a series of unfortunate events, a wrinkle in time, alice in wonderland, call of the wild, charlie and the chocolate factory, children's books, comfort, comfort books, conrad richter, cs lewis, jack london, jostein gaarder, lemony snicket, lewis carroll, madeline l'engle, mark twain, norton juster, novels, philosophy, roald dahl, sophie's world, the adventures of huckleberry finn, the light in the forest, the lion the witch and the wardrobe, the phantom tollbooth, through the looking-glass, top 5, where the red fern grows, wilson rawls
In a recent issue of Shelf Awareness, children’s editor Jennifer M. Brown wrote about comfort books — books that will help children, teens and even adults find feelings of comfort in times of tragedy, grief and loss. The past few months have brought wave after wave of unthinkable tragedies for people worldwide. People often tend to wallow in the misfortune of these events and pour over the details. And when this happens, it is a major sign that it’s time to look to better times and find a way to cope. Create new memories for your children and instill these comforting feelings for the first time. Or, for teens and adults, harken back to a time when the world was simpler and safety and comfort included a cup of hot cocoa and warm blanket. Comfort books can help us all escape from the world’s harshness while reinforcing that we can create our own safety and comfort by simply reading a book. This is one of the very reasons that I created this blog and decided to share my love of all things literary with the world: the ability to escape, to recreate, to embellish — in a healthy way. And so, inspired by Ms. Brown’s post, here are Chloe Parker’s Top 5 Best Comfort Books!
1. Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll:; You’ll recall that this book first made its appearance on my blog in my original Top 5 post of my all-time favorite books. And it’s obvious by my original description that this is absolutely a comfort book for me. Most of my comfort books associate heavily with my mother — all throughout my childhood she would put me to bed and sit and read to me (or with me, as I got older) books of mystery and adventure. This, for myself and many others, is the ultimate book of adventure, and it also touches on my literary obsession — after all, Alice’s trip to Wonderland begins with her falling asleep while reading. In a world filled with nonsensical characters and impossible events, a child can find comfort in the silliness of it all. As Alice says, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” Yet, for the adults, it’s wonderful to read back through the text and find the underlying themes to this story, which make this book even more lovely.
2. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis:; The alternate book from my original Top 5 post also tops this list for the very reasons I first spoke of it. This book has been an absolute favorite of mine for my entire life. Like Alice’s Adventures…, it includes many elements which are purely fantastical, and yet evokes many themes which are close to the heart including family, friendship and the power of a pure heart and a strong tenacity for good over evil. The imagery in this book is some of the most comforting I’ve ever read, as well. Child or adult can easily picture themselves curled up in the wardrobe, surrounded by fur coats and hard wood. The sight of fresh fallen snow in the forest. The feeling of warm tea and pastries sliding down your throat on a cold winter’s day. While there are many difficulties for the Pevensie family to overcome in this novel, the overall message is that with the right tools and a friend or two, one can overcome almost anything in life.
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl:; I was an avid Dahl fan as a child — I’m pretty sure that I’ve read every children’s book he’s ever written. And yet Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sticks out of the bunch as the very best. We meet Charlie Bucket as a poor young man, living in a tiny shack with his parents and four bed-ridden grandparents. The grandparents, though most of them play only a minor role, are some of the best characters in the book and a fantastic example of Dahl’s trademark characters, whom are often both whimsical and yet slightly grotesque. They make you giggle with surprised delight and bring a sense of warmth and brightness into Charlie’s otherwise miserable home life. This book’s theme is that dreams can come true, even for those in the worst circumstances — and Charlie’s dream just happens to be chocolate-covered and candy-coated wonder. Readers will delight in the magical imagery created by Dahl and the unique personalities of the characters you will never forget.
4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster:; A book that not only makes learning fun, but makes it magical. I was (and still am) a very curious individual — I’ve always craved knowledge, thirsted to learn something new. The Phantom Tollbooth, for my young mind, slipped learning grammar and mathematics into a story filled with quirky characters and a journey back home. The very best books in the world are ones that still take you on a journey to a land far, far away but quietly make you think the entire time. Following Milo and the Watchdog on their journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom, we see people literally eat their words, consume subtraction soup until they’re starving and create music that is beautiful to both eyes and ears. The Phantom Tollbooth reminds me of another book from my childhood that absolutely made an impression on me, as I both adored and abhorred it: Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy. However, Juster was able to do what Gaarder somewhat failed at: weaving a tale of learning and adventure, seamlessly, without removing you from one world in order to focus on the other.
5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket:; These books weren’t around when I was a child, so I did first read them as an adult. However, I can imagine tiny-child-me being seriously delighted with this series and housing it on my book shelf next to my Roald Dahl collection. Like Dahl, Snicket creates characters which are completely odd and idiosyncratic, and therefore, perfect for children. A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the Baudelaire children — Violet, Klaus and Sunny — through their often unfortunate lives. A semi-gothic theme runs throughout the series as the siblings run into every odd and disastrous event that a wildly imaginative author could create. However, using their unique talents (Klaus, by the way, is a talented bookworm), the three children band together and find their way out of every situation as a family.
My boyfriend, though he’s not as avid a reader as I, was read to every night as a child like I was. It’s one of his fondest memories of growing up — gathered on the carpet every night with his brothers and sisters while his father read novels to them. He’s got quite a bit to say on the subject of comfort books as well, so here, in brief, is “Mr. Parker” ‘s Top 5:
1. Call of the Wild by Jack London:;
2. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls:;
3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle:;
4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain:;
5. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter:;
We got all warm and fuzzy just discussing the subject in the Parker household. Now it’s your turn, my little Literophiliacs — what are your favorite comfort books?