Every once and a while, a writer will do a rare thing, and create a book so masterful that it can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age and genre preferences. This is, as I said, a very rare thing. So therefor there’s a long list of books that are, while still being incredible and worth the read, best enjoyed by children. This is a list of some of my favorite of such books, as well as some of the incredible all age ones.
Animal Farm, By George Orwell
Cover of Animal Farm: Centennial Edition
“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give mild, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.” -George Orwell, Animal Farm
This book is one of the rare all age books that I mentioned above in the description. It uses forgetful farm animals as a metaphor for the events in Russia during most of the 20th century, with just about every relevant historical figure and group covered and represented as an animal. It starts with a great speech by Old Major, a pig with an incredible conscience but not great for sight. This leads to a rebellion in which the animals heroically kick out their human dictators and liberate the citizens of the farm. New governments form, and the animals face great challenges in preserving the peace of Animal Farm.
Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.” -Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto (book 11 in the Series of Unfortunate Events)
Some people take this series to be a depressing rant of an unhappy young man. I think that those people are missing the point; the story uses the unfortunate live of the characters to show how lucky the rest of us are. The stories revolve around the lives, and, more prominently, the misfortunes, of the Baudelaire children. It starts out with a simple plot, three orphaned children bouncing between less-than-friendly foster homes, followed by the horrible Count Olaf. But with the discovery of VFD, a mysterious organization in which their parents were involved shortly before their death, it becomes an intricate story, riddled with subplots and subplots of subplots. It is a rather long read, consisting of 13 different installments, each one longer than the last. But well worth it, Snicket has an incredible, style of writing with a sharp, dark wit that works perfectly with this plot.
The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Cover of The Hunger Games
“Destroying things is much easier than making them.” -Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
This one revolves around Katnis Everdeen, the girl on fire. It takes place in a dystopian America, called Panem. In Panem, there is the rich capital, and 12 abused districts. Every year, the capital pus one girl and one boy form each of the districts, and makes them fight to the death in a fight known as the Hunger Games. Katnisis chosen as a participant (known as a tribute) along with Peeta Melark, the boy with the bread. At first glance,The Hunger Games seems like an innocent tale of hardship, mixed with a bit of cutesy romance. But with further examination, you realize that it is filled with metaphors, that it is a metaphor. We are the capital. “We” as in the first world. The districts are everywhere else, where we get our resources. “Panem” is Latin for bread. Everything, from the country to the pin that Katniss wears on her jacket, is a metaphor for the real world.
The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
Cover of The Mysterious Benedict Society
“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but does not depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether they’re related to you or not, can be your family.” -Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society
This book follows the adventures of Reynie Muldoon, and his attempt to save the world. Through a series of test, he comes into contact with a man named Mr. Benedict. Through him, Reynie meets a crew consisting of Kate Wetherall, who can climb almost anything, Sticky Washington, who never forgets anything, and Constance Contraire, who seems, for a good portion of the book, to be completely useless for anything other than writing mildly offensive poems. This task force of remarkable children learns that there is a man on an island institution who is broadcasting the thoughts of children into people’s subconscious minds to wreak mass havoc and gain power for himself. The group heads to the island and makes a desperate attempt at stopping him and saving the world. There are two more books in the series, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Both are very well written and perfect for passing time during long school lectures. Trenton recently wrote a prequel to the series, called The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, however I have not yet gotten my hands on a copy to read it.
An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore
Cover of An Inconvenient Truth (I do not own this, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:An_Inconvenient_Truth.jpg)
“As many know, the Chinese expression for “crisis” consists of two characters side by side. The first symbol for “danger,” and the second symbol for “opportunity.” -Al Gore, An Inconvenient truth.
I would recommend this book to readers of all ages, from adults to toddlers being read to by their parents. It is an incredible book about the climate crisis and why it so desperately needs to be stopped. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, this is still a book that you should read, due to it’s stunning visuals and remarkable writing style. It was written by former vice president Al Gore, and it tells truth that most people don’t want to believe because it is, well, inconvenient. Al Gore has several other books, all equally brilliant, but most of them are more complex in their writing style and word choice, so not a great choice for kids.
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Cover of The Count of Monte Cristo
“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you man is what you do when that storm comes. You will look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you.” - Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
This literary success follows the life of Edmond Dantés, as he strives to take revenge upon Ferdinand, Danglars, and Villefort. These three men were responsible for the long, unjust imprisonment of Edmond in a rather uncomfortable prison. The “rather uncomfortable” being the understatement of the year. Edmond escapes the prison, of course, and spends a heroic journey around Europe encountering everything from pirates to murdered babies. It is a classic adventure story, with a beautifully intricate plot and incredibly developed characters.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons trying to find a moral will be banished; persons trying to find a plot in it will be shot.” -Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This book follows the adventures and misadventures of Huck Finn, an unruly son of a drunkard who runs away from home and his abusive father, with the hopes of becoming a pirate. With him comes Jim, a former slave on his way to the north for freedom. The book is set several years before the American Civil War, so Huck has to face the challenging decision of what to do with Jim, whether to turn him in like he is obligated to or to help him reach freedom and liberation.
Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling
Hogwarts Crest from Harry Potter
Oh, the woes of Harry Potter. Dead parents, abusive foster parents, and has the worlds worst wizard (the same wizard that killed his parents). Peachy. Thankfully, Harry gets sent off the Hogwarts to learn the art of wizardry. Harry and friends spend the next seven years tormenting and being tormented by Voldemort, the evil wizard, and his horrific death eater minions. Incredibly well written, with movies to boot. I recommend you read the books before the movies as frankly the books are way better and if you watch the movies they’ll just be a big spoiler.