Millions of dollars are spent in the promotion of books and yet hundreds of great books come out each year that barely penetrate your consciousness. Topical nonfiction pervades the news, and an occasional fiction will become a water cooler subject, but kids books have it tougher. As much as the adult world coalesces around single books, often for inexplicable reasons that have little to do with quality, in the world of children's books the concentration is intense.
If, as someone said, books are a conspiracy of smart people, it's even more important that we teach our children to explore the world of books. A homogenized reading list based on what everyone else is reading can stunt their growth.
Whatever the merits of a certain boy about to graduate from a school for wizards, there is a lot more out there. Last year (and this year) I was privileged to read to Scott Burch's 5th Grade class a Mt. Tabor Elementary School during their annual read-in. Parents and community leaders come in to read their favorites to the children in an all-day celebration of reading and story-telling. Finding myself in the room with judges, school board members, an ex-congressman, and the U of L Cardinal doesn't make me a community leader, but I was proud to be there.
Last year I introduced Mr. Burch's class to The Edge Chronicles. From Beyond the Deep Woods (Book 1) to The Winter Knights, the eighth and latest in the series, we together discovered a fantasy series and an imaginary world that, by consensus, surpassess Harry and his pals, and even Lemony Snicket. Truly, this is a gem of a series, stocked and ready for summer reading. And it really has no top end. A really bright 3rd-grader might be able to read it, 5th grade is probably the target demographic, and teens and adults won't begin to be bored.
Rather than try to tell the story of this mysterious world, I invite you to visit the Web site for The Edge Chronicles, the world created by Brits Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell for David Fickling Books and Random House. Enjoy