Suggested Reading - Children's Literature


The books listed here will help make clear what it is that good literature is meant to do and why what so often passes for literature these days fails to live up to that high calling.

  • Carlson, Jill. What Are Your Children Reading? An Alarming Trend in Today’s Teen Literature. Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991. [I recommend this book for its well-documented survey of the general situation in children’s fiction. Especially helpful is the chapter on parental strategies, “What You Can Do”.]
  • Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends. London: Unwin, 1998.
  • Chandler, Russell. Understanding the New Age. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1988.
  • Hitchcock, James. What Is Secular Humanism? Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1982.(offered on the CERC web site)
  • Hunt, Gladys. Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Books, 1989. [Generally reliable but with some reservations, as with Wilson’s book, noted below. Hunt recommends L:Engle, Le Guin, and other questionable authors.]
  • Kilpatrick, Dr. William. Books That Build Character. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. [This book is valuable chiefly for its essays by Dr. Kilpatrick. The booklists at the end of the volume were not compiled by the author and contain recommendations for novels by L’Engle, Le Guin, and other questionable authors.]
  • Kilpatrick, Dr. William. Psychological Seduction. Nashville, Tenn.: Thorns Nelson, 1983.
  • Lewis, C. S. Of This and Other Worlds. London: William Collins Co., 1984.
  • Medved, Michael. Hollywood vs. America. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
  • O’Brien, Michael. Landscape with Dragons. Ignatius Press, (contains a marvelous 90 page recommended reading list for families compiled by Bethlehem Books–CERC).
  • Smith, Dr. Wolfgang. Cosmos and Transcendence. Peru, Ill.: Sherwood Sugden Publishers, 1984. [See the chapter “The Deification of the Subconscious”.]
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. Letters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 198I.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
  • Tolkien, J. R. R. Tree and Leaf. London: Unwin, 1975. [Cf. the essay “On Fairy Stories”. ]
  • Vitz, Paul. Evidence of Bias in Our Children’s Textbooks. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1986.
  • Vitz, Paul. Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1985.
  • Wilson, Elizabeth. Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature. Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1987. [This is a more or less reliable guide to literature for children and young adults, but I recommend it with some reservations. For example, Wilson sees no problem in Madeleine L’Engle’s fantasy novels. ]


O'Brien, Michael. “Suggested Reading.” In Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 169-170.

Reprinted by permission of Ignatius Press. All rights reserved. Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind- ISBN 0-89870-678-5.

Chapter six of this book proceeds to analyse the best fantasy literature now available describing what it is that makes the work of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald so exceptional.


Michael O'Brien is a professional artist and the author of a series of novels including his most recent A Cry of Stone, the best selling Father Elijah, and Eclipse of the Sun. In addition, he is the author of A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind which looks at the proper role of children's literature in the forming of character (see sample chapters from this book on the CERC site). O'Brien's articles on faith and culture have appeared in numerous journals throughout the English-speaking world. Michael O'Brien is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center. Visit his web site at:

Copyright © 1998 Ignatius Press

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