Even so, when I study colonial America, to this day the imagery that first comes to mind is from "Dan Morgan: Rifleman." This is anecdotal evidence that we should be careful what children are exposed to.
For a couple years, I devoured the very old Nancy Drew stories. It is a testament to how starved we were for a little characterization, an intellectual puzzle and a strong heroine that we slogged through so many pages of truly bad writing for what little of those elements crept into the books, probably by accident. I still love mysteries today.
For the longest time I thought of "Candide" by Voltaire as my favorite book, and it remains one of them. I first read it because it was assigned. Then I read it to see what I missed the first time. Then I read it in French, not all by myself, but with Monsieur Larousse at hand.
I never really thought of wrinkly old men from the 1700s as writing funny novels, but Voltaire did. Biting, too. Clever, concise, irreverent, but not entirely hopeless.
Twenty years later I can still recommend "Candide" because it is brilliant and relevant, but I can also admit that much of my admiration is of the "Hop on Pop" variety. (I did it!)
More recently I've returned to Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey, encouraged by fifth-graders in my Read Aloud West Virginia class, who enjoy these ancient adventures. Together, we marvel at a story 3,000 years old, with people whose aspirations and foibles are so current and recognizable they remind us of people we know, or of ourselves.
Don't miss "Books I Have Loved" in your Sunday Gazette-Mail.
Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.