Chip MacGregor

July 18, 2012

Another post about favorite books


Marie Prys provides administrative support to MacGregor Literary’s agents as well as overseeing contracts and informational databases. She hails from the Northwest, lives in Richmond, VA, and enjoys a blessed life with her husband and four children. Reading is a favorite pastime she is always trying to find more time for.

When it comes to favorite books, I would be remiss if I didn’t cover Children’s fiction. As a child I was sometimes punished with having whatever book I was reading be taken away until a misdeed had been rectified—such as completing neglected chores. (This was, by the way, very effective, as I was always reading.) As an adult I am again re-reading old favorites with my children, or sometimes just living vicariously through them as they find my old favorites, and together we’ve even discovered new reading gems. Reading in this way creates communion, interaction, and special memories, but it also teaches.

When my daughter got hooked on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it was an addiction for me to ask her where she was in the series and what was going on. I relished her enjoyment of the descriptions of sisterhood (Laura is going to be Mary’s eyes now), her disdain for Nellie Olson (She deserved the leeches!), and her anticipation of what would happen when Almanzo Wilder came on the scene.  And as she was reading, she learned geography, American pioneer-era history, and about the intricacies of family relationships.

The scene was no different when my son discovered J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. We discussed the pros and cons of mail by owl (how do the owls know where to go?), and Harry’s incredible successes in Quidditch (It would be the coolest game if it were real), and I taught him how to play chess after he read about Wizard Chess and realized we had that game. Going more deeply into his reading, we also considered what Muggles were and drew parallels to WWII, and considered how people groups should be treated, and what history and the Bible teach us.

During a recent trip we listened to an audio version of P. L. Travers Mary Poppins, and, much to my delight, it was well received by all (it can be hard to please everyone) and led to a great discussion of how the original book was similar (and completely different) from the Disney movie version.

It also warms my heart that my two older children, in spite of their reading proficiency, still enjoy tuning in when I read aloud to the younger two. Last week we started Roald Dahl’s Danny and the Champion of the World. The following passage (p. 34) brought great enjoyment:

“…Whenever my dad thought up a new method of catching pheasants, he tried it out on a rooster first to see if it worked.”

“What are the best ways?” I asked.

My father laid a half-eaten sandwich on the edge of the sink and gazed at me in silence for about twenty seconds. “Promise you won’t tell another soul?”

“I promise.”

“Now here’s the thing,” he said. “Here’s the first big secret. Ah, but it’s more than a secret, Danny. It’s the most important discovery in the whole history of poaching.”

He edged a shade closer to me. His face was pale in the pale yellow glow from the lamp in the ceiling, but his eyes were shining like stars.

“So here it is,” he said, and now suddenly his voice became soft and whispery and very private. “Pheasants,” he whispered, “are crazy about raisins.”

“Just ordinary raisins. It’s like a mania with them….”

[Stop my reading here as I explain what “mania” and “poaching” are.] Then, without missing a beat, one eager listener raises the question I should have expected: “Mom, do you think our chickens would like raisins too?”

Um, no, I think we should leave the raisins to those who poach pheasants.  (And yes, I moved both the bag of Craisins and the box of raisins to the top shelf of the pantry right after our reading that night.)

Thanks, Roald Dahl, for great moments spent reading your stories, and for ideas that will likely lead to some experimentation in my very own backyard, but also hours of enjoyment and memories with my kids.

What children’s books stand out in your memory as great reads, and have you shared them with your own kids? Please leave a comment as I’m always on the lookout for more great books to read.


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  • dabneyland says:

    Ooh, now I have to check the book out. Last week my thirteen-year-old daughter handed me Ella Enchanted to read. I shrugged, thinking it wouldn’t be my style. Three days later I sang the “You were right and I was wrong,” song. Fabulous book. 

    Thanks for this post. 

    Dabney Hedegard

  • Little House On The Prairie books, Nancy Drew mysteries, The Secret Garden, Heidi, The Boxcar Children series, plus, some of Judy Blume’s funnier stories geared toward younger kids, like Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing!

  • Cathy Gohlke says:

    “Little Women” for my daughter (now 27) and “Treasure Island” for my son (now 25).  We read these at bedtime–in each child’s room.  I read a chapter aloud, then they read a chapter aloud.   Through those weeks we acted out parts of the stories, and created foods and even parts of costumes inspired by each book or its time period.  They were so eager for more of the story that they began reading chapters aloud to me as I worked at home during the evening.  

    Even today my daughter and I, especially,share lines, memories and inclinations from “Little Women.”  When the movie was rereleased on Christmas Day many years ago we had a special “Mother-Daughter” date for the opening.  When I need a bit of comforting, I pop in the video.  It never fails to warm my heart.

    My son is quite the linguist and world traveler–living the last 3 years in China, and before that spent time studying and working in France, Togo, and Benin.  Sometimes I wonder if his passion for faraway places began within the pages of “Treasure Island.”

    There were many other wonderful books and creative events inspired by them, but those are among my favorite memories.  Thank you for jogging those!  : )

    • Marie says:

      Little Women is on my list as my daughter is ten and I think she will love that book, Cathy. It’s neat to think that those memories of our reading do indeed carry through the years–I look forward to that!

