My first ventures into novels (chapter books) lead me on wonderful adventures. The genre that dominated elementary school for me was fantasy. Most prominently, I read and re-read every book by Edward Eager. I am thrilled every time someone checks one of those books out of the library and begins that same journey. Most folks begin with Half Magic, the wonderful tale of a coin that only works for half of the wish. It is the perfect place to start but don't stop before reading all the other books in the series--Magic by the Lake, Seven-Day Magic, Knight's Castle, The Well Wishers,, and, one with the kind of puns I still enjoy, The Time Garden. I loved them all. Then I went on to read E. Nesbit and C. S. Lewis, but Eager came first and still is my first favorite.
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and the two sequels are gentle, tender, funny, and wonderful. Who wouldn't want to have a dragon, a friendly dragon, in the family?
It's a small step from fantasy to science fiction. I didn't start reading what my older brother would have called "real sci-fi" until I was older but I did get interested in space travel when I read Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars by Ellen MacGregor and The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron. They ignore the science to such a degree that a true sci-fi fan might quickly discount them, but their energy and imagination offer a perfect introduction to the genre.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty Bard MacDonald had some pretty fantastic science (or was it magic) working with her. She can cure anything that ails a child from whining to tattling with a dose of something and some gentle nudging. Of course, it only makes sense to trust a woman who lives in a house that balances upside down on its peaked roof.
As a life long animal lover, many of my favorite books had to be about animals. A constant companion for many months or years was surely Freddy the wonderful pig created by Walter Brooks. Freddy lived on a friendly farm that was just how I wished my home farm could be. I would have loved talking animals even if they had wild plots and goofy ideas. Freddy could be a detective or a politician or an astronaut and always he was the perfect pig. Maybe he is why I love pigs to this day.
Mice are pretty special critters, too, but only one can teach you some important American history. Amos, the mouse in Robert Lawson's Ben and Me, lived in Ben Franklin's hat and witnessed some of the first days of our country's history. If you believe the book, Amos is more of a hero than Mr. Franklin.
Another flight of fancy with a dash of history is The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois. Imagine sailing around the world on a platform held aloft by 21 balloons. This seemingly perfect trip ends suddenly with a crash in the island of Krakatoa. Few people today know of the wonders that lay there before the famous volcano erupted and destroyed the island completely. You will have to read this book to learn all about it.
In another post I will take you into middle school or, as we called it way back then, junior high.