Adult Virtual Reading Club

Welcome to the Adult Virtual Reading Club!

Each month we will explore a new theme, our suggested reads along with related articles and topics.

How to participate in the Virtual Reading Club: Adult Edition

  1. Start by locating the book picks you are interested in reading during that month. Try one or try all of the book picks, it is completely up to you. Request a copy from TRAC or find it here at SGPL. Visit us in-person or give us a call as we would be happy to help you! Try out one or more of the featured activities. 
  2. We'd love to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts on the monthly theme or share your book review. Give us a shout out on social media or contact 
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May is: Children's Classics

This month we will examine children’s classic books published before 1980, available in the English language. 

The history of children’s literature:

Children's literature or juvenile literature includes stories, books, magazines, and poems that are enjoyed by children. Modern children's literature is classified in two different ways: genre or the intended age of the reader.

Children's literature can be traced to stories and songs, part of a wider oral tradition, that adults shared with children before publishing existed. The development of early children's literature, before printing was invented, is difficult to trace. Even after printing became widespread, many classic "children's" tales were originally created for adults and later adapted for a younger audience.

Since the fifteenth century much literature has been aimed specifically at children, often with a moral or religious message.  It was only in the eighteenth century, with the development of the concept of childhood, that a separate genre of children's literature began to emerge, with its own divisions, expectations, and canon. The earliest of these books were educational books, books on conduct, and simple ABCs—often decorated with animals, plants, and anthropomorphic letters. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is known as the "Golden Age of Children's Literature", because many classic children's books were published then.

What is a classic children’s book?

There does not appear to be an agreed upon definition for what constitutes a classic piece of literature (for adults or children’s materials), however, there do appear to be some tenets that literary classics do have in common.

  • A classic expresses artistic quality
  • A classic stands the test of time
  • A classic has a certain universal appeal
  • A classic makes connections
  • Classics have relevance to multiple generations of readers

But remember, a book which sports the label "classic" isn't intrinsically better to read than one which does not. Books are not medicine to be forced down; they should be fun, exciting doorways into other worlds and different feelings and points of view. 

Tips to Get Started

(this video refers to classic literature in general, but definitely applies to reading children's material)

Book Lists to Get You Started

100 Great Children's Books - New York Public Library

100 Best Children's Books - Time Magazine

The 11 Greatest Children's Books - BBC

Best Children's Literature of All Time - CLC Awards

Quick Summary About Each Suggested Title Shown Here

(Credit: BBC)

Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)

Wilder’s nine classic frontier novels were inspired by her own 19th Century childhood. She was raised in a pioneer family, and traveled through the Midwest by covered wagon. Wilder writes with authentic detail of a little girl living “in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs" with her parents, two sisters and their dog, Jack. "As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses.” Wilder’s accounts have made daily life on the frontier vivid for generations. Check out the video to learn more about the Ingalls homestead.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle (1962)

Meg Murry’s father, a time traveling physicist, has disappeared. One night she, her precocious younger brother Charles Wallace and her mother – “a scientist and a beauty as well” – have an unexpected visitor. "Wild nights are my glory," the strange Mrs Whatsit tells them. "I just got blown off course.” She refers to a tesseract, a fifth dimension that allows travel through time and space. With her brother and a high school friend, Calvin, Meg sets out across the universe to find her father. Their confrontation with IT, the disembodied conformist intelligence that casts a shadow over the universe, is a noirish Cold War touch. L’Engle’s Newbery Award-winning book was an early foray into science fiction for younger readers, inspired in part by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Meg was a first in literature: a nerdy girl whose intelligence was matched by her powerful love for her family. Check out the video to learn more the differences the book and the recent movie adaptation.

A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K Le Guin (1968)

A young boy known as Sparrowhawk saves his village with a smattering of magic he learned from his aunt, a local witch. Apprenticed to the mage Ogion the Silent, and renamed Ged, he begins his training as a sorcerer. Le Guin’s exploration of the consequences of Ged’s misfires and temptations while at a school for wizards, his struggles with dragons and his inner demons, reshaped fantasy storytelling’s concepts of good and evil. Gradually, Ged gains wisdom as he faces his challenges. "He knew now, and the knowledge was hard, that his task had never been to undo what he had done, but to finish what he had begun." "To me Le Guin’s story is about learning your craft as a writer, the long and painful struggle for mastery of both your art and yourself, written in astounding prose," says Amanda Craig, author and reviewer for the New Statesman and the Daily Telegraph. Check out the video to hear the author read from the book.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl (1964)

