Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Brilliant Books With Child (and Child-Like) Narrators

"Pretty much all the honest truth-telling in the world is done by children."
---Oliver Wendell Holmes, author and poet

"The soul is healed by being with children."
---Fyodor Dostoyevsky, novelist and philosopher

Child and child-like narrators tell the story in some of the best books I have ever read. It's hard to capture the voice of a child, but it is a worthy challenge. Here are some of them.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
A boy with autism sets out to solve the murder of a neighbor's dog and discovers unexpected truths about himself and the world.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the "Indian-ness in her blood," travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a "potential lunatic," and whose mother disappeared.
As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold—the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Art of Racing in the Rain is a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope—a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.

My Sweet Orange Tree by Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos
When Zezé grows up, he wants to be a poet in a bow tie. For now the precocious young boy entertains himself by playing clever pranks on the residents of his Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, stunts for which his parents and siblings punish him severely. Lately, with his father out of work, the beatings have become harsher. Zezé’s only solace comes from his time at school, his hours secretly spent singing with a street musician, and the refuge he finds with his precious magical orange tree. When Zezé finally makes a real friend, his life begins to change, opening him up to human tenderness but also wrenching sorrow.

A Long Way from Verona by Jane Gardam
Jessica Vye introduces herself with an enigmatic pronouncement: “I ought to tell you at the beginning that I am not quite normal, having had a violent experience at the age of nine.” A revered author has told Jessica that she is, beyond all doubt, a born writer. This proves an accurate prediction of the future, one that indelibly colors her life at school and her perception of the world. Jessica has always known that her destiny would be shaped by her refusal to conform, her compulsion to tell the absolute truth, and her dedication to observing the strange wartime world that surrounds her. What she doesn’t know, however, is that the experiences and ideas that set her apart will also lead her to a new and wholly unexpected life. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster in Conor’s backyard is not the one he’s been expecting — the one from the nightmare he’s had every night since his mother started her treatments. This monster is ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis
A war is raging in Afghanistan as a coalition of Western forces tries to oust the Taliban by bombing the country. Parvana’s father has died, and her mother, sister, and brother have gone to a faraway wedding, not knowing what has happened to her father. Parvana doesn’t know where they are, but sets out alone to find them — masquerading as a boy. Her journey only becomes more perilous as the bombs begin to fall. Making her way across the desolate Afghan countryside, she meets other children who are strays from the war: an infant boy in a bombed-out village, a nine-year-old girl who believes she has magical powers over land mines, and a boy with one leg. The children travel together because it is easier than being alone. As they forge their own family in the war zone that Afghanistan has become, their resilience, imagination and luck help them survive.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America.

Skellig by David Almond
Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage and encounters a strange being who changes his world forever.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Paloma is a twelve-year-old who lives on the fifth floor. Talented and precocious, she’s come to terms with life’s seeming futility and decided to end her own on her thirteenth birthday. Until then, she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop culture, a good but not outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, on things for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A pilot, stranded in the desert, meets a little boy who is a prince on a planet.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by 
The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each Tuesday That Artsy Reader Girl assigns a topic and then post her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.


  1. Great list! I loved the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and bought the book right after I saw it. Sadly, the book is lingering on my shelves.

  2. I adore this list! I've read and loved most of these books already. Now to see if I can find copies of Atonement and The Westing Game anywhere.

    My TTT .

  3. I've read and enjoyed 9 of these. I have the Jane Gardam one on my shelf - unread.

  4. What a great idea for this topic! I've read several of these books.

  5. Oh gosh, you have some of my favorites on here: Art of Racing in the Rain (I want to see the movie), Incident of the Dog, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pirvana's Journey, Are You There God?, and The Giver. Reading everyone's blogs really is a saving grace during lock downs!

  6. I have a bit of a hard time with child narrators. I love them for their innocence and humor, but I also want them to be believable, which ofttimes they aren't. Your examples here are excellent. I've read about half of your list. There are a couple I haven't even heard of, so I'll definitely be checking them out.

    Happy TTT!

  7. Many good ones on your list, but I especially loved A Monster Calls.

  8. You've captured some of my favorites on this list! Especially The Westing Game.

  9. Those sound good but I haven't read any of them.

  10. Some excellent choices - I love Atonement and We Have Always Lived in the Castle has one of the most extraordinary child narrators I've come across

  11. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of our favorites! We really love the movie adaptation too. The movie for The Little Prince was amazing! I haven't read that book, but the kids loved watching it. :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

  12. great post. i am pretty new to audios and this does sound like it would make the book more interesting
    sherry @ fundinmental

  13. Excellent list! I've only read the most obvious ones, so that makes it an even better list. Well done!

  14. Wonderful list! I've read around half of them, never thought much about this particular thing they have in common. There must be more with the same approach -- I wonder if they are as good. I think "A Long Way from Chicago" by Richard Peck would fit the criterion.

    Be Well! ... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  15. You have shared some of my favorites (Bless Me Ultima, The Giver, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Atonement, The Giver, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and a Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and have reminded me to download a copy of A Monster Calls. I would add The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield to this list, as well as The Bear by Claire Cameron (although that one is pretty intense!).

  16. So many great choices! Scout, Oskar, and Margaret are among my faves.


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