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  • Brian Boone 3:00 pm on 2019/04/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , greatest of all time, h. rider haggerd, harry potter and the sorcerer's stone, , , , she: a history of adventure, , , ,   

    How Many of These 10 Bestselling Novels of All Time Have You Read? 

    I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but approximately more than eight kajillion books have been published since Gutenberg invented the printing the press lo, those many years ago, and most if not all are currently available for purchase and/or download on this very website. Not every single one can be a bestseller, of course, because funds are limited and we just can’t spend every last cent on books, the way we would in a perfect world. The following books are bestsellers, the stories that have engaged and delighted and enchanted so many people, generation after generation, that they sit atop the list of the most-read and most purchased books ever. How many of these important titles have you read?

    A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
    Charles Dickens created A Christmas Carol, solidifying many holiday tropes, and novels like David Copperfield serve as historical accounts of Industrial Age London, but he also wrote blockbuster novels, such as this, his most epic and ambitious work, set around the time of the French Revolution in England and France. (It was, you know, “the best of times” as well as “the worst of times.”)

    The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Tolkien’s epic, wildly imaginative but somehow deeply familiar story of good vs. evil and the powers of friendship and duty created an elaborate mythology, an entire world, and even languages. It’s essentially the first (and probably greatest) full-on fantasy novel, and without it there would be no Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or Dungeons & Dragons.

    The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    This novel has often been marketed to children because it’s easy to read, boasts unforgettable illustrations, and is short. But it’s really a book for everyone because it is so profoundly moving, this tale of a painfully sensitive and often lonely space traveler wise beyond his years, and the crashed, Saint-Exupéry-like pilot to whom he relates his adventures.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
    It’s a clever and alluring premise for sure—a modern-day Dickensian orphan finds out he’s got magical powers (and blood, and a destiny), and he’s off to attend boarding school at an institution just for wizards and witches. But who would have thought it would be become a publishing and pop cultural phenomenon never before seen and probably never again. Probably the hundreds of millions who bought the first, world-establishing book, which revels in Rowling’s hundreds of ingenious details about the Wizarding World.

    And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
    There are a lot of pioneers on this list who still hold the record for the bestselling book in the genre they created. Mystery novels are big business, and they’re so much fun, trying to figure out “whodunit” before the genius detective in the pages does…or after they do, if the book is especially well-crafted. Mystery novels still follow rules laid out by the early masters of the form: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie. Herein, eight individuals are invited to a small island off the coast of England for various reasons…and that’s when the murders begin.

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
    It’s kind of hard to believe that this was written by a guy who, in his parallel life in 1800s England, was a minister and math professor (under his real name Charles Dodgson). It’s just about the zaniest, most psychedelic tale ever told, generated from Carroll telling imaginative stories to the young daughter of a family friend named Alice. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter—the whole madcap gang is here.

    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
    This extremely engrossing and inventive tale, the opener of Lewis’s beloved series, sends a quartet of kids displaced by World War II through a bureau and into the magical world of Narnia, where they encounter centaurs, heroic lions, evil witches, biblical allegory, and some very costly Turkish Delight.

    She: A History of Adventure, by H. Rider Haggard
    Probably the least famous and least read today of the books on this list, She: A History of Adventure is a phenomenally popular book from the 19th century that didn’t itself endure, but which influenced scores of successors. A daring adventurer boasts of his journeys to a forgotten kingdom (or “lost world”) in the heart of Africa, where he and his loyal ward Leo come upon a tribe ruled by a fascinating, possibly supernatural queen.

    The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
    From the years of 2003 to 2007, was there anybody not on the beach, the subway, on an airplane, or in the park reading this fast-paced popcorn thriller about master symbologist and mystery solver Robert Langdon uncovering secret societies and the earth-shattering truths hidden in famous works of art?

    The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
    Salinger did the literary equivalent of a mic drop. He published one of the most widely read and analyzed cult novels of all time (everyone seems to go through a Catcher in the Rye phase in high school and college, particularly frustrated, artsy guys), and, as if to prove he wasn’t one of the “phonies” so hated by world-exploring Holden Caulfield in the book, he then went into seclusion, never to publish anything again. What a way to go out.

    How many of these bestsellers have you read?

