Top Ten Tuesday: Children’s Books to Give to the Scornful Reader

TTT Top Ten Tuesday The Book Wars

A Book Wars original topic. Top Ten Tuesday is a meme run by Broke and Bookish and you can visit their page for more information. Today’s theme has to do with the scorn many adults face when people see them reading children’s lit or find out that they read children’s lit. What books would you give them to change their perspective of children’s lit as simple and juvenile literature?


I wouldn’t directly give a scornful adult a book and say, “Here. Read this and see.” The S.A.’s hackles are already raised and their mind is set against recognizing children’s books as valid literature. I would, some short while later (probably not the same day) hand them a book and say, “I think you’ll like this”, or name a title, if I think they’ll go to the library on my recommendation. I would find books that this person would really do well with, and subtly integrate these books into conversation* or make a book list.

*Assuming I can manage to be that subtle for that long.

  1. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Let’s make this scornful adult’s jaw drop with the very first book.
  2. Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton. Then make their head spin with awe.
  3. Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Punch ’em in the stomach, metaphorically speaking. (Their jaw is still agape; it hasn’t closed yet.)
  4. Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones. Just to mess with their minds. Good luck figuring out the chronology!
  5. The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein. Or another of EW’s Aksumite cycle, since this one is pretty heavy to jump into; or Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire. Thought children’s literature was wee little ones being sweet, eh?
  6. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. (Only I would save this until the person confesses to me that they were completely and utterly wrong and that children’s literature is brilliant and an art form, and then (and only then) I might reward them with The Thief.)



I believe that the major complaint against children’s literature that comes from those who fancy themselves gatekeepers of ‘quality literature’ is that children’s literature is (among other things) simple and not as intellectually stimulating as the so-called ‘adult’ literature. I would tell these people to read the following books before they started talking about the lack of complexity in the children’s literature. Maybe we’ll have a conversation after they are done reading the following books. Maybe.

  1. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
    (The audio version is narrated by David Tennant.)
    This is an exquisite portrayal of a family grieving the death of one of their members and their subsequent journey to healing and forgiveness.
  2. Duck, Death, and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch
    Originally written in German, this book takes a look at what it means to die and what it means to live through the eyes of a duck. This is a picturebook, by the way.
  3. The Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon
    This high fantasy quartet contains the finest worldbuilding I have read ever.
  4. Booked by Kwame Alexander
    Alexander’s books come alive and his words bound off the page and into the spaces around you. They lift you and they lift you until you see the story come to vivid life in front of you.
  5. Listen, Slowly – Thanhha Lai
    This book is an ode to Vietnam, to its people, to its spaces, and to its language.
  6. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
    Sometimes you read books that make you feel uncomfortable in your own and in your own head. This is one of them. It will make you question what is good and what is right and can what is evil be what is right.
  7. All the Rage by Courtney Summers
    There are no love triangles in this one, no girls in pouffy dresses whining about the unfair world. Just a reiteration of the stark reality that is too often the narrative of a girl’s life, a woman’s life.


Honestly, this is too tricky a topic* to handle in a Top Ten post, but I’ll give it a shot …

  1. The Arrival by Shaun Tan: Not only is it Children’s Literature, but it’s a wordless picturebook to end. I can feel the scorn radiating from this awful stranger. (Why are we hanging out again?) But The Arrival is no ordinary picturebook; you could race through the book in minutes and never be done with it. And given that it is about war, displacement, refugees, immigration, community, and all the difficult things about defining home, it is more relevant today than ever.
  2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: It is, every page, pure poetry. I don’t care what you’re into reading, you’re probably going to love this one.
  3. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: Harrowing and heroic, this book is unlike any I’ve ever read and since Nafiza beat me to recommending All the Rage, this is my alternative. Also, Tess Sharpe’s Far From You is similarly incredible, though it is fiction and not fantasy like Lanagan’s novel.
  4. The Young Elites by Marie Lu: I find that people who look down on kidlit, don’t always have a problem with certain fantasy and/or sci-fi movies–which, to me, is still kidlit that appeals to a wider audience? For those who love X-Men or any other movie with superpowers and anti-hero/villains that entertain, read The Young Elites. You won’t be disappointed. Well, you might be disappointed by those movies you once loved, but the book/Lu is much too smart to disappoint.
  5. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu: I would like everyone to chuck their copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and read this one instead which does a far better job of representing a child with autism. It is also beautifully crafted. Ursu deserves all the awards.

*Like, part of the reason people don’t like YA is because they dislike romance or love-triangles or feelings or anything that is too feminine. People who read/write/review YA feel the same way too. Addressing that particular kind of snobbery (and sometimes, misogyny) requires a far larger list, a post that I think I’m going to work on for next month. :)

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