Today's Memory Monday post is a bit different from the norm. Rather than taking a specific reading memory, in spirit of Just Contemporary month, I want to spotlight some Contemporary reads for kids that I think could really draw them in and introduce them to the awesomeness that is Contemporary Lit at a young age. And next week, I'm going to list some of my favorite older YA Contemps to pull in those more reluctant/hesitant older readers.:)
Many of these are books that I have mentioned before, some of them even have entire Memory Monday posts already (they are linked). But this is a reference-type list so that all these awesome Contemps for kids are in one place. (There are many more books that fully deserve to be on this list, but I had to have some limits...)
First is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. This is an older book, and it's actually set even farther back than that. It's never specifically mentioned in a timeline, but I get the feeling that the book takes place somewhere between the 30s and 50s. So while it's not actually Contemporary, it is Realistic fiction and it's the book that changed what reading meant for me. This was the first book that really hit me and taught me that there was more to reading than just a fun story, or words on a page. I had always loved books, but this book is what really taught me what it means to read.
Willo Davis Roberts is another great writer who really appeals to kids. I devoured her books. She made me believe that I could be amazing. The young kids in her stories were always the heroes and the most frightfully amazing things happened to them. It sparked my imagination and I had wildly exciting day dreams and my barbies had the most interesting lives, partly because of these books. (My mom was also terrified that I'd manage to get myself kidnapped because I believed so strongly in these kids, and just knew that I could handle it myself). But she fanned my love of reading and I don't know any kids that don't love to hear about how much smarter kids are than adults... :)
The Babysitter's Club by Ann M. Martin is a series I inhaled. I used to check out 15-20 of these books at a time and have them all back to the library within two weeks, usually faster. They were exciting and real and I so wanted to have my own babysitters club, once I was old enough to babysit. (I started reading them in 2nd grade, so...) The girls in these stories weren't perfect. They lied, fought, made mistakes, and there were always consequences. But they learned from them within their short little stories and became better babysitters, better friends and better people because of them, and I know that some of the lessons I learned in these books helped shape the person I am.
Sharon Creech so totally deserves a place on this list as well. Her stories are about growing up, facing challenges, accepting new experiences and just learning from life. They are told with that frank honesty of a childhood with that raw emotion of true knowledge of life. I can't even begin to describe how strongly I loved Sharon Creech, and still do, actually. Hers are stories that never get old.
Although I didn't read as much of them as my peers did, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary are both great Contemporary writers. Beverly with her Ramona series and Judy with those Fudge books speak to that younger kid and seem able to use an age appropriate writing style to justify and validate what these kids are going through before they really have the words to explain it themselves.
If the kid in your life is able to handle more mature topics in their stories, I cannot recommend Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman saga enough. I know that I have talked about these books before, but they were a hugely important part of my growing up and formative reading years. I think these books helped me to understand the difference between putting on a brave/false front and true strength. Dicey had to be strong for her siblings. She had to grow up faster than any child ever should and even though I was her age or younger when reading these books, I was so incredibly proud of her.
Maniac Magee by Jerri Spinelli has an element of myth or fantasy to it even though nothing magical or fantastical happens. But the title character of the story has that sort of impact on people, even though he's young. There is much that a kid can learn from this story, but it is also a wonderful story, wonderfully told that will appeal to all sorts of kids, interested in all sorts of reading.
Sonya Sones writes in free verse and, if I'm remembering right, she was my first verse novelist. Her books are geared more in the tween spot, I believe, for those who are no longer children, but still not quite into their teens (11-14 or so). Because of the verse, the books read quickly but the stories lose none of their emotion or depth because of the sparsity of the writing. An easy read for those reluctant to pick up a book but still phenomenal stories.
Shiloh and Hatchet are both well written stories that appeal to younger kids, boys especially. Shiloh is about loving a dog and learning to protect creatures weaker than ourselves (and it's a dog book where the dog doesn't die!!) and Hatchet is a story of wilderness survival and strength.
Betsy Byars writes some fun MG Contemporary and she was my 10 year old brothers very favorite author for a long time (his personal favorite was The Cybil War) and both Andrew Clements and Gordon Korman write some really fun stories as well (I especially loved No Talked and No More Dead Dogs respectively).
Rules by Cynthia Lord is about a young girl whose brother is autistic and she struggles with appearances a lot throughout the novel. But it's a wonderfully sweet story that I absolutely adored. Very deserving of its Newbery Honor.
E.L. Konigsburg writes some very real characters, even if they aren't in very real situations. Like the characters in her Mixed Up Files who end up running away from home and spending the night in a museum (among other things). But her books, especially The View from Saturday were amazing reading experiences for me.
I could go on and on. There are so many wonderful books out there, so much amazing Contemporary for kids. Do you have any favorites? Books that made you love Contemporary as a kid? Contemps that kids you know love? Let me know!! Leave a comment letting me know if you've read any of the books I've listed and/or if you know of any I've missed!