PDN readers offer suggestions for good summer reading for children

“PRY YOUR KIDS away from the keyboard and the television this summer, and get them reading,” New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof advised parents in a column appearing on the PDN commentary pages last Friday.

Kristof then listed his personal Best Children’s Books — Ever! You can review the column here: http://tinyurl.com/kristofbooks.

We got to thinking about what books Peninsula Daily News readers might suggest for North Olympic Peninsula kids to read this summer, so we solicited their views at the end of last Friday’s Kristof column.

Thanks to everyone who e-mailed in their suggestions.

In no particular order, here are some terrific ideas hatched on our own Peninsula:

• “Paddle to the Sea is a marvelous book for children at least 8 years old to learn geography through narrative and wonderful illustrations.

“I was given this book in 1947, and my children and grandchildren like the book.”

— Dr. Dennis L. Noble, Sequim

• “Here is my list. Most of these are three- and four-generational favorites.

“Little Women; the Howard Pease books; Heidi, et.al.; Paddle to the Sea, et.al.; Tom Sawyer; The Blue Fairy Book, et.al.; Winnie the Pooh, et.al.; Old Fashioned Girl series; Mary Francis series; Mother Goose; The Book House Books (original edition); Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales; The Secret Garden; the R.M. Ballantyne books; At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald; Pinocchio; and Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.”

— Constance Wulfman, Port Angeles

• “100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Hatchet by Gary Paulson, Crash by Jerry Spinelli — actually, every book by these authors is terrific.

“Add Jane Yolen and Patricia Polocco and they will become favorites, too.

“Don’t forget Books on Tape in the car beat an iPod or video games any day.”

— Sandra Ramsey, Port Angeles

• “I’ve taught elementary-level reading for many years, both in several countries overseas and in California. These are my favorites:

“Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry; My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George; The Big Wave, Pearl S. Buck.”

— Jim Harris, Port Townsend

• “Anne Holm’s I am David is my choice. David escapes from a concentration camp and runs north, for the first time experiencing kindness and beauty which are symbolic of his new freedom. . . .”

— Larry Welch, Port Angeles

• “Huck Finn, which should be on any list; the Dick Hamilton series [about] a miserly rich uncle guardian versus a generous, helpful, honorable young man; Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a humane perspective on slavery and racism; Black Beauty, humane treatment of animals.

“[Also] Little Women, facing life’s challenges, the Five Little Peppers series [about] a family of kids and a single mother facing poverty and life’s challenges; Aesop’s Fables, human behavior; and Uncle Remus, folk humor on behavior.”

— Wm. Houston, Port Townsend

• “Please add The Story of Ferdinand the Bull to your list. It is perhaps the sweetest and quietly instructive story for children ever.”

— Joel Leonard, Nordland

What a great addendum to Nicholas Kristof’s list from last Friday!

On a personal note, I contribute Billy Whiskers’ Adventures.

It was a 1920 children’s book my autoworker dad had on the family bookshelf that he used to teach me to read when I was 4 years old.

Obviously, that has helped to serve me well into my fifth decade as a newspaperman, but Adventures, one of the Billy Whiskers series by Francis Trego Montgomery, also offers a historical glimpse into the Great War — the one we now call World War I.

That understanding of history is something all journalists also need — even budding ones at age 4.

Finally, I can’t help but notice that among all the titles — Kristof’s last week as well as our dear readers’ today — nobody mentions Twilight.


Rex Wilson is executive editor of the Peninsula Daily News who oversees weekday Commentary Page duties.

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