    The post How Many of These 10 Bestselling Novels of All Time Have You Read? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 3:00 pm on 2019/03/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , jack sparrow: the coming storm, james kirkwood j.m. barrie, , , peter and wendy, ps your cat is dead, , rob kidd, , the wild things   

    5 Notable Novels That Are Adaptations of Movies and Plays 

    Movies are magical and wonderful of course, presenting us with eye-popping, realistically-rendered scenarios of adventure, action, romance, and intrigue. But where do the screenwriters behind those movies get their ideas? Well, sometimes they make them up, because writers are wired that way. But frequently, a movie is an adaptation of a work from another medium, like, say, a book, stage play, or TV series.

    Oddly enough, it goes both ways. Some of the most beloved and/or notable novels in the Western literary canon are actually based on pre-existing material. These are some books that were adapted from other media…and not the other way around.

    Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie
    Few childhood stories are as enduringly popular and universally beloved—and well-known—than the saga of Peter Pan. He’s the boy who would never grow up, living on and around Neverland (because he could fly), with London girl Wendy and cantankerous fairy Tinkerbell around to help him defeat nefarious pirate Captain Hook. Peter Pan, or Peter and Wendy as the first book by Barrie is more properly known, is the perfect book to read with your kids (or for kids to read themselves) at bedtime, because it’s got everything a bedtime story needs—pirates, fairies, rebellion, romance, and flying. J.M. Barrie created the Paniverse with the tastes of some children he knew in mind, except he didn’t write it as a novel or collection of stories. The first iteration of Peter Pan was a stage play. While Barrie mentioned baby Peter in his 1902 book The Little White Bird, the permanent-child Pan became the main character in his smash hit 1904 play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

     

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    Perhaps the greatest sci-fi saga ever written—and certainly the funniest—it’s hard to believe that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy didn’t initially pour forth from Adams’ witty mind into prose-filled pages. There’s just so much exposition, omniscient narration, and wry comment as the reader plows through the adventures of Arthur Dent, forced to traipse around the known universe after the Earth is destroyed, along with his best friend/spaceman Ford Prefect, unhinged galaxy president Zaphoid Beeblebrox, sad robot Marvin the Paranoid Android, and all manner of exceptionally bureaucratic and hostile creatures from other words. While THGTHG has been a British TV show, a video game, and a feature film in addition to a novel series, the first time the world experienced this unique comic universe was as a radio play, broadcast on BBC 4 in 1978.

    The Wild Things, by Dave Eggers
    In 2009, the classic children’s book, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, finally got the big-screen adaptation it deserved after more than 45 years in print as one of the most memorably illustrated and written kid titles of all time. But like other slim children’s books turned long feature films (The Cat in the Hat, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day), screenwriters had to significantly bulk up the story’s plot, themes, and characters to fill in all that extra time. The result was not a bright and happy kids movie, but a sad, melancholy story for adults about the pain of growing up and being different. It so wildly veered from Sendak’s source material that co-screenwriter Dave Eggers, known for genre-defying works like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, adapted the screenplay into a pensive, downbeat novel called The Wild Things.

    Jack Sparrow: The Coming Storm, by Rob Kidd
    Here’s the rare case in which a book series was based on a movie…which in turn was based on an amusement park ride. Back in 2003, Disney took a chance when it made a pirate movie—the form hadn’t been popular for decades—and gave it a title taken from one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland, Pirates of the Carribbean. Thanks to Johnny Depp’s bonkers portrayal of unrepentant antihero pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, the film is now a five-film strong, billions-earning blockbuster juggernaut. People love Jack Sparrow, and Disney, which has a books division, gave the people what they want, or rather the young readers, with a prequel series of adventure novels about a not-yet-captain Jack Sparrow, a teenage adventurer engaging in thrilling adventures on the high seas.

    PS Your Cat is Dead, by James Kirkwood
    Hitting shelves in 1972, P.S. Your Cat is Dead was pretty provocative for the time, what with its plot points about depressed actor Jimmy who, coming across a burglar in his not-great apartment, beats him within an inch of his life and then ties him up…before befriending him, and then falling in love with him. Then the two sell some drugs and live happily ever. (Oh, and also—spoiler alert—Jimmy’s cat dies.) Kirkwood’s darkly comic novel is so brash and zany, and takes place in so few locations, that of course it was based on a play, although it didn’t see broad success until it was staged after the novel version caused a stir.

    What is your favorite novel that was actually an adaptation of a play?

