Children’s Books : The Ones That Stay With You

Children's Books: Muse Monthly's Children's Book recommendations


As it just so happens, my sister is pregnant. So of course, being the nerd that I am, I threw her a bookish baby shower. We decorated with books, asked for books in lieu of cards, and generally had a pretty nerdy time.

But more than that, what’s exciting about having a new baby in the family is the idea of sharing some of our family’s favorite stories with a new generation. Reading has always been a huge part of my family. My mother made it a point to read to me and my siblings every night, which resulted in all of us being bookworms (we also all dream of having the library from Beauty & The Beast). ┬áIt was instilled in us from a very early age that reading was important, reading made you smart, and reading a lot was what was going to get you ahead in life.

And it got me thinking about how a good chunk of my favorite stories are those I read when I was young. I find myself going back to them over and over again, wanting to return to those worlds that so captured my attention and my imagination in my childhood. I feel shaped by these stories, by Wonderland and Narnia, and I find them leaking into my writing and my relationship with other stories, even to the point where my senior thesis in college was about fantasy in children’s literature.

But the truth is, the stories we read as children do tend to stay with us more than others, whether it is simply because our minds are still being molded or because a child’s imagination is free from the burdens that are later placed on it. And we connect with the magic, we believe in talking mice and treehouses that can sail through time, we believe in trains that can and magic cauldrons of pasta. And maybe part of our adult selves do too.

Here are our favorite children’s stories. Please feel free to share some of yours!


Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig

A Winkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle

A Winkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Ramona The Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona The Pest by Beverly Cleary

Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab – Review & Playlist

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab: Muse Monthly book review Okay, so I have a confession to make. I have developed a huge crush on V. E. Schwab.
Not a joke. It’s a whole thing, and it’s all very high school.

(if you’re reading this V, um….I….uh….hi??)

And this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. If the writing is really good,and I mean really really good, I tend to fall in love with the writer a little bit. Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Safran Foer, and earlier, Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath (my dead girlfriend). I get posessive and defensive, I will gush about my writer crushes any opportunity I get, and V. E. Schwab has become the name I work into every conversation.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so completely drowned in a story to the point where I lift my eyes up from the pages and am disappointed in the world around me, disappointed to not be in London (which I am every day, frankly, but I’m talking about a very specific floral-scented London here), disappointed in the lack of magic, of pirate ships on the horizon, of the greyness of it all. It is, honestly, heartbreaking to be so consumed by a new fictional world and then to have to like, get off the fucking train and go to work and sit at a desk for eight hours a day, you know? But V got me, she really did. She created a world and characters that I felt such a kinship with (we’ll recall my spot-on cosplay on instagram here, call the casting director now). And you can see, I’m getting sentimental and not doing a proper review, because I fell in love a little bit and that means I can’t form proper thoughts. I have a lot of things I want to talk about and it just feels so overwhelming. Just gimme it. Gimme it all. Kell and his brooding, genderqueer Lila cutting bitches who get in her way, prince/privateer boy kisses (um, can we talk about the heart attack I had over this?), magical tournaments, all that shit. I want it.

And I find it infinitely frustrating that I can’t have it.

And I know I’m not alone in this. There’s a whole generation of readers still angry over a certain letter that was never delivered (ahem). And why are we still angry? Because we all still hold out hope that magic exists – but this is why we read, and why books like A Gathering of Shadows and its predecessor is necessary. It’s an immersive type of magic, a good book. Beautiful words and colourful, full characters are the magic we can cling to, and they is so vital to our survival in this grey world.

And, like, it helps that the writer is real cute.

I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m gonna go hide now.

“I wish I had time to read!”

city of theives
You have no idea how often I hear “I wish I had time to read!” or “I never have time to read for pleasure anymore!”

Almost every time I tell people what I do, I hear something similar. And I always felt the same way, for a very long time I lamented not having time to read. I walked past my bookshelves full of unread novels and said to myself, ‘I really need to read that’ or ‘that’s been sitting on my shelf for ages, I should get around to it’. But it’s hard, when you’re working or going to school or busy with other things, to make time for your books.

You miss them, don’t you? They miss you too.

See, books are made to be read. They’re made to be enjoyed by you, to be taken in by you, to soak into your skin and become a part of your memory and your intellect. They need you just as much as you need them.

So, you need to give them some of your time.

It’s like a friendship – you need to text them just as much as they text you. Take time for your books, and they’ll give you all they have in return.

I like to read on the train during my commute. I get about an hour to myself, plug in my headphones, and get lost in my book.

I know a lot of people who take their lunch hour to read, who read on the subway, or for an hour before they go to bed. If you’re a student, you could take some time between classes or as a reward once you’ve finished your homework.

But it’s important to take time to yourself. It’s important to carve out an hour or two to relax and take time out from your daily life. You’ll re-energize yourself, exercise your brain, and if you’re lucky, get lost in a good story among the way!

Make time to read! You’ll be glad you did.