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Season 2, Episode 4

Books We Can't Forget or the Kids' Classics We Still Love

April 29, 2021

In this episode, we talk about the middle grade books we love just as much now as we did when we were kids, with guest Dionne. Book Recommendations for Tween and Teen Readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Charity 0:01 Welcome to the Planet Book podcast. I'm your host, Charity, a youth services associate with the Springfield-Greene County Library District. On each episode, you'll hear guests talking about their favorite tween and teen books. Thanks for joining me today. On this episode, I'm joined by Dionne, a circulation associate with the Springfield-Greene County Library District. And today, we are talking about books we loved as kids that we still love now as adults and Dionne, I am, first of all, I'm so excited to have you on the Planet Book podcast. Those of you who don't know Dionne, she is like one of the coolest library people I know. And I'm also super excited because she's going to talk about my all time favorite book ever. And so this is super exciting, Dionne, welcome to the Planet Book podcast.

Dionne 0:51 Hello. I'm happy to be here. Thank you.

Charity 0:54 So exciting. Okay, so we're talking about books that we read as kids that we still loved. And I don't know which book, you brought two books to talk about. Let's go ahead and start with your first book. What did you bring for us?

Dionne 1:07 Okay, the first book I want to talk about today is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien. This book centers around a widowed field mouse named Mrs. Frisby and Mrs. Frisby is facing a bit of a crisis. She and her four children live in the corner of farmer Fitzgibbon's garden. It is the end of winter, and it is fast approaching that spring's going to be here and so it's time for her to move her young family from their winter home in the garden, to their summer home in the woods next to the stream. Only Mrs. Frisby's youngest child, Timothy, is still recovering from pneumonia, and he cannot make the move. The plow is set to come till the garden in five days. So Mrs. Frisby is very, very worried she does not know what she's going to do to get her and her four children to their summer home. And she is talking to her friend Jeremy the crow about what she's going to do. And Jeremy suggests to Mrs. Frisby that she go and talk to the owl. Well, as you can imagine, Mrs. Frisby isn't super excited considering the dietary habits of owls to go and talk to him. And so she's very desperate. She wants to do everything she can to help her son. So she's going to be brave, and go and talk to the owl. So she climbs on Jeremy's back and he flies her to the tree that the owl lives in. And once she's there, the owl gives her some advice that she was not expecting. Go to the rats. Mrs. Frisby is like, the rats? But the rats are mysterious. The rats keep to themselves. Why would they help her and even if they wanted to, what would they do to help Mrs. Frisby and her family? But she decides well, the owl is the wisest being in the forest. I better take his advice. I will make the trip and go to the rats. She knows where they live. They live under a rosebush right next to Farmer Fitzgibbon's house. And when she gets there, she realizes that these are no ordinary rats. These rats have electricity. These rats have machinery in their burrows, working machinery with parts and metal gears. These rats have farming capabilities; they have food storages; they have a library; they can read. These rats have developed their own society. We come later to find out that these rats have come from a place called Nimh, the National Institute for Mental Health and while at Nimh, they were the subject of genetic experimentation through injections, which increased their intelligence by several degrees. Once they escaped from Nimh they found this place next to farmer Fitzgibbon to live in. They decide that yes, indeed, they are going to help Mrs. Frisby. And what they're going to do instead of them moving to a summer home, they're just going to move their entire cozy little cinder block that they live in that's buried in the field to a part in the other corner where the plow can't reach them. So this story was one of my favorite adventure stories when I was about 10 years old, I think is the first time I read it.

Charity 4:49 So this was a Newbery winner when it came out, which means it won the award for best chapter book. I have not read this one and the summary you just gave makes this sound absolutely incredible. Like, I want to put it on hold right now, let me just block off my weekend. I mean, there's so much in there. Oh my goodness.

Dionne 5:16 Yes.

Charity 5:17 Someone else was telling me about it and they said that it was, they found that as a child like there are some hard parts, would you…

Dionne 5:25 There are some hard parts. It's a little bit scary. When the leader of the rats whose name is Nicodemus. There are also some very great names in this book. Nicodemus explains how they got to Nimh, what happened to them while they were there, how they escaped. And it is, it's scary. It's the story of bravery and perseverance, and loyalty. It's got a lot in there. It was written in 1971. And so it's a little ahead of its time for being written, like, well, 50 years ago now.

Charity 6:01 All the biggies. What kind of readers do you think would enjoy this story?