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  • Brian Boone 2:00 pm on 2019/02/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , imaginary music, , juliet naked, , , , , show crash, the crying of lot 49, the ground beneath her feet,   

    Fictional Musicians From Novels That We Wish Were Real 

    You can’t read music. Okay, maybe you can read music, in the sense that you can look at sheet music or a score and your use your brain to translate that into what the song would sound like if played on instruments. But you can’t read music—as in, you can’t write about a band and fully express to the reader exactly what that band’s sound is like. It’s like that famous quote, attributed to everyone from Steve Martin to Elvis Costello—writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

    But still, dozens of novelists have peppered their prose with rock bands and singers, musicians who figure prominently in the plot and whose music is described either in passing or in great detail. These musicians are fictional, and so is their music, so it’s up to the theater (or radio) of the mind to imagine what those bands happen to sound like. Some seem so fantastic (or compelling in some way) that we wish they’d jump off the page and rock us until our heads explode.

    The Paranoids, from The Crying of Lot 49
    Like most Thomas Pynchon novels, The Crying of Lot 49 is often baffling and inscrutable, but not so much the parts that are explicitly about rock music. Those bits are among the most wacky things Pynchon ever did, approaching Weird Al levels of straightforward, easy-to-digest parody. Central to this is the Paranoids, a band matched only by Oasis in its Beatles-ness. Like the Fab Four, they get heavy into drugs and play songs everybody digs. (Unlike the Beatles, they’re American…but speak in English accents anyway.) However, it’s another band in the novel, Sick Dick and the Volkswagens, responsible for the greatest unheard Beatles rip-off of all time: “I Want to Kiss Your Feet,” an obvious send-up of “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

    Tucker Crowe, from Juliet, Naked
    Nick Hornby writes about music so well, particularly in High Fidelity, and Juliet, Naked, which is really a novel about the pathological ownership fans take over the art they love. The impact of the story would actually be diminished if we could hear the songs recorded by reclusive, brilliant singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe, either his classic album, Juliet, or the sparse demos, Juliet, Naked. The novel tells the tale of Duncan, a Crowe superfan who gets awfully miffed when the object of his obsession strikes up a friendship with Annie, his girlfriend…who wrote the only online review of Juliet, Naked that isn’t full of fawning praise. Is Tucker Crowe as good as Duncan thinks? Or is he as adequate as Annie claims?

    VTO, from The Ground Beneath Her Feet
    It’s unfortunate that Salman Rushdie is most widely known for The Satanic Verses, a novel that led to a fatwa on his head, because he’s one of our most gifted, idiosyncratic, and varied, contemporary writers. His writing is so surreal at times that it becomes insightfully real, exemplified by The Ground Beneath Her Feet. It’s the story of a rock band, but not a real rock band, and one that also inserts a great deal of fevered mythology (it’s based on the myths of Orpheus and Eurydice). Indian group VTO is the Beatles of this alternate universe of Rushdie’s creation, the most famous and most successful band in the world, probably because their frontman is the unbelievably powerful Ormus, whose style combines nods to real-life stars like John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and Freddie Mercury.

    Vitaly Chernobyl and the Meltdowns, from Snow Crash
    In his 1992 cyberpunk classic, author Neal Stephenson envisions a world where society, governments, and currencies have collapsed and corporations have taken control in the subsequent power vacuum. The declining importance of borders creates a pleasing blurring of musical forms, such as the “Ukrainian nuclear fuzz-grunge” perpetuated by a spiky-haired L.A. punk who calls himself Vitaly Chernobyl. That would suggest that songs like “My Heart is a Smoking Hole in the Ground” might sound like a chaotic combination of Nirvana, Daft Punk, and John Coltrane.

    Löded Diper, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
    A recurring presence in Jeff Kinney’s monstrously popular Diary of Wimpy Kid series, Löded Diper is the garage band fronted by Rodrick Hefley, odious, obnoxious older brother of wimpy diarist Greg. Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been going since the 2000s, long after the kind of aggro, head-banging, Quiet Riot-esque hard rock that is the provenance of Löded Diper fell out of favor, but it serves to show just how off-putting Rodrick can be. What’s more “big brothery” than a big brother’s terrible, guitar-ruining heavy metal band waking up the neighbors? Besides, Löded Diper know what it takes to rock: merciless noise, black T-shirts, scowls, a van, and, of course umlauts.

     

    What fictional band do you wish were real?

