Recommending books

Gross Family argross at
Fri Jun 21 04:57:04 EDT 2002

> I don't think that I've seen Edward Eager yet?
> Jackie S.

I was *just* about to mention Edward Eager! His books are wonderful. They
feature a family of children having magical adventures--a bit reminiscent of
Nesbit, but American, and funnier and wonderfully whimsical, with dollops of
gentle irony. The books come with whimsical illustrations to match. You can
see the influence of CS Lewis without the religious angle.

As a child, I loved a book called _The Amazing Mr. Whisper_ (I think) by
Brenda Macrow and its sequel, both of which I borrowed from the library,
I've never seen it again; I believe they are now rare and almost impossible
to find. These were probably the first fantasy I read, apart from Enid
Blyton's "Wishing Chair" and "Enchanted Forest" series, which brings me to
an interesting issue. I loved these books as a child, as did my children,
and innumerable others (certainly in Australia they have been very popular);
and yet, parts of them are very poorly written. They are often condescending
to children and sickly sweet, and yet kids often love them.  At the same
time, I was reading the Chalet School books, which had an enormous influence
on me, as well as some other 'school girl" books, but I'm mainly talking
about fantasy here.

When I was in Grade 6, we actually were provided with two fantasy books as
"class sets", which we all had to read. They were Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe_  by Lewis and _The Weirdstone of Brisingimen" by Alan Garner.
These confirmed my love of fantasy, and later in the year,
when our teacher provided a whole pile of books and asked each of the
classmembers to choose two to do a project on, I was terribly disappointed
when the other Narnian books were already taken. My teacher (who must have
had an accurate intuition about what I'd like) suggested two books to me
that turned out to a different kind of fantasy--perhaps my first taste of
magic realism? One was by Elizabeth Beresford or Coatsworth--I can't
remember which, and the other one was called _The White Room_ whose author I
don't remember. The first was about a family called Purdy (I think) who were
really partridges, while the other was about a woman who "finds herself"
while trapped in a snowstorm--probably not really fantasy at all, but I saw
it that way. (If anyone can identity these book, BTW, I'd be extremely

The same year, I discovered _A Wrinkle in Time_ by Madeleine L'Engle.
Someone--Kathryn, I think--mentioned her as well. I adored _AWiT_, and I
love some of her other books, but some are way too preachy for my taste.
(Even the ones I like tend to be on the preachy side.)

Besides many of the authors people have already mentioned (DWJ, Patricia
McKillip, Robin McKinley, Pamela Dean, Tanya Huff, Caroline Stevermer, Garth
Nix, Megan Whalen Turner, and so on,) some writers I enjoy whom no-one had
mentioned yet are Guy Gavriel Kay, Linda Haldeman, who wrote four or five
terrific fantasy novels back in the 70s (eg _Esbae_), Richard Cowper (mainly
wrote 'soft' SF), Jane Yolen, Zenna Henderson's "People" books and short
stories, Lynn Flewelling, Nancy Atherton's 'Aunt Dimity' books, Freda
Warrington, and tons I can't think of right now!


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