With the help of Dr. Mark West, a children’s literature expert based at the University of North Carolina, and Jessica Ewing, Literati’s CEO, we took a deep dive into the books our members decided to keep to find out why they liked them so much.
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon was actually our second-best performing book in club Sage (7-9), just pipped to the post by I Am Gandhi, but Dory is an early chapter book that is a fantastic way for children to build confidence and make that leap to reading ‘grown-up books’.
“When it comes to kids reading at the chapter book level it’s all about strong, memorable characters,” Jessica says. “Dory is zany and fun and any kid can relate to her – being the small one, the one being left out, or the little kid among the big kids. She’s just a very relatable, lovable character. And if kids at that age like the character, they’ll read the book, no matter what it’s about.”
Mark says the book ties in to what he sees as an appealing tradition of writing about girls with wild imaginations and who are a little bit on the rebellious side. “It reminded me of Eloise in New York with her pug dog and wild imagination. Or the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. I like seeing girls presented as being a little bit mischievous, not conforming to expectations of the well-behaved child because Dory is everything but well-behaved.”
He says although Dory has a zany imagination, though, it shows how she uses that imagination to cope with her feelings if she thinks she isn’t being treated with respect. “She uses her imagination to bolster her ego and make her feel a little more important.
‘There’s an immense satisfaction for children when they master chapter books and become independent readers.’
“It reflects the reality for young children that they go back and forth between their interior lives where their fantasies are almost as important as real life, but then they have to encounter real life, something kids don’t always want to do. Dory is trying to find way of making peace with reality but not repress her kooky, imaginative side.”
Mark says there’s an immense satisfaction for children when they master chapter books and become independent readers. “Even if the chapters are short, the fact there is a chapter at all gives them a huge a sense of satisfaction.”