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  • Brian Boone 4:00 pm on 2018/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: alan zweibel, born a crime, chrisopher buckley, coyote v. acme, dan gets a minivan, dan zevin, , ian frazier, need a laugh?, no way to treat a first lady, the other shulman, thurber prize, ,   

    5 Hilarious Thurber Prize-Winning Reads 

    Since 1997, the Thurber House has awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Broadly speaking, it’s an obscure literary award, but to writers of humor, comedy, and satire, it’s a tremendous honor. (It also carries a prize of $5,000.) That might be because it’s handed out by the estate of James Thurber, one of the finest and most prolific of American writers who wrote with being funny in mind. (His works include My World and Welcome to ItThe Wonderful Oand The Thurber Carnivalwhich includes his most famous short piece, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”) Unlike other literary awards, the Thurber Prize considers and recognizes works of both fiction and nonfiction alike. They’ve also got a pretty good track record when it comes to racial, cultural, and gender diversity. Here are some past, notable winners of the Thurber Prize. 

    1997: Coyote V. Acmeby Ian Frazier
    1997: In the first ever Thurber Prize vote, Ian Frazier’s essay collection somehow beat out two more well-known, classic humor essay compilations: Al Franken’s bestselling Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations and David Sedaris’s iconic Naked(Sedaris would win in 2001 for Me Talk Pretty One Day) Frazier would win again in 2009 for Lamentations of the FatherCoyote V. Acme gets its name from a popular piece Frazier wrote for The New Yorker, detailing Wile E. Coyote’s legal and complaint correspondence with the Acme Corporation, manufacturer of the many faulty products he unsuccessfully used to catch the Roadrunner in all those old cartoons. Other Frazier essays on pop cultural ephemera—a format now beloved by humor sites across the internet—include Don Johnson and “Ode to Billie Joe.”  

    2004: No Way to Treat a First Ladyby Christopher Buckley
    History, sex, and politics converge in this wry and lascivious satire that in the wake of today’s political climate feels like it’s about 1,000 years old. But cynicism is eternal and universal, especially when it’s delivered by Christopher Buckley, the author of Thank You for Smoking, and the son of National Review founder William F. Buckley. After the First Lady of the United States catches her husband, the president, having an affair with a Hollywood starlet. She throws an American historical relic at his head, which kills him, and the plot concerns the trial and its resultant media circus. 

    2006: The Other Shulmanby Alan Zweibel
    Shulman, a middle-aged guy with a lifelong weight problem always joked that he’s lost and re-gained the same 35 pounds since he was a teenager…which added up forms a complete separate person, a.k.a. Another Shulman. That’s his fictional alter ego, until he meets his real alter ego, a guy named Shulman who made all the good choices when our Shulman had made all the bad ones. In this inspirational, relatable tale of personal triumph and self-acceptance, scores are settled in the New York City marathon in this book written by a guy who knows comedy. Zweibel was on the initial writing staff of Saturday Night Live, and in the ‘80s, he co-created the innovative, fourth-wall busting sitcom It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. 

    2013: Dan Gets a Minivanby Dan Zevin
    Plenty of books and amusing essays in highbrow magazines have been written by aging dudes trying to come to terms with how they’re grown, responsible adults and not feckless young idiots anymore. But Zevin’s largely autobiographical take is probably the best one. With his life hurtling at high speeds into the titular adult-life metaphor of the title, Zevin (a Boston public radio host) details his journey from boy to man, and from romantic partner to family man, with stops at Costco, Disneyland, and the knee surgery clinic along the way. 

    2017Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
    Noah had his work cut out for him when he was plucked from the world of stand-up comedy and a brief tenure as a correspondent on The Daily Show to host the popular fake news show when Jon Stewart stepped down in 2015. He’s proven a worthy and funny choice, and he even matched his predecessor’s feat of winning a Thurber Award—Stewart and the TDS writing staff won in 2005 for America (The Book). Noah’s book isn’t a rehash of that book, though. Far from The Daily Show in book format, Noah wrote a harrowing and yet deeply funny memoir about his long, difficult, and at times, seemingly impossible road to success. Noah had to develop a sense of humor as a kid just to deal with living under apartheid laws in South Africa. The title refers to Noah’s very existence—his father is European, and his mother African, and interracial marriage was against the law in South Africa. Born a Crime is really a book about the power of humor and comedy to elevate and transform…which makes it a very worthy Thurber Prize winner. 

    What Thurber prize-winning books have you enjoyed?

