The Railway Children
by Edith Nesbit
In the great tradition of British children’s literature, Nesbit’s name is always mentioned with reverence. This is my first book of her’s but I can’t wait to recommend her to my nieces and nephews. The story, published in 1906, is about an English family whose father is accused of espionage and imprisoned. His role is rarely mentioned (think of the father in Little Women) and is more notable in his absence than presence.
The children walk to the railway station almost every day and make friends with the regular travelers. They also help an ailing Russian man who is looking for his family. Their mother is strong and supportive, shielding her kids from knowing about their struggles.
BOTTOM LINE: The sweet story is a perfect one to read aloud with young kids. The adventures are very episodic and would work well being spread out over the course of a week or two. It reminded me of Swallows and Amazons, another good British children’s book.
The Magician's Elephant
by Kate DiCamillo
A young orphan named Peter visits a fortune teller in the hopes of finding out whether his sister is still alive. Her confusing answer leads him on an odd journey. Meanwhile a magician accidently makes an elephant appear out of nowhere in the midst of a performance. The story is full of strange characters and impossible situations, but that just makes it all the more delightful.
As the dream-like tale unfolds we meet a nun at a local orphanage, a beggar and his clever dog Iddo, and Hans Ickman, who once had a dog who could jump incredibly high. There’s nothing earth-shattering in this novel, but the way it’s written is charming.
BOTTOM LINE: For a slim little novel this story packs a punch. There were little lines full of wisdom that resonated with me. I can’t wait to share this one with my nieces and nephews.
“Magic is always impossible,” said the magician. “It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic.”
“We must ask ourselves these questions as often as we dare. How will the world change if we do not question it?”
“It is important you say what you mean to say. Time is too short. You must speak words that matter.”
The Missing Golden Ticket and other Splendiferous Stories
by Roald Dahl
I’ve always been a huge fan of Roald Dahl, from reading The BFG and Matilda as a child to discovering his adult short stories years later. This fun book gives readers a glimpse behind the curtain to learn a bit about how he worked. It includes some fun facts and information about characters that he cut from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t expect a lot of depth, but this quick read is provides a few interesting tidbits about Dahl and one of his most famous novels.