasons to avoid them? My 11-yr-old daughter loves the first few books (that I've managed to pre-read before I gave them to her!) but I've got so many other books that I need to get previewed that I can't keep up with her on her beloved Black Stallion series! A mom only has so many hours in a day, so I'd very much appreciate hearing more detail on your reasons for avoiding those later books before I let her collect any more!

  7. Sure, I would be happy to!
    Unfortunately Farley decided in his later books to take a break from classic horse-wins-race and enter into the bizarre. The later books have a lot of depression, disrespect, unresolved endings, and middle-Eastern/Indian religions.
    "The Island Stallion Races"--In this book, Steve and Flame are picked up from their island by aliens and taken to another place (I forget the place, but I think it's on earth) to race horses. At the end of the book they return Steve to the island, but he wakes up and thinks it's been a dream. Then he finds the saddle Flame wore and realizes that it wasn't a dream--he really was picked up by aliens.
    "The Black Stallion's Ghost"--In this story, Alec and the Black see a man on a "ghost" horse while they're out riding together. A storm comes up, and the man brings Alec and the Black to his home to wait it out. While there, the man tries to secretly breed the Black with his horse--it's been a while and I don't remember, but I've heard from several people that the breeding description is unnecessarily graphic and violent. The Black runs away, but the man won't help Alec find him because he's afraid of the "Hatian curse". After Alec finds the Black, goes home, and tells his story, his friends tell him that it's impossible, because the man died several years before. I didn't finish this book, as I recall.
    "The Black Stallion and the Girl" really weakens the Alec/Henry friendship when a pretty young woman comes to work at the farm. Henry and the Ramsay parents are portrayed as old people from the dark ages, while new ideas of feminism and women's rights are part of the successful and "enlightened" Alec and Pam. Pam rides the horses when Alec is temporarily suspended as a jockey, and when the book concludes, promises to come back and marry him after she has seen the world a little. Feminism is the biggest issue in this book, but there's a darker undercurrent of Alec losing his chemistry with the horses and racing business that most children probably won't find enjoyable.
    "The Black Stallion Legend" is the worst of the series, and unfortunately, the last. Pam dies in a car crash, Alec completely breaks down, and even temporarily loses his mind. He comes to himself after loading the Black in a trailer and heading out West. The story turns into a fiasco as Alec finds out the Black is the savior of an Indian settlement and he and the Black are supposed to lead them into a new apocalypse. The only problem is, the reader is left unsure of whether the apocalypse was Indian superstition or if it really did happen. At the end of the book Alec calls home, tells Henry he's okay, and the tremor of an earthquake cuts the call short. I'm far from 11 now, but I still shudder whenever I remember this book. It's not Alec and it's not the Black, and merely from an enjoyment standpoint, the last three books were depressing in the extreme. The only thing that saved the series for me was the fact that Steven Farley wrote a couple of books that are supposed to take place after this one, and he managed to bring back the spirit of the books that his father lost.
    So I hope this explains a little more why I don't recommend the later books. The first ones were so good, and the last ones were very strange and depressing, so I think most people who loved "The Black Stallion" wouldn't really enjoy the last three. You also might find reviews on Amazon to be helpful, and actually, you'll see several people mention the things that I've included here.

  8. Wow...and Yikes! Thank you for the speedy response! We will certainly be avoiding these, as they certainly contain most of the elements we try to avoid in our reading. I appreciate having the specific titles...much easier to vet when I'm on the spot in our favorite bookstore! :) Thanks again!

  9. Dear Lady B,
    I just found some wonderful "junior" books and I have to comment again and recommend them. ;)
    Sarah and the Magic Twenty-Fifth and Sarah and the Pelican are excellent books and met my expectations. Written by Magaret Epp and illustrated by Robert G. Doares (very endearing illustrations) they would be good for the age of 10 and the years around it. I really enjoyed them and I would highly recommend them. :D :D :D :D

    P.S. I don't know if there are any more in the series, but the author seemed to be very good. Nevertheless, proceed with caution! ;)

  10. A really beautiful Christian book for children, teens and adults is "The Basket of Flowers" by Christoph von Schmid. I've read it as an adult and I wished I had this book when I was a kid. You can find it at Project Gutenberg as the book is in public domain. I wanted to create quotes out of every paragraph that I read. It just was so lovely!

    1. That is a lovely book! I've enjoyed it as well.

      I appreciate your input this afternoon and evening, but it goes against my policy to publish anonymous disagreement. In future, I would appreciate you signing off with some sort of pen-name or initials! Thanks for visiting!


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