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  • Brian Boone 2:30 pm on 2018/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ranking roald, , , the classics   

    A Definitive Ranking of the Children’s Books of Roald Dahl 

    When it comes to novels written for kids featuring characters who are kids, Roald Dahl ranks among the best of the best, sharing the status of all-time great with the likes of Beverly Clearly, Judy Blume, and J.K. Rowling. The British author (1916–1990) wrote enough classics to keep a fifth grader busy for months, specializing in tales of often absurd adventure peopled with appealing characters dealing with extraordinary circumstances in believable ways. Dahl knew his audience so very well, and gave them what they wanted without ever patronizing them: a mixture of heart, action, drama, scariness, humor, and, of course, the fantastical. Here then is our highly scientific ranking, of Roald Dahl’s many books for children, from least best (but still wonderful) to most wonderful of all. (We didn’t include any of those silly ones he wrote for grownups here.)

    The Magic Finger (1964)
    Sometimes it takes a writer a while to find their voice. That’s certainly the case with Dahl’s The Magic Finger. It’s a well-meaning if didactic morality tale that serves as a sweet taste of the fun that’s to come. It concerns the Greggs, a family of duck hunters, and the girl next door who simply won’t have that. Unfortunately for the family of hunters, the girl has a magic finger, and when she gets fed up after one of their hunting trips, it acts up and turns the Greggs into ducks themselves.

    George’s Marvelous Medicine (1981)
    A sharp kid named George tries to get revenge on his mean grandmother by replacing her medicine with a concoction of his own making, a mixture of toiletries, floor polish, horseradish, gin, pet meds, antifreeze, and brown paint. He gives it to his grandma, and instead of, you know, killing her, it makes her grow into a giant. George’s parents get so excited, they have him feed it to their chickens. Another medicine shrinks the grandmother into nothingness, and…yeah, kids, don’t try this at home.

    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972)
    Did you know that there’s a sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the best novels ever written (which not surprisingly ranks very high on this list; see below)? It’s not quite as indelible as its predecessor—which relies heavily on the elements of surprises and the wonder of discovery, which are hard to hit twice in one world—but it’s definitely a curiosity and worth a read to get just a little more Willy Wonka in your life. It’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in space, which is…pretty darn hard to resist, now that we think about it.

    The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985)
    Dahl always knew what kids wanted, from both life and books: candy. Lots and lots of candy. The story of Charlie and his Golden Ticket isn’t the only sweet tale Dahl ever wrote. This story is about a little boy who teams up with a giraffe and a pelican (the pelly) to start a window-cleaning company, which he parlays—along with some bouts of heroism—into a shot at running his own candy store. (And yes, the book itself is actually quite delicious.)

    Danny, the Champion of the World (1975)
    Probably Dahl’s most personal work is this tender and touching story of a boy and his widowed father that mixes in Dahl’s beloved “us vs. them” sensibility. Also, Dahl seems to have changed his tune about hunting, because the plot mostly concerns Danny and his dad hunting pheasants on land explicitly owned by someone who doesn’t allow it. There’s a lot of bird drugging and killing in this book, but also a lot of parental bonding, and it takes a fascinating look into life in a Roma caravan.

    The Twits (1980)
    Reportedly inspired by his deep hatred and mistrust of beards—Dahl would’ve despised Portland—The Twits is about one of those old couples who have been together so long they both hate each other and couldn’t live without each other. They’re gross, disgusting, ugly people filled with ugly thoughts and feelings who spend their time playing cruel pranks on each other and tormenting birds, until one day they’re finally outwitted by Muggle-Wump, a kind monkey and his family. It’s a gritty, almost Seussian fairy tale in which the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined, and all that’s supposed to happen does.

    The Enormous Crocodile (1978)
    While Dahl usually eschewed the traditional children’s book conceit of anthropomorphized animals to tell parables about human nature in favor of peopling his stories with people, he occasionally used animals, with all of their brutality and bluntness, to get his point across. Take The Enormous Crocodile, essentially a book about standing up to bullies and giving them a taste of their own medicine. The titular animal is a right nasty fellow, the kind of guy who eats children and brags about it. But his tormenting ways are about to be over, when the other animals conspire to trap him and then literally throw him into the sun. Yeah, that’s what you get, Enormous Crocodile!

    The Vicar of Nibbleswicke (1991)
    Has anything ever had a more British-sounding title than The Vicar of Nibbleswicke? Published in 1991, after Dahl’s death, the book had a noble purpose: to raise awareness and sympathy for people with dyslexia, and proceeds benefitted dyslexia-related charities. That said, the story itself is a sweet one, about a small-town reverend named Robert Lee who has a (fictional) kind of dyslexia that makes him say the most important word in every sentence backward, which leads to amusing comical misunderstandings. There’s a cure, however: walking backward.

