Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rereading after inventory

SHOULD I keep my old favorites? Clearly, if a book doesn't bring me any joy AND it's not circulating well, it goes. I get about 1,000 new books every year, and if I didn't weed aggressively, it would quickly become a problem. Occasionally, I look critically at older titles just to see how they hold up. Of course, I was almost in tears when I realized I had gotten rid of Eleanor Cameron's The Court of the Stone Children, especially since there doesn't seem to be a copy in the entire Ohio library system. If I recall correctly, however, I reread that one and wasn't enthralled as I had been. I never had a library copy of A Room Made of Windows, and I would probably want to slap Julia anyway.

Here are some titles that I loved as a child and have kept in the library. Will I keep them forever? Depends on my students. I must continuously tell myself  "This is not an archive"! Would that it were.

377889Boston, L.M. The Children of Green Knowe
1954, School Library Copy

Toseland is sent to live with his great grandmother because his parents are in Burma and he's tired of having to stay with teachers at boarding schools. When he arrives at the house in the country, the whole area is surrounded by water, and he is picked up in a boat! He loves the old house, but finds it a bit eerie and magical. He is intrigued by a picture on the wall showing other children who lived in the house-- in the 1600s! Mysterious things keep happening, and his Granny is understanding when they do. Tolly, as his Granny calls him, gets to know about the heritage of his family and the house in a particularly interesting way.
Strengths: Tolly is a great character, full of adventure and optimism. Granny is also just what he needs in order to finally feel he has a home. The house is fantastic, and the idea of connecting with other children from that long ago is intriguing.
Weaknesses: I felt like I need to read the rest of the books to get to the meat of the story.
What I really think: I remember this as having a lot more time travel, but the connection with the past wasn't very concrete. This was also a lot slower than I remembered.
Stay or Go?: Stays, but I feel children might benefit from being told it is an older title.

2958889Bellairs, John. The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt #1)
1973, School Library Copy

In 1948, after Lewis' parents both die in a car accident, he is sent to a town in Michigan to live with his Uncle Jonathan, who is well-to-do but doesn't seem to have a job. He lives in a huge old house that used to belong to an evil magician, and both he and his friend and neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, practice a little bit of magic themselves. There is a clock hidden deep within the walls of the house that can be heard in every room, but the uncle doesn't know how to make it stop. Lewis settles into his new school and eventually makes friends with a popular boy named Tarby, which is unusual for him because he is overweight (trigger warning: the word "fat" is used frequently, and in a perjorative sense a lot in this book) and bad at sports. In order to keep Tarby hanging around with him, he plays up his uncle's magical abilities and manages to raise the magician's wife from the dead, causing all manner of problems but ultimately solving the problem of the clock.
Strengths: In terms of pacing and excitement, this holds up well in comparison to modern titles. Nicely creepy, and I adored Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman!
Weaknesses: Clearly, the taunting use of the term "fat" by several characters is problematic today. I did some research on Mr. Bellairs, who died in 1991 when he was about my age, and it looks like he might have been rather overweight himself, so these scenes might, sadly, be based on his own experiences.
What I really think: I am so very glad I held on to ALL of the Bellairs books and want to get them back into students' hands!
Stay or Go: Stays, especially with the movie coming out in the fall. Wonder if the paperback reprints will be changed at all?

1462487Konigsberg, E.L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
1967, School Library Copy

Claudia is just fed up with her family and the way they treat her, so she decides to run away. She decides to take her 9-year-old brother Jamie with her because he's the least annoying of her three brothers and has more savings to fund the venture. They make pretty solid plans to get to the city, packing their clothes in their instrument cases, and decide to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They scope out good places to hide, sneak out to get food, and even bathe in an indoor fountain. When the museum is abuzz with the purchase of a new statue that may have been created by Michaelangelo, Claudia decides to solve the mystery before returning home. This involves traveling to meet the previous owner of the statue, and looking through her files to find clues.
Strengths: The details about running away and staying in the library are extraordinary! It makes it seem completely reasonable that the two could live in the museum for a week. I found myself not caring about the mystery of the statue quite as much, but admired Claudia's persistence in finding a reason to have been away from home. I thought the level of worry about her parents was realistic, and there is an article in the paper about the two being missing.
Weaknesses: I wasn't very convinced about WHY Claudia felt a need to run away, but what tween doesn't want to run away from time to time? Transistor radio. Wow. No cell phones. That is really the only in-your-face stuff that dates this. Plus maybe  museum security.
What I really think: I can see why this one is a perennial favorite for teachers and students alike.
Stay or go?: Definitely stays. This holds up really pretty well in terms of pacing, technology, and everything else!


  1. I love the Green Knowe books, though I first read them as an adult. And I can't imagine a library NOT having The House with a Clock in Its Walls or The Mixed Up Files. These are true classics. Now you have me wanting to re-read them :-)

  2. I think the Green Knowe books are out of print, and I haven’t found them in ebook so far. Just so you know. Give it away if you decide to weed at some stage, but perhaps think carefully before dropping it in the bin, unless it’s battered.

  3. I love the Green Knowe books so much. I wrote one of my senior thesis (thesi?) on Boston's works! They were briefly reprinted with some rather nasty covers by Brett Helquist around 2008 but went back out of print. I've tried to get kids into Stranger at Green Knowe - it's similar in some ways to One and Only Ivan (though, in my opinion, better) and have had some interest. I sadly weeded all of ours and replaced them with a paperback edition from the UK that includes the first two books, just in case I find someone who wants to read them.

  4. I tried and tried and tried but could not get any kids to read John Bellairs. I weeded them and took them all home (and now they are gradually becoming available via ebook and, to my utter delight, audio book). I think my library kids want the more immediate scare and something easier to read. Sigh.

  5. Still have my Boston essays!