Endearing Classics, Enduring Classics

This summer I ran into a homeschooling mom at the library whom I hadn’t seen in a while. She told me about a literary club that her friend was trying to put together, and wondered if our family would be interested. I haven’t yet gotten involved with co-ops or clubs as far as homeschooling goes, partly due to babies coming pretty often (making scheduling activities difficult) and partly just because groups like that seem intimidating to me. But the more I thought about a literary group, the more I thought this would be something we could do, and enjoy doing.
Our group this year consists of four families with anywhere between two and six school age children in each. There is a classic book planned for us to read aloud to our children every month, and at the end of the month we get together, have a discussion about the book, and share projects related to the book that our children have completed. So far it has been a real boost to our homeschooling- not only are we enjoying a ‘new’ book we haven’t read yet, we are getting to know some other families and encourage each other through this homeschooling journey.
September’s book was Lassie Come-Home, the story we only previously knew from the movie with Elizabeth Taylor. The book was good, but we found ourselves unable to finish it before our meeting, and only could draw some pictures of Lassie for our project(s). That first meeting found many of our families in this same predicament, and some added shyness made the first book discussion very quiet, and very short. The kids didn’t end up minding this; it left more time for playing outside with new friends!
Last month our book was The Treasure Seekers, by E. Nesbit. I had never heard of the author or the book, but a mom from our group commented during September’s meeting that the author was well liked by C.S. Lewis. High praise! Though eager to get started, I thought about the challenges this book would pose: one, we might not get it read in a month if reading it aloud was up to me, and two, it really would be better enjoyed if read by someone with a British accent. We have the Narnia series on cd and the kids love hearing the books read by Patrick Stewart, Kenneth Branagh, and others. Luke saved the day and solved both problems by finding The Treasure Seekers on Librivox read by a British woman, allowing us to finish the book and really appreciate its spirit.
As we readied for our October meeting, I mentioned to the other moms in an email that this book was one of the most endearing books I have ever read. I got to thinking about what makes a book endearing to me, and noticed that many of these titles I had listed to myself had some things in common. First is the characters- the books are almost always about children. Another is their theme- most plots involve families who are poor and simple, but either very industrious or very imaginative so their time is never wasted. But the main thread in each of these prized books of mine are the devotion these children have to each other as a family. These are characters, whether real or fictional, whom I want my children to be like as they grow and learn about their place in the world. Here is my list of endearing books, subject to additions as I discover or remember more:
The Little Britches Series by Ralph Moody
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Narnia Series by C. S. Lewis
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Earnestine Gilbreth
And now I have a series to add! The Treasure Seekers continues with a book called The Wouldbegoods. After enjoying the first book so much, I started reading the next, and am nearly done with it. If possible, The Wouldbegoods is even better than The Treasure Seekers, in that the children’s characters are even further developed and the scrapes they get in are even funnier.
Maybe the endearing factor of a book contributes to it being an enduring classic. I wouldn’t doubt it- it makes me want to take another look at classic book lists to discover more endearing books my children and I have yet to enjoy.