Gene Stratton Porter is one of the best beloved authors in my family. My mom and I first discovered her when we read A Girl of the Limberlost together when I was eight years old. That aching, beautiful story of a young girl hungry for her mother’s love and determined to make something beautiful of her life became one of the inner narratives that shaped who I wanted to become. I loved the violin like Elnora, I prowled the land in search of butterflies and moths like Elnora (and the Bird Woman, her friend), and I watched the natural world with the wondering, careful gaze that she taught me. A story to which I return with delight again and again.
By Gene Stratton Porter
An all-time favorite in the Clarkson home, this is Porter’s tale of a thin but doughty orphan dubbed “Freckles,” whose grit and daring get him a job as the guard of the valuable timber in the “Limberlost.” Challenged by the timber-stealing Black Jack, and smitten with the grace and verve of the “Swamp Angel,” Freckles is a boy who does not flinch, his strength of mind and good heart helping toward the goal of doing his job and discovering his past.
By Sterling North
The charming story of an eleven-year-old boy and the raccoon who becomes his boon companion in escapades galore, but also in the hard work of learning to say goodbye when it is time. Based on the author’s own childhood in Wisconsin, this boyhood memoir offers readers a taste of what North himself called “a better era.”
The Black Arrow
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson’s historical adventure novel about a brave boy on his way to knighthood during the War of the Roses. When a black arrow flies through a castle window with a note promising an arrow for four more of the castle residents, including Dick’s uncle, a mystery begins in which Dick begins to question his father’s mysterious death. Forced to escape after a confrontation with his uncle, Dick eventually encounters “The Black Arrow,” a mysterious outlaw. Great historical drama, classic portrayals of nobility and courage. The Scribner’s edition has illustrations by the matchless N.C. Wyeth.
The Bronze Bow
By Elizabeth George Speare
One of my favorite’s of Speare’s novels (and she has several great ones), this story of Daniel, a young boy who witnesses his father’s cruel death at the hands of the Romans, comes back to me still. Living with outlaws, struggling with his hate, Daniel meets a curious new rabbi, a strange teacher named Jesus who takes his turmoil and begins to teach him about… forgiveness. (Caution: Daniel’s father meets a cruel death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.)
The Prince and the Pauper
By: Mark Twain
Twain’s classic tale of two boys, one a prince, one a beggar, who switch roles for a day… or a few more as it happens. Told with Twain’s usual wit and vivacity, the story follows the growth of the two boys as their minds expand with the exploration of their new worlds, teaching them how to better live, and rule, within their own.