Classics I’ve Never Read (or, My Shame Revealed)

Here is my confession: I am a children’s librarian who has not read a (shameful) number of classic children’s books.  There are books that I’ve purposefully avoided, others that I’ve always meant to read (but Time, time, who has the time?), and yet others that send a a cold jolt of fear straight into my heart.  These are the books that haunt me.

Clearly, it’s time to fess up.

I’m not a complete slacker.  I mean, I’ve read some classic children’s books.  In point of fact, as far as old Newbery winners are concerned, I’ve read a fairly decent amount (including such golden oldies  as Tales from Silver Lands and Shen of the Sea, thank you very much.)  But beyond Newbery winners, my personal cannon of classic children’s literature is sorely lacking.

While I still consider myself well-read, the plain fact is that many classics have eluded me.  I didn’t read them as a child, I never picked them up in college, and somehow, I was able to avoid them in both library school and in my career thus far.  It’s my shameful, dirty little secret.

Has my failure to actually read these epic works prevented me from routinely recommending them, calling upon them during reader’s advisory, and even offering mini-booktalks about them?  Well, no.

If a child comes into my library looking for a work of historical fiction and they’ve gone through all the American Girl books, finished The Birchbark House series, and they’re perhaps not quite up to Calpurnia Tate , I might very well ask if they’ve ever picked up the Little House books.  Of course, this is a dicey move.  I can only talk so much about the adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I know the gist of it:  pioneer girl, family stories, set in the 1870’s.  If I’m prodded for more detail, however, my heart begins to race and a trickle of sweat appears on my brow.  I think to myself, “This kid’s on to me.  Abort mission!  Retreat!”  It is at moments like this that I start to feel a tad guilty about my second-hand knowledge.  I don’t want to “wing it” or rely on solely on whatever bits of information I can dredge up from the children’s-librarian-collective-unconscious in order to recommend a classic.  I want to own that knowledge, fair and square!

So, my belated New Year’s Resolution is to read more classic children’s literature.  What exactly do I mean by “classic children’s literature?”  Excellent question!  I feel it’s a “know ’em when you see ’em” kind of thing.  I’m not limiting myself to any specific publication cut-off date or any criteria that limits the genre, intended audience, or format.  In fact, I’m even open to suggestions (please feel free to add recommendations in the comments.)

It’s clear that it is time to come clean and confront some of the classics that have been haunting me.  My goal is to read one classic per month this year.  January got away from me, and frankly, I’ve been doing my darnedest to finish reading all the new books in my “to be read” pile.  February, however, heralds the dawn of a new reading goal for Libraryvoice! Betsy-Tacy, watch yourself, ’cause I’m a-coming.

Here is my line-up for the next few months:















As I make my way through the list, I will review the titles here.  Also, in the interest of variety (as well as assuring myself that I’m not the only classic-slacker) I may recruit a few of my library friends to guest blog about their own (shameful) list of unread classics.



5 thoughts on “Classics I’ve Never Read (or, My Shame Revealed)

  1. My guilty secret is that I’ve never ready any of the “classics” from the late 80’s and 90’s…too busy working my first (non-library job) and getting married. But ask me anything you want about Betsy and Tacy, Little House etc. Those were and still are my all. time. favs.!!!

    • Thanks for your confession, Eileen! Gosh, working and getting married, what kind of lame excuse is that? :–)

      The 90’s were, in my humble opinion, a terrific decade for children’s literature. I’d love for you to guest blog about some awesome 80’s or 90’s classics.

      I’m definitely loving Betsy-Tacy so far. Review to come shortly! Stay tuned!

  2. Not a bad list, but keep Wind in the Willows for a really slow time, like recuperating from surgery. One that you might add, from about 1974, is Edwards’ Mandy. Love that one. And I really wish that I had named my blog The Super Secret Evil Librarian. Drat! (And sadly, no newsletter!)

    • Haha! Wow, I’ve always felt incredibly guilty about never reading Wind in the Willows. I feel a little bit better now.

      I’ll definitely have to add Mandy to my Classics Crusade.

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Betsy-Tacy |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s