Lydia Sheaks
Lydia Sheaks
Lydia Sheaks, education reporter, writes about finding adventure in the everyday, her opinions of current events and trends and occasionally her two cats.

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Reporter Lydia Sheaks writes about education and family issues for the Elkhart Truth.

Kids are looking for magic, and these books deliver

Reporter Lydia Sheaks writes about five children’s books that use magical stories to get kids interested in reading.

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.

I opened up the mass Facebook message and breathed a sigh of relief.

Guests planning to attend my nephew’s first birthday party should bring books instead of greeting cards, my sister-in-law wrote.

I appreciate any chance to give kids a book. I think I secretly hope the right book will inspire a kid to love reading as much as I do.

So, I think very carefully when choosing a book for a kid.

The books you read (or the ones that are read to you) as a child always have a much bigger impact than books you read as an adult, in my opinion. 

Adults choose books that are on the best-seller list, books they “should” read, books that make them seem smart and informed. 

Kids love books with magic. 

Here’s five books I loved as a child and still love to re-read now:

Harold and the Purple Crayon” is about a little boy who can draw places he imagines with his purple crayon and they become real. 

He draws several adventures, then at the end of the book he draws his bedroom window and his bed, crawls in, and goes to sleep.

What a perfect imagination story — anything you dream up can be real, but home’s still there when you’re done.

The Chronicles of Narnia is actually a seven-book series. They’re all good, but “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” was the first published and the one most people know.

Four siblings — Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy — are sent from their home in London to a big country house to escape WWII.

An old professor lives there and the kids are bored out of their minds.

One day while playing hide-and-seek, they find a wardrobe that appears to be a channel between the world they live in and a fantasy world, one where it’s “always winter but never Christmas” and a White Witch is at war with a noble lion named Aslan.

I’ll never forget the thrill of learning that Aslan is on our side, but he’s not necessarily safe.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”

Narnia is the classic tale of good versus evil. The books are meant for children but adults will enjoy them also — maybe even more than the kids.

The Boxcar Children” follows the story of four orphaned children — Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny (I’m seeing a trend here) — and their adventures as they live in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. 

It sounds a little sad and morbid, but as a kid I thought the idea of being an orphan was pretty glamorous. No one to tell you what to do, no chores — that’s pretty much a great life.

Another appeal of the Boxcar Children is the inventive stuff these kids came up with in order to survive on their own. As a kid who would never go camping or play in dirt at all, I lived vicariously through the Boxcar Children’s adventures.

Charlotte’s Web” incorporates another story line kids love — animals that can talk.

Most of the characters in Charlotte’s Web are animals. Wilbur the pig is a runt and would've met his end if a little girl named Fern hadn't saved him from her father’s axe. 

Fern raises Wilbur on her uncle’s farm. Most of the book’s plot focuses on the farm animals’ teamwork to keep Wilbur from becoming bacon. 

Wilbur’s best friend, a spider named Charlotte, saves him multiple times by weaving random words into her web and causing the farm owners to think Wilbur is “some pig” and “radiant.” 

I won’t give away the ending but this is a classic no kid should miss. 

Little House in the Big Woods” is the first book in the Little House on the Prairie series. Laura Ingalls is just four years old, and readers see through her eyes what it was like to be an American pioneer.

I re-read this series recently and was stunned by the amount of work the Ingalls family did every day just to survive. They made everything they had by hand and Laura was a young adolescent before she ever met another human being outside of her own family. 

This is a great book for kids because it teaches so much about history without being boring or too technical. Laura and her sisters are kids, too, so they tell readers exactly what a kid wants to know. 

What are your favorite children’s books? If you had to chose five of the best, what would go on your list?

Email me at lsheaks@elkharttruth.com or follow me on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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