Reality vs Fantasy

ScienceDaily has an article on a study that concluded that children can distinguish between reality and fantasy using contextual cues.
“In three studies, about 400 children ages 3 to 6 heard about something new and had to say whether they thought it was real or not. Some children heard the information defined in scientific terms (“Doctors use surnits to make medicine”), while others heard it defined in fantastical terms (“Fairies use hercs to make fairy dust”). The researchers found that children’s ability to use contextual cues to determine whether the information is true develops significantly between the ages of 3 and 5.”
And what does this have to do with children’s literature? Plenty!
My question is what is wrong with a child between the ages of 3 and 5 or even much older believing in fairies or other amazing creatures like elves, witches, dragons, etc. Why does this demonstrate their ability to distinguish reality from fantasy? Seems to me that there is a lot larger issue that if something is seen as scientific it is real and if it is creative it must be untrue.
Or perhaps I am just a trippy type of person who wants children to read books, internalize them and dream their big dreams. I want children to be children a lot longer than they are in our society. Let’s give them their years to believe in fairies and the fantastical. Let’s allow them to be real for children.


This meme is all over the kidslitblogosphere, and I have some time on a Friday to participate!  This is a list of the top books of all time for children (I think, though I don’t know for sure.  Certainly they have included some of my top books.)  The ones in bold are the ones I have read.  Then the ones with a star are the ones I liked.  Let’s see…  Looks like my score is 94!  Holy cow!  Now admittedly, a lot of these are from my reading to my own children, not from my childhood.  I would have scored far lower without two boys who love picture books.

*Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
* The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
* Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
* The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
*Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
* The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
*The Mitten by Jan Brett
*Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
*Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
* The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
* Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
*Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
*Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
* How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
*The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
* Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
*Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
*The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
*Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
*Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
* Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The BFG by Roald Dahl
*The Giver by Lois Lowry
*If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
*James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
*Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
*The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
*The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
*Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
*Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
*Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
*Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
*The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
*Corduroy by Don Freeman
*Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
*Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
*Matilda by Roald Dahl
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
*Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
*The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
*Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
*The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
*Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
*One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
*The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
*The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
*The Napping House by Audrey Wood
*Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
*The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
*Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
*The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
*Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
*Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
*The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
*Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
*Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
*Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
*The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
*Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
*Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
*Sideways Storiesfrom Wayside School by Louis Sachar
*Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
*Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
* A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
*Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater (don’t remember)
*My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
*Stuart Little by E. B. White
*Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
*The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
* The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
*Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
*Heidi by Johanna Spyri
*Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
* The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsc

Graphic Novel Attacks

An interesting AP article on the topic of increasing challenges to graphic novels in libraries, shows that people are finding graphic illustrations of adult themes much more provocative than the same actions in written form. They have some examples of adult graphic novels that are being questioned in public libraries.
When I went to library school, I learned that if a librarian is doing their job and truly selecting items that will serve even the marginal people in their community then you definitely can expect to have materials questioned. Sounds like this new director at the library has pushed the envelope a bit more than her predecessor. Complaints about materials aren’t the end of the world, they may just be the indication that you are doing your job extremely well.

Too Small for Honey Cake

Too Small for Honey Cake by Gill Lobel, illustrated by Sebastien Braun.

I know that there are many books about new siblings and how older siblings have to cope.  Even in this crowded field, this book is a warm charmer that should be noticed.  Little Fox is finding that Daddy Fox has almost no time for him because of the baby.  His father won’t look at his block tower, he sings the baby Little Fox’s special song, and the baby sleeps in Little Fox’s cradle.  It isn’t fair!  So Little Fox decides that he is not living there anymore and moves into the space under the stairs.  He stays there angry and saying mean things until his father finds a way to make peace with a bit of honey cake.

I enjoyed this story of a father dealing with children.  So often we have stories of inept fathers who have to be helped with childcare.  In this case we have a capable father who can bake too!  The illustrations are warm depictions of a safe and cozy home.  Little Fox’s insults about the baby are right on target for that age and will have preschoolers and Kindergarteners giggling.

Share this with children expecting a new sibling, but also share it for a depiction of a single parent story or just a great warm book about brothers. 


Sold by Patricia McCormick.

The exquisite cover promises great things inside and does not lie.  McCormick has created a gut-wrenching, poetic, amazing verse novel of a young girl sold into sexual slavery.  Lakshmi is from a small village in Nepal where she has a loving mother, tiny baby brother and absent stepfather who gambles away any money they manage to scrape together.  One season after an awful drought, the monsoon returns with too much rain destroying their rice plantings for the next year.  Lakshmi is told that she is being sent to be a maid for a wealthy city family, so she is willing to leave to give her family more money, her brother a better life, and her mother a new tin roof.  But she is not headed for a family, rather an brothel in India.  This is the story of how a young girl uses her intelligence and courage to survive the unthinkable.

The power of the poems in this volume hits like a hammer right in the chest.  Amazingly many of them are complete enough to stand as single poems, but placed together in order they form a chain of poetry that is solid and strong.  They are a testament to what is happening to thousands of girls each year. 

I admit freely that I tend to cry at the end of books.  Sometimes it is the loss of these characters I have been living with other times it is the anguish of the story itself.  Rarely do I weep in the middle of a book, but I did when reading this.  The pain of the brothel and her bravery in overcoming the situation were so palpable and real that they seared right through me.  The eyes on the cover will stay with me for a long time, but the poetry is what is tattooed in my heart.  To say such evil things with such beauty and strength.  To not shy away from the truth of what happens took courage for the author as well.

All I have is applause for this novel.  It is a masterpiece of brevity and power.  This is one of my top books of the year.  I consider it a must read.