Why I love children’s books & Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder

I love children’s books. I really, really love them. Frequently, I find that I prefer young adult novels and middle-grade novels far more than adult novels. Very frequently.

I’ve always loved children’s books. I think my problem was that I never really figured out the transition to adult books. Back when I was the proper age to be reading kids’ books, I would sit at the bookstore, often for an hour or so (luckily I had a very understanding dad and a very similar sister) and I would go one by one through the children’s books on the three or four bookcases reserved for books for my age group. That’s how I’d find the books I wanted to read — by going one by one and reading the back and examining the cover. When I became that awful age when people tell you the adult section is more your speed, I was lost. I couldn’t go through all the adult books one by one to figure out what I wanted to read. And so I didn’t know how to find good books. I’d find an author or two that worked for me and read all I can, but then I was lost again. And honestly, I actually stopped reading for a while because I just couldn’t figure it out.

Eventually I got a little better. I started going to the Housing Works Bookstore in NYC where I could go through the 2 bookcases dedicated to review copies. It wasn’t that I wanted to read the newest releases, it was that I could finally go back to my childhood where I could just drop my stuff at the bottom of the bookcase and look through the books one by one.

Now though, I’m letting go of the embarrassment and I’m ready to admit that I just love children’s books and even though I’m much older than (some) authors intend to write for, I am happiest there.

Which brings me to Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder. Because while I readily admit my love for children’s books to some friends, some of the time, this is a book that reminds me that it’s OK to yell from the top of my very snowy roof how much I love children’s books. Because my friends, this book rocks. It is beautifully, so beautifully, written. I know there are many complicated books out there about miserable people who lead miserable lives in miserable third world countries and they get many, many prizes. But in my opinion, Any Which Wall is a perfect book, and far surpasses all those unhappy books. It’s sweet and kind and really lovely.

Officially, here’s the description:

Four kids, a mysterious wall, and a good helping of common magic!

If you had a magic wall that could take you to any place and any time, where would you go? Would you want to visit castles and desert islands? Would you want to meet famous wizards, terrible pirates, beautiful queens, and dastardly outlaws? If so, then you are just like Henry and Emma, and Roy and Susan—and you will probably like this story a lot. In fact, you might even wish something similar would happen to you!

But truthfully, it’s about so much more than that. It’s about a 12-year-old girl whose best friend moves away, and thinks she’s too cool and old for unicorns and kindness. It’s about interesting kids who wish interesting things. It’s about being brave and being scared and the possibility that magic does really exist. And in the absolutely magical chapter I just read to Jonah tonight, it’s about remembering that while just having fun is not usually the subject of children’s book chapters (because nobody was being chased and there was no danger), having fun is worth mentioning. Listen to this:

No, nothing bad happened at all. It was a fun afternoon and free of all disaster, and it didn’t affect anything that happened afterward, not even a little. In fact, I wouldn’t bother to include this particular adventure in the book since it doesn’t matter much to the story.

Except that it does. Because fun does matter. It matters a lot.

Laurel, thank you so much for writing this exquisite book. Not just because I got to read it (twice now) and recommend it to as many people as I can. But because for the last three weeks, Jonah and I have snuggled together and read it every night, and I’ve been able to share it with him.

My recommendation? Buy it in hardcover. Buy a couple of copies — enough to read it out loud to 6-9 year olds; and have 8-10 year olds read it on their own.

1 Comment »

  1. I’m an adult, and I don’t have any kids in the house to share this book with… I loved reading it all by myself! I couldn’t agree more–it’s a great read, and Laurel Snyder’s a wonderful author. You’ll love Up And Down The Scratchy Mountains and Penny Dreadful, two of her others. (And PS – I found this post via a tweet from Laurel, so I think she might like your review!)

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