When I was eleven or so, my mother bought me a copy of Margaret Sidney’s classic Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. At the time, I was in middle school and therefore Too Old To Be Read To At Night Anymore, Mooooom *Insert Eyeroll Here*.
Mom read me Five Little Peppers and How They Grew anyway. At least, she read the odd-numbered chapters; I read the even-numbered ones, on the grounds that if I’m still young enough to be read to, so is Mom.
This week at AbeBooks, Richard Davies lists 50 Books For an 11-Year-Old, inspired by the argument in the UK that children of that age should be knocking off 50 books a year. I couldn’t tell you how many books I read when I was eleven, but I’m betting it was at least that many.
A few on Davies’s list that I particularly loved are below in no particular order. I actually didn’t read most of these when I was 11 – either they didn’t exist (as in the case of Harry Potter, the His Dark Materials trilogy, and Coraline), or I had already read them at age 5 or 7 or 13 (yes, I only read when my age is a prime number, get used to it*).
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. My father kept The Hobbit, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in mass-market paperbacks on his Bookshelf Of Books That Are Way Cooler Than Mine Because They Are Not Mine, so I read it one summer (I think I was eleven?) because it was one of the few books in the house that I hadn’t already read at least three times. Not long after, I tried to read The Fellowship of the Ring as well, but got bogged down in Lothlorien and never finished. Never saw the movies, either. Should probably do something about that.
Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. My mother, a die-hard Anne Shirley fan, bought me the entire Anne series and half the Rilla books right around the time I turned eleven. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve read Anne of Green Gables, but it’s enough to send me back to Prince Edward Island whenever someone mentions amethysts, shining waters, or “Cordelia.” I wanted to be Anne Shirley, but I think I was Diana.
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Three true facts:
- My copy is inscribed “Christmas 1988,” so I must have first read this book, or had it read to me, when I was six.
- I can still recite large parts of this book from memory.
- I cannot stand a single movie or stage adaptation of this book to date.
I eventually learned to like the Broadway musical’s soundtrack, but only by completely divorcing it in my mind from the book and imagining Archibald Craven with Inigo Montoya’s accent. (“A girl who came to my garden? Prepare to die.”)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. We – my reading group – read this when I was in fourth grade, or age nine**. We all cried. I picked up a copy of this book last Christmas while I was browsing the local Goodwill (my one-stop source for cheap, in-excellent-shape novels). I cried.
I recommend this book (along with Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls) because any book that can make me cry like a child whether I’m nine or twenty-nine is by definition A Powerful Book.
*Not true! But fun to tell kids of a certain age, because they inevitably have to seek pencils and paper to find out how old I will be when I can read books next. Prime numbers, WOOOO! …and so on.
**Not a prime number!