Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Fiction for Young Minds - Part 1

If you are wondering how to cultivate a reading habit in your child, there are a lot of books that you can choose from, but I personally would recommend the classics. Books that would not only improve their language, vocabulary and overall grammar, but also give your ward a perspective. Charles Caleb Colton had said that books like friends should be few and well chosen.
While I do not completely agree with Mr. Colton (on the few books part), but I do accept that young minds are very impressionable and hence good books should be chosen. A rational mind would know how much thought needs to be put into the material read and what needs to be accepted and what not. But I believe it's a guardian’s responsibility to introduce a child to the best of the novels.

Following are three must read novels for young minds below the age of sixteen.

David Copperfield
One of the most beautiful literary works of the nineteenth century, David Copperfield is often considered by many as Charles Dickens own autobiography veiled under the name of a different characters. Charles Dickens is considered to be the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. While this should be reason enough for this book to be in this list of must read books, I recommend the same because of the simple yet excellent language. The story is written in the first person narrative. It sketches the life of David Copperfield right from his birth to all the struggles he goes through - his happy childhood followed by the hardship and physical and mental abuse that he faces in the hands of his stepfather, the helplessness of his mother, the friends he makes and relationships that grow in his life. The variation of characters presented in this novel opens your mind to the different personality traits that exist. The varied emotions expressed in this novel would move any ardent reader. It is the adventure of a common man who fights through the odds in his life and makes it worth living. This should be a part of any book shelf. Fun fact - the complete title of the novel is The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account).

Sherlock Holmes
Not one, but all the books and short stories of Sherlock Holmes are a must read. One of Arthur Conan Doyle’s marvellous works, Sherlock Holmes is one of the characters with maximum number of adaptations in movies and serials. Even for a person who does not read novels or watch television, this name is not unfamiliar. Sherlock Holmes had inspired an iota of detective figures in other languages too. Writers copied the idea of Sherlock Holmes in their stories by minor variations like mellowing down the eccentric character of Sherlock. Most of them though had a side kick like Watson was to Sherlock. Such is the magnanimity of the character, how can someone miss this series of stories or novels. Sherlock Holmes is the protagonist of five short story collections by Arthur Conan Doyle and four of his novels. They are listed down below.

Short Story Collections
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
His Last Bow: Some Later Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of the Four
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Valley of Fear

The brilliance of the character and observational characteristics of Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s works is simply grand. But let me put a disclaimer. It may happen that while reading these stories, you are able to guess the ending. That’s because we have read and watched too many detective novels and shows respectively, which were somehow inspired by stories like those of Sherlock Holmes. But it is the presentation of the stories and deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes that you should look out for. The most powerful antagonist of the series who is at par with Sherlock Holmes in intelligence, James Moriarty is also someone whose character you would enjoy reading.

To Kill a Mockingbird
What I really don’t understand is that why Harper Lee did not write more novels. Besides ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ the only other novel written by Harper Lee is ‘Go Set a Watchman’ first published in 2015 which has the same characters as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. The novel I am suggesting here on it’s release became an instant success. Harper Lee won the prestigious Pultizer Prize for this novel. It has been adapted on the silver screen too. Gregory Peck who played the role of Atticus Finch the main protagonist of the movie went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for this movie. While there is no denying Gregory Peck’s acting skills, I believe a lot goes into the way the character was developed. The story is from the perspective of Atticus Finch’s daughter Jean Louise Finch who lives with her father and elder brother Jeremy Finch. Atticus is a widowed man who tries to instill proper values in his children and sets an example for standing up for what is right. The main focus of the book is racism. Atticus takes up the case of Tom Robinson, an Afro-American man accused of raping a white woman. He faces all odds to stand by Tom Robinson who has been framed. At one point of town, the fictional town of Marycomb where the story is set, is against him for his ‘love for the nigger’ as they term. But Atticus Finch does not bend down and keeps his promise. The story has multiple other elements too. One is the interaction of the kids with their reclusive neighbour Arthur “Boo” Radley. The scale of this book can be understood from the fact that Atticus Finch is often cited as an example for his integrity in the legal profession. Harper Lee did mention that the character of Atticus Finch is somewhat based on her own father Amesa Coleman Lee. Also, if this is not enough for someone to drive their attention to read this book, let me also mention that the film adaptation of Atticus Finch’s character has been ranked as the Greatest Hero of all American Cinema in the year 2003 by the American Film Institute.

So, this is the first part of the list of books that I would recommend. I shall put up more books that I feel should be read by young and the more ardent readers alike.

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