Personal Literary Canon

Sarah Henderson

The BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFG was one of my favorite books in elementary school. This book was assigned for group reading in AIG and we spent months reading the book, making trivia games on the content, and constructing projects based on the characters and plot. The most appealing aspects of this book were the innocent and curious nature of Sophie mixed with the magical qualities of the plot. The events within the novel itself were appealing to me because they were so adventurous and unheard of. The book took the previous negative connotation that I had of a giants from fairy tales and shifted that view with a kind, mystical creature that I found amusing. This book seemed like a twist from the average fairy tale that was both slightly dark, yet mystical and brilliant.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum was a childhood favorite of mine. There was a lyrical element added to the text as it constantly repeated the name of the young mouse "Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum," which I would sing around the house the same way my mom read it. The reason that this children's book stands out in my mind is because it taught me a valuable lesson in life. The mouse hated having the name Chrysanthemum because it was abnormally longer than her peers and she was made fun of for being different. In the end, Chrysanthemum is seen as truly unique and beautiful, much like the flower that she is named after, and blossoms into an outgoing character by accepting who she is. This book teaches young readers the value of individuality and being unique. I learned that it was okay to be different, and that the right people would love me for who I truly was. Just like the flower, this book teaches the reader to reach beyond their comfort zone and show people their true selves.

Dr. Suess Books

The collection of Dr. Suess books are still amusing to me today. The most valuable aspect of this entire collection is the humor and absurdity that fills the pages. The catchy rhymes and lyrical form make the pages appealing and easy to remember. Dr. Suess even included some valuable life lessons in some books such as Oh the Places You'll Go that speaks about opportunity, as well as The Lorax that teaches young readers about the value of nature and keeping the environment clean. The way that Dr. Suess presents the messages is what makes children remember them the most. Suess, in a way, captures the simplicity of life and wonder of imagination for a child which helps them grow and develop as a person.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby has been added to my personal literary canon because of the culture of the story. While assigned as reading for my English III AP course, this work has become one of my favorite literary classics. There was great historical importance to the book as it depicted the splendid lifestyle of the 1920s by reflecting the author's life, and revealed this luxury through the relationships of several characters. The extravagance, the parties, the cleverness,and