The critics’ poll nominated five of Roald Dahl’s children’s books – the most by any author. Poet and book critic Tess Taylor calls his work “rollicking, funny, scary, humane and magical.” New York Times columnist Carmela Ciuraru says, “It seems impossible to choose just one favourite by Dahl, arguably the greatest children's book author of all time, but he is at his most delightful, imaginative and mischievous in this 1964 classic.” Dahl’s most popular among the five nominated is the story of Charlie Bucket, his Grandpa Joe, the Oompa-Loompas and the five golden tickets that take Charlie inside the factory of Willy Wonka, “the most amazing, the most fantastic, the most extraordinary chocolate maker the world has ever seen!” “Something crazy is going to happen now, Charlie thought. But he wasn’t frightened. He wasn’t even nervous. He was just terrifically excited.” Check out the video to learn more about author Roald Dahl.

The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943)

This parable, written and illustrated by an aviator disappeared with his plane in 1944, encapsulates the meaning of life in an encounter between a pilot who crash lands in the Sahara and a young prince visiting from a small planet. “It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly,” Saint-Exupéry writes, in one of dozens of illuminating life lessons. “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“Discovered in childhood, this story of leaving home brings the hope and promise of a world opening up to the little prince,” says Shelf Awareness children’s editor Jennifer M Brown. “As we return to the book at later points in our lives, we experience the story from the pilot's point of view, sadder yet richer, and heartened because we are not alone on life's journey.” Check out the video to learn more a first edition of the book.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (1868)

The story of the four March sisters as they pass from childhood innocence to young adulthood has endured from one generation to the next, never losing its power to enthrall. The autobiographical novel speeds along, thanks to crisp, realistic dialogue, enduring characters and keen insights into family dynamics. “Meg was Amy's confidant and monitor, and by some strange attraction of opposites Jo was gentle Beth's,” Alcott writes. (Jo was the character most like its author.)“One name will explain my adoration for Little Women: Jo March!” says Booklist senior editor Donna Seaman. “What book-loving young reader doesn't revere Louisa May Alcott's intrepid, ink-stained hero? Of course, Alcott was also one brilliant and gripping storyteller with sharp and knowing opinions. So astutely constructed is this novel, it sustains repeated readings.” Check out the video to learn more author Louisa May Alcott.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (1865)

“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’ Suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.” Charles Dodgson’s Victorian fantasy was an instant sensation when published 150 years ago under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. To this day Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole and her encounters with the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter and the rest, are fresh fodder for the literary imagination. Alice is now in the public domain, and the versions and variations continue to multiply. “Alice will always be my favourite because I love her curiosity and bravery,” says Library Journal columnist Barbara Hoffert. Check out the video to learn more the secret world of Lewis Carroll.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis (1950)

Lewis’ high fantasy classic drew high praise in our critics’ poll. “CS Lewis’ perfect fable The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is subtitled 'a story for children',” says author and critic David Abrams. “But The Chronicles of Narnia are stories for everybody. They can be read as Christian allegory or as a magical fable about four children who stumble across a magic wardrobe and, pushing their way through mothballed fur coats, enter a land of snow and forests and fauns and lampposts and a white-skinned, black-hearted Queen who dispenses turkish delight like deadly heroin.” 

“This enchanting story combines unsettling magic, psychological realism and a deep sense of beauty,” notes critic Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild. “Lewis is wonderful at descriptions of the physical world. It is both thrilling and comforting to read, intelligent, compassionate and graceful.” Check out the video to learn more the theological basis for the book and Narnia series.

Questions To Get You Thinking

How did the book make you feel?

How do you feel about how the story was told?

If this book was rewritten nowadays, how would the story be different?

Were there any themes/ideas/language used in the books that made you uncomfortable and why?

What made the story unique or important?

Why do you think book is thought to be a classic and deserves to be read by future generations?

If you haven’t read this classic before did the book meet your expectations or were you surprised?

Related Resources

Is Harry Potter classic children’s literature?

Quiz: how well do you know classic children’s literature?

Enjoy children’s classic literature via Project Gutenberg

Many classic children’s books have troubling themes or language. Should we read them anyway?

How to Really Read Racist Books to Your Kids

Classic Children's Books You Might Have Overlooked: 19th Century - Books by the decade, with selections going all the way up to the 1990's