The problem with pursuing writing as a profession is that I’ve just about ruined pleasure reading for myself. I’m so well-trained to analyze the writing (Wow! That was a great metaphor. How’d she come up with that? That’s a really effective plot twist. How did he lay the groundwork for it?) that I can rarely sit down with a book as simply a reader. So this month, my theme is the joy of reading, all about books we love. To kick things off for the month, I’m writing a bout children’s books I still love after all these years.
The McBroom Saga
The McBroom books were a series of longer picture books written by Sid Fleischman. The narrator of the stories is always Josh McBroom, the father of the McBroom clan, which consists of his “dear wife” Melissa and eleven redheaded children. They live on a “wonderful one-acre farm” with soil so rich that they can grow a whole corn crop in a matter of days. The farm is so unusual that many of the plots concern the underhanded tactics the family’s neighbor Heck Jones deploys to steal their farm.
I still love these books for the same reasons I did as a kid. First, Mr. Fleischman wrote them in dialect.
Beasts and birds? Oh, I’ve heard some whoppers about the strange critters out here on the prairie. Why, just the other day a fellow told me he’d once owned a talking rattlesnake. It didn’t talk excactly. He said it shook its rattles in Morse code.
Well, there’s not an ounce of fact in that. Gracious, no! That fellow had no regard for the truth. Everyone knows that a snake can’t spell.McBroom’s Zoo by Sid Fleischman
The dialect reminds me of how my grandparents talked. Small rant here: for some reason I can’t figure out, publishers hate it when authors write in dialect. I understand that we can overdo it and make the dialogue almost gibberish. But when done well, it makes characters stand out. My oldest is a huge fan of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Certain tribes of animals talk with specific dialects. My oldest was eleven when he started the series and had no trouble understanding what the characters were saying. So why can’t authors include dialect in YA and adult books? It’s one of life’s unsolved mysteries. Okay. Rant over.
The second thing I loved about this series was the big family. When Josh McBroom wants all his children to gather round, he calls “Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleclarinda!” I thought it would be fun to grow up with so many brothers and sisters.
The Three Investigators
The Three Investigators was a mystery series begun in the 1960’s by Robert Arthur. Three fourteen-year-old boys run a detective business in California and sometimes get work with the help of their friend, Alfred Hitchcock. These books are a step up from the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The three boys, Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, have more distinct personalities than the Hardy Boys, especially Jupiter. The brains of the business, he lives with his aunt and uncle in a salvage yard where the boys have converted an old trailer into their office, hiding it amid all the junk. He’s always described as “stocky”, he’s relentlessly logical, and the few illustrations included in the books always show him wearing Hawaiian shirts.
The mysteries are more complicated. In The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar, the boys thwart a gunrunning operation with international repercussions. I had a lot of fun last summer introducing my youngest to these, and he fell in love with them, using them for a book report.
What children’s books do you still love?