Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
Make it your resolution to read with your nieces and nephews more often this year. You can try to visit the library once a week, and help the younger ones get their first library cards. Introduce the kids to books or book series they may find interesting, and look up the websites of famous authors and illustrators for more information. Join a book club together, or start your own. Go to book signings and other local book events. See the films inspired by the novels. Help start a book drive at school. The possibilities for enriching the minds of your young readers are endless this year. If you are looking for a place to start, below are a few authors who are celebrating their birthdays this month and a list of their popular works.
J. R. R. Tolkien
English writer and poet John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) is known as the father of modern fantasy literature—or high fantasy. As a professor at Oxford University, Tolkien and his close friend C. S. Lewis were both members of an informal literary group known as the Inklings.
Books by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hobbit (Ages 9+) is an excellent fantasy novel for tweens. Written for Tolkien’s own children, it is now recognized as a timeless and unforgettable classic in children’s literature. Bilbo Baggins was never looking for an adventure, but his comfortable life is disturbed when Gandalf the wizard shows up in the company of several dwarves. With a plan to raid the treasure guarded by a fearsome dragon known as Smaug the Magnificent, Gandalf and the dwarves are determined to hire a reluctant Bilbo as their thief. Is this small Hobbit ready to brave such a perilous journey?
The Lord of the Rings (Ages 12+) trilogy includes The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Bilbo Baggins, the same lovable character from The Hobbit, decides to retire, leaving all his possessions to his nephew Frodo. Among those belongings is a magical ring that turns into a terrible burden, forcing Frodo to venture forth on his own dark adventure from the hills of the Shire to the depths of Mount Doom.
Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm)
Influenced by the German Romanticism of the early-1800s, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863) and his younger brother Wilhelm set out to record village oral traditions that later became the popular Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Beyond the tales, Jacob Grimm is best known for discovering Grimm’s Law or the First Germanic Sound Shift (in linguistics).
Books by the Brothers Grimm
Grimms’ Fairy Tales (Ages 5+) are available for free online and include popular children’s stories, such as “Cinderella” (“Aschenputtel”), “Hansel and Gretel” (“Hänsel und Gretel”), and “Snow White” (“Schneewittchen”).
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was an American folklorist and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Along with fellow writers Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman, Hurston became a member of the Niggerati, a group of young African American artists and intellectuals, and produced a literary magazine called Fire!! in 1926.
Books by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Ages 15+), one of the most important and widely read works of twentieth-century American literature, tells the tale of Janie Crawford, a fiercely independent African American woman who endures three marriages and experiences a life of poverty and trials in the South.
Charles Perrault (1628-1703) was a French author who laid the foundations for the fairy tale. Many of his stories were rewritten by the Grimm Brothers and continue to be printed and adapted to opera, ballet, theater, and film.
Books by Charles Perrault
Tales of Mother Goose (Ages 5+) were written to amuse Perrault’s children. Included among the fairy stories are “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” and “Puss in Boots.”
American author of fiction for children and teens, Rebecca Stead (1968-) won the American Newbery Medal in 2010 for her novel When You Reach Me. Last year, Stead won the once-in-a-lifetime Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for Liar & Spy.
Books by Rebecca Stead
When You Reach Me (Ages 12+) is a mystery novel about a sixth grader, Miranda Sinclair, and her best friend Sal. Daily life in their New York City neighborhood is disrupted by the sudden appearance of mysterious notes with strange requests. Miranda’s world will never be same.
Liar & Spy (Ages 10+) will keep young readers guessing until the end. Seventh grader Georges (silent “s”) moves into an apartment in Brooklyn and meets 12-year-old Safer, a coffee-drinking spy with an aim to recruit Georges for his next assignment: spying on the mysterious Mr. X.