Features

Books to remember

Books | WORLD staffers pick their childhood favorites

Issue: "Border gridlock," Aug. 9, 2014

Narnia

Fifth grade was my favorite and most formative year in school, and my favorite time of day that year was just after lunch when my teacher would dim the lights and read aloud from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. As she read, I rested my head on my desk, sometimes wondering whether I was awake or dreaming of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy and their unfathomable encounters with Aslan. At the time I didn’t understand The Chronicles of Narnia as Christian literature, only as perhaps the greatest story I’d heard—which is, after all, what the gospel is. Later I reread the stories through the eyes of a Christ follower, and read the whole series successively with four children on back-porch summer evenings, each time at the end of The Last Battle feeling the familiar throat lump and perplexing glad-sadness, “the end of all the stories” but “the beginning of the real story … in which every chapter is better than the one before.” —Mindy Belz

Seuss

Associated Press

“I’m off to the City of Solla Sollew … Where they never have troubles! At least, very few.” Deep in my soul, I’d love to lay aside troubles and go live in Solla Sollew. I tagged along as a kid when the protagonist of Dr. Seuss’ I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965) set off on a journey to the sweet, sunny city with glittering towers. Imagine my surprise (and amusement) when he fell into misfortune after misfortune. (Never mind there is no such carnivore as a “Poozer” or any such storm as a “Midwinter Jicker.”) The Seussian lesson that stuck: Troubles increase when you run from them. —Daniel James Devine

Heinlein

Associated Press/Photo by C.N. Brown

I loved Robert Heinlein’s science fiction books for children: He wrote at least one a year in the 1950s, including Starship Troopers, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, and Starman Jones. Heinlein was a complicated man: U.S. Naval Academy graduate, nudist, two-time divorcee by age 40. But his heroes often exemplified duty and honor, and he remained married to his third wife Virginia for the next 40 years. He also coined several words and phrases that made their way into the English language, including “moonbat,” a pejorative term for a liberal or progressive. —Warren Smith

Fairy Tales

When I was a child more than a half century ago, we owned three sets of books that we read and reread so often their bindings cracked: the nursery rhyme and fairy-tale volumes of Childcraft Encyclopedia, Anderson’s and Grimm’s fairy tales, and the fairy tale volume of Journeys Through Book Land that had belonged to my father. From the library we checked out the same two books repeatedly: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss and Chanticleer and the Fox by Barbara Cooney. Three favorites came to me as gifts: I read and reread An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott, Dash and Dart by Mary and Conrad Duff, and Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss. —Susan Olasky

Tolkien

Haywood Magee/PicturePost/Getty Images

I don’t remember being read to at bedtime as a child, but I have vivid memories of introducing young sons to Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We started each reading with central poems (“The road goes ever on and on,” “Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky”). I sometimes paraphrased sentences and skipped paragraphs so as to push forward the action, but all four sons walked high over the misty mountains, ran from the drums of Khazad-dum, thundered across the plains with the riders of Rohan, and rejoiced as Gandalf reappeared after his death. My oldest three then heard the whole saga again as I read it to the next in line. —Marvin Olasky  

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