It's time to throttle back on the intensity of the bedtime stories. The adventures of Harry Potter are fantastic, but at the end of the day, some six year-olds might find the ever-intensifying return to absolute power of a physically and spiritually mutilated, deathless and unstoppable sociopathic wizard a little less than soothing right before lights out, knowwhadduhmean? Maybe it even keeps them up past 10 p.m. scared witless some nights, who knows.
It's interesting, but if you want a charming and engaging but ultimately lighthearted and safe read, it seems like you have to go back to mid-century children's literature. What's up with that? It's fascinating, really. Harry Potter well and truly appears to have altered the entire landscape of children's publishing, and thereby what children regularly read and have read to them. That's not even counting the shift towards graphically depicted themes of harm and abuse in young adult fiction (you can read articulate opposing views on that particular issue here and here). Is this a good, bad, or neutral thing? I have not explored my own opinion, I just know my own kid needs something else right now.
Harry Potter and other dark fantasy may still have its place in the earlier light of day, but I'm working on a big ol' list of gentle titles to reserve for before bed. I haven't read most of them, so please give me a heads up if there's a glaring ommission, or if behind one of these titles hides disturbing themes or scenes (Betsy Tacy is out because I understand that Tacy's infant brother dies near the end; I'm not going there right now). We just finished The Borrowers by Mary Norton, and it was very well received.
Here's the list so far, in no particular order:
That should probably carry us through the summer. There's a whole passel of that sort of old books to choose from, and thankfully the always helpful "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" feature on Amazon.com to point the way to similar fiction.
About that whole notion that you need a time machine to find a gentle and engaging story with relatively child-like child protagonists, feel free to read (and barf) a little bit about Kids Getting Older Younger (also called "age compression") from the mouths of advertising professionals. Gross.