  • Cherry Odelberg says:

    Wow!  You’re talking about education here; delightful, entertaining, interactive, culturally literate education. Many times have I thought that everything I know was learned from books-the fact that I could read.  My favorite teacher ever was my third grade teacher; for no other reason than she introduced me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.  When my three, now grown, children were young we began with Little House in the Big Woods as soon as they were old enough to comprehend.  Laura’s life events became a body of shared knowledge that we could refer to when things got challenging.

    Other recommendations?  The Chronicles of Narnia, of course, and when they are older, C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy – books I return to over and over even as an adult. 

    And then, I did try my hand at writing one myself; but its mention does not belong here with the likes of C.S. Lewis and Ingalls-Wilder

    • Marie says:

      Cherry, as a parent, if I’ve instilled a love of reading, I think I have made a significant contribution to my kids’ education. And so much learning, whether it’s character-building, spiritual growth, awareness of others, about science, or history, or even politics, comes from reading. Now if only I could translate my passion for books to a passion for drilling arithmetic during the summer. 🙂

  • Great post. 

    I loved THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE when I was about eight, but it doesn’t make a good read-aloud, I don’t think. It’s one of my all time favorite books, though. 

    I also love Heidi and  Sara Crewe.

    The Anne of Green Gables books are so, so, so good. 

    And I loved THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND too, when I was a kid.

    But my children have read none of those,  I think because the language and rhythm is so different from what we read today. 

    The little house books were great read-alouds. We read them one winter when we lived in Alaska and the kids were seven and eight. We read by the light of two kerosene lanterns, with the kids snuggled in sleeping bags in front of the fire.

    We read The Chronicles of Narnia aloud, too. I couldn’t let the children read them alone. I had to share in the fun. 

    My favorite read-aloud book of all times–one which brought my older son and husband in to hear, because we were laughing so hard–is Jonathan Rogers’ THE BARK OF THE BOG OWL.–all of his books are great to read aloud because the accents are so much fun.

    We also read Suzanne Collins’ Gregor series–The Underland Chronicles–aloud. Loved those. 

    Oh, and Harry Potter. We read the first three together.  

    Old favorites I urged my children to read:

    Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys (the kids weren’t interested)
    The Black Stallion books (again, a no-go with the kids)
    Treasure Island (they liked it)
    The Hobbit (they loved it)

    New favorites my children and I both loved, though we didn’t read them aloud.

    ND Wilson’s books
    Eoin Colfer’s books
    Shannon Hale books
    Julie Berry books
    Eva Ibottson books

    • Marie says:


      Gilbert Blythe was the measure of my “ideal” for many years when it came to summing up what I was looking for in a husband. 🙂 Great suggestions, all! Will check out the Rogers’ one because that’s an intriguing title I haven’t heard previously.

  • Joanne Sher says:

    Marie – my VERY favorite book as a child was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. And i STILL love it. So much fun (an English lover’s DREAM LOL). I read it to my 11-year-old son a few months ago, and he enjoyed it, though I KNOW he missed a lot of the fun stuff. Plan to read it to my daughter (she’s 8) at some point.

    • Marie says:

      Ooh! I forgot about that one, Joanne! So true. This is great; I have an ongoing list of books to direct the kiddos to, and it’s growing by the post. 

  • Mary Curry says:

    Hi Marie,

    Thanks for this post that brought back so many wonderful memories.

    My favorite childhood book memory is The Happy Hollisters. My parents enrolled me in the Doubleday Book Club and I would get two in the mail each month. I usually finished them the day they arrived and then I’d wait anxiously for the next month. I still remember my absolute devastation when Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates arrived because Doubleday had run out of new Happy Hollister titles.

    Funny you should bring up books as a punishment. I struggled with that when my children were young. Taking away books was the only thing I could think of that would matter to them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! They turned out okay anyway and are avid readers.

    I do a Roald Dahl unit with my 4th grade every year. Isn’t he great fun? I love to read his books aloud. One year we read BOY. It sure explains why he wrote the books he did!

    • Marie says:

      Mary, Thanks for the suggestion! I will check out the Happy Hollisters. 🙂 And I do love the Dahl books. One of my sons in particular could have been the model for some of the stories. We relish them!

  • Ruth A. Douthitt says:

    The first book that pops to mind is “Where the Red Fern Grows”. I read that book when I was in 6th grade and read it to my son when he was about 8. I think he liked that I cried at the end. Sniff. 

    I think that book opened my eyes to fiction because before then I usually read non-fiction books. “The Black Stallion” was another favorite. 

    Now, as a writer of children’s books, I force myself to read fiction to get a better understanding of writing. Right now I am reading “Black Beauty” to study voice. Such a classic!

    Great post. Got me thinking! 

    • Mary Curry says:

       Ah, Ruth – I had that typical girl horsey phase when I devoured the Black Stallion books as fast as my father could bring them home.

    • Marie Prys says:

      Ruth, I love the classics! I haven’t covered “Where the Red Fern Grows” as I wasn’t sure they could handle the ending. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • I can’t remember at what age I started reading them, but I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries. I probably read every single one. I can still remember the spot in my childhood library where I could find them 🙂

    • Mary Curry says:

       Cheryl, you remind me of one of my least proud childhood memories. I once befriended a girl for no other reason than that she had en entire collection of Nancy Drew that I could borrow. At the time my library didn’t carry “those kinds of books”. How sad is it that I can still remember the librarian’s exact disdainful words?

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