I’m not used to feeling old. Maybe it has something to do with dating your grade-school sweetheart. High school doesn’t feel that long ago because we’re still writing the same story, just, you know, less let’s-play-house and more let’s-buy-a-house. Add to that the fact that we decided at the wise old ages of twenty-three and twenty-four that we were ready to be parents, and you can see how I often find myself as the youngest adult on the playground.
But I finally had my first oh-my-gosh-I’m-aging moment this week.
It was not a grey hair (my husband has had those since he was sixteen). It was not my child saying something like, “Did you have cell phones back in those days?” (We did!) It was in fact a reference to Harry Potter in a Judy Blume book.
Since Blume’s first children’s book The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo was published in 1969, you’ll forgive me for not realizing that the fabulous Fudge books are from the 1990s and early 2000s. Plus, the covers look like this:
And anyway, how is it possible that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1997? I remember it. My brother’s toast at my wedding included a jab for scheduling the event on the night of the release of Book Seven (how could I, really?).
So you see why this moment felt so anachronistic to me. Fudge shouldn’t know about Harry. They belong to different ages. How can Potter be over twenty years old if I remember reading the first edition? It can’t be true.
All this is going somewhere helpful, I promise. Let’s get back to the Fudge books and why children love them. There are some authors like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and Margaret Wise Brown, who never forgot what it’s like to see the world from a child’s point of view. And when people like that write stories about family life, stories that are so relatable and lovely, children can read them for hours.
So please enjoy these fabulous stories by authors who truly get your kid.
There is no fictional world that feels more a part of our family than this one. We refer to Ramona and Henry almost every week. Whenever there are claims of injustice, we say, “Having been the youngest . . . she had learned to watch for unfair situations.” Tonight at dinner when one child was leaning halfway off her chair, still technically sitting down, we said, “Just like Ramona on the curb, teasing Henry!” For Christmas one year, we found an Etsy artist who would make a Ramona “Q” for us (see below). We can’t get enough. I highly recommend the audiobooks, read by Stockard Channing and Neil Patrick Harris.
(I love this ornament so much.)
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Clementine has been compared to Ramona and for good reason. She’s an absolute delight and Frazee’s illustrations are perfect.
From the mind that brought you The Giver, comes a delightfully fun and quirky series, featuring yet another strong young woman.
While I like Lulu and the Brontosaurus best, they are all full of Viorst’s signature wit.
The Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
There are so many instances when you need the phrase, “toughy little buffalo.” This three-book series is both laugh-out-loud funny and also surprisingly poignant. I loved these books, which was not surprising at all, since Jenkins’ What Happens on Wednesdays is a big favorite of mine (and a totally unsung delight – you can get Wednesdays for less than four dollars on Amazon because the world apparently hasn’t discovered how absolutely perfect it is). They aren’t from a child’s perspective (rather, toys’), but for whatever reason they seemed to fit in this category.
If you love Henry Huggins, you’ll probably also be a fan of Peter Hatcher and his crew.
Enjoy these feel-good chapter books with your littles, and happy reading!