Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Caldecott and Newberry award winners -- and your favorite children/young adult books

The American Library Association announced yesterday the winners of the 2007 Newberry and Caldecott awards for excellence in writing and illustrating of children's books.

The Newberry winner was Susan Patron's The Higher Power of Lucky while the Caldecott prize went to David Weisner's Flotsam. Neither of which I've read or seen, but being in the children's lit mode, I'll be checking them out.

Related to this story is World Magazine's piece a few months ago on noteworthy children's literature as recommended by prominent Christians (World's archives are pay per view). Which got me to thinking what are some of the most influential books that I remember from my young adulthood (not young adult books that I'm reading now, like the Harry Potter series, but what was it I read then that was formative) Here's my top 5:

The Chronicles of Narnia: Yes, I know it's cliche, because everyone quotes CS Lewis these days as though he were a pudgy British I Ching oracle. Even so, the series had a profound effect on my concept of God -- I think I learned something of how to approach Christ as both a friend to sinners and a holy king. I learned lots of things through the book -- including a yearning for "beyondness" -- heaven if you will.

The Lord of the Rings: Cliche #2 -- even so, Tolkien's work was also formative. The story of friendship, loyalty, nobility, and good versus evil continues to strike deep within -- it makes me want to be a better person, not for my own sake, but for the sake of goodness itself. I remember that my mother was very concerned that I played Dungeons and Dragons while I was a teenager -- I think Lewis and Tolkein were antibodies against the dark elements of those games.

Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries. These books started me on a love of mystery writing (which I continue to love -- Conan Doyle and Chesterton's Father Brown Mysteries are staples of my Sunday afternoon relaxations). And one of them taught me that the battle of Manassas and the battle of Bull Run were actually the same fight.

The McDonald Hall series. Gordon Korman's adventures of Bruno and Boots, two boarding school students at McDonald Hall. They continually get into misadventures that kept me rolling. Just pure fun -- but I read them over and over for the fun of it. And as a hat tip, this is another good thing that comes out of Canada.

Louis L'amour series (particularly the Sackett books) and Star Trek series. I lump these together because even though one is western and the other is science fiction, they both are action adventures that entail heroes and villans, good and evil, persistence in adversity, and loyalty to your friends when things get down to a pinch. They were simple stories where right is right and wrong is wrong -- not much irony. Not great literature, but they were still a lot of fun.

OK -- I guess I'll make this an official meme and challenge others to do the same -- what are 5 books or series that you read as a young adult that influenced and shaped you?