Dionne 6:07 I think that children who like to read about animals, for one, would like this story. Kids that like adventure would like this one, and maybe a little sci-fi fantasy thrown in there. It's one of my first introductions into that genre, I do believe.

Charity 6:22 What an excellent choice that was, Dionne. Thank you for sharing that.

Dionne 6:28 Oh, you're welcome.

Charity 6:29 I hope readers out there, if you're like me, if you have not read this one yet, let's all put this on our to read list because that sounds amazing. And they did make a movie of it. I assume you've seen the movie.

Dionne 6:40 They did make a movie of it.

Charity 6:42 Is the movie pretty close to the book?

Dionne 6:44 It came out in like 1982. It does differ from the books somewhat. It's still good. It has more of a mystical, magical element that they added to it for that story. So there are some differences, but I think they're both very enjoyable.

Charity 7:01 What a great title. Thank you for sharing that with us. Okay, now your second book. I feel like this needs a drumroll because I'm so excited to talk to someone about it. This is my number one favorite book. If someone asked, what's your favorite book? It is this book. Dionne, tell us about this book.

Dionne 7:18 Yes, this book has stuck with me since I think I was eight or nine when I first read it and it is From the Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. And this story centers around 12 year old Claudia Kincaid, and Miss Claudia is feeling pretty under appreciated at home and very dissatisfied. She decides that she wants something different. She wants to feel different and decides that the best way to do that would be to run away from home. But Claudia being Claudia doesn't just want to run away. She wants to go someplace where there's comfort, beauty, and maybe a touch of elegance. She's not a tent in the woods kind of girl Claudia isn't.

Charity 8:14 She runs away to the most fabulous place ever I think.

Does she not? Claudia is a planner and she is good at it. She decides that she is going to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. She's cleaning out her trash cans one day, her boring chores that she's very dissatisfied with and finds a half used Metro pass. And she says that's the sign. It's time for me to go. Well, Claudia is a very, very good planner but her finance skills aren't so great, so she decides she's going to ask her favorite brother Jamie to come along with her. Jamie is the one that has all the money. So he was really the best choice at the time. So they make their way to New York City and settle in at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And once there, they discover a statue that the museum has recently acquired for the price of $225, which is incredibly cheap for any piece of art. And they soon discover that this may in fact be the work of Renaissance master Michelangelo. And that starts the children off on the big mystery. Is it or isn't it? And it ends all the way to them meeting the titular character of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler who donated, who sold this statue for that $225 price tag.

Charity 9:50 I loved this book. I first read this book in sixth grade and we had an art museum and I thought it was just, it was this big, grand beautiful place and I always wanted to spend the night there. And then I read this book. And it was the first time I read a book that just struck me. I thought, Oh my gosh, how did the author know? Like, it's like she was reading my mind. How did she know I wanted to do that? And I loved that idea. Like, what kid doesn't want a little mystery, a little adventure? And probably a lot of kids at some point, at least, maybe daydream, or imagine that they run away.

Dionne 10:27 Definitely.

Charity 10:28 So even though I think it takes place in the 70s, but I feel like it's still very relatable, the feelings that Claudia is going through, and even kind of the dynamic between her and her little brother.

Dionne 10:40 Right.

Charity 10:41 Like even today's kids, like they're, you're gonna understand these kids.

Dionne 10:45 Very, very much. Yes, I think it came out in 1968. And yes, it does still have a lot of themes that are really valid. There's a few things that are different that you might have to explain to a young reader, like what an automat was.

Charity 11:01 Yes

Dionne 11:02 You don't have those anymore and that's how they basically ate from day to day is through the automat. I just, I loved the dynamic between her and her brother. Claudia can be a little emotional at times, and I kind of had forgotten that. And I had a much greater appreciation for Jamie when I reread it. He's very even keel and very practical. And he kind of calms Claudia down when she gets a little frustrated or upset because they just can't quite figure out this, you know, this statue and its origins. But yeah, it's still a really good story. And I think kids who like mystery, or adventure would really enjoy this book.

Charity 11:43 I agree completely. And I've reread a lot of the books that I read as a kid and this is one of the only ones that I still love just as much now. And it's one of the few books that I re-read because I don't re-read books, but this one I do, and I still love it just as much today, as I did when I was a sixth grader. Dionne, this was wonderful. These were two great choices. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Dionne 12:12 Thank you. This was a good time. I really had a good time. Thank you.

Charity 12:16 Thanks for joining us for another episode of the Planet Book podcast. Check out the library's website at for these and other great book recommendations. And follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events. This has been a production of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Thanks for listening.

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