    The Minpins (1991)
    This marks Dahl’s final published children’s book, going to print a few months after his death in November 1990. And it’s the book Dahl should have published long earlier, because it’s a straight-up fairy forest adventure we all knew he had in him. A proto-Spiderwick Chronicles, it’s about a little boy named Billy who is forbidden from hanging out in the Forest of Sin, which just so happens to be in the backyard, what with all of the Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers, Whangdoodles, and other Dahltastically named creatures said to live back there. Billy goes, of course, especially since the actual Devil tricks him into it, promising scores of wild strawberries. What boy can say no to forest adventures and wild strawberries? Or an alliance with the fantastical Minpins?

    The BFG (1982)
    This book is as friendly, gentle, and playful as its title character—“BFG” stands for “big friendly giant.” It’s about how the things we ought to fear at first sight are nothing to fear at all, and how everybody has a bit of humanity in them, as well as a story to tell. Sophie is an orphan who late one night spots a giant, and follows him to his giant cave. She fears she’ll be eaten, but the BFG explains that he’s, like, the only giant who doesn’t eat people. A fast, tender, and unlikely friendship develops, one that fuels a story turn nobody saw coming: Sophie and the BFG get the Queen on board for a huge plan to catch all the bad giants.

    Esio Trot (1990)
    It’s like a romantic comedy meets Three’s Company…for kids! A tenant of a normal-seeming contemporary apartment building, lonely old Mr. Hoppy, is in love with downstairs neighbor Mrs. Silver, but she’s too focused on her pet tortoise, Alfie, for romance. Alfie won’t grow, and Mrs. Silver doesn’t know why…so Mr. Hoppy buys a series of tortoises of increasingly larger size to make Mrs. Silver happy. And, because this is a romance, these bizarre, outsized gestures actually work. Take note, kids: If you love somebody, buy them turtles. (BTW: “Esio Trot” is an anagram of “tortoise.”)

    James and the Giant Peach (1961)
    Where would children’s literature, especially British literature, be without the gift of orphans? So many orphans! It’s a nice literary device that gets a kid away from the confines of home and safety and on to doing things like, well, traveling the world inside a giant peach. After rhinos eat his parents (it happens), James goes to live with his mean aunts, until a Jack and the Beanstalk–type situation emerges, producing a house-sized peach. James foils the aunts’ plans to make a buck off the thing (as adults do) and heads inside it, where he meets a bunch of friendly insects. One of them cuts the peach away, and the whole gang is off and running, inside the peach, on a fantastical adventure.

    Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970)
    A story so cool, stylish, and timeless it was adapted smoothly into a cool, stylish, and timeless Wes Anderson movie. We humans may have an affinity for foxes because while they look like a cross between our beloved dogs and cats, and they’re as clever and crafty as we like to think we are. None is more clever and charismatic than Mr. Fox himself, a family man who provides by stealing from local farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The farmers devise a plan to starve him out, but Mr. Fox, like you, young reader, is far too clever to just give up.

    Matilda (1988)
    This is perhaps the most definitive Roald Dahl novel in that it’s about a pure-hearted, special child whose gifts go unnoticed by the evil and wretchedly awful adults around her…until she rises up in rebellion. Matilda Wormwood uses her superpowers to take on wicked headmistress Miss Trunchbull (not to mention her horrible family), finding the parental love she so needs and wants from an unlikely source.

    The Witches (1983)
    Part of Dahl’s enormous, enduring appeal to children is that he doesn’t shield them from the world—he doesn’t sugar-coat its evils, but rather uses metaphors to help kids understand all the bad that’s out to get them, which they of course find irresistible. Of course, it helps when his protagonists are tough, brave kids who get things done. This is the kind of story Dahl excels at telling, and The Witches is a perfect example. With some obvious parallels to history and politics, it focuses on one boy’s attempts to take down a truly evil international syndicate of child-hating, child-killing witches. Unlike other kids vs. adults tales in the Dahl canon, however, The Witches has a shocking, unfair ending. Hey, sometimes life is like that, kids.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)
    Like Matilda, this one features a child in peril whose patience, perseverance, and steadfast commitment to being his true self serves allows him to get justice and rewards in the end. But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just a little bit better than Matilda because it’s such a feast for the brain. It’s one set piece after another when Charlie finally ditches his gray London life for the technicolor world of pure imagination of Willy Wonka’s mysterious, bizarre, and vaguely menacing chocolate factory. Both film adaptations do a good job visualizing the factory, but nothing can do it as well as the eye of a child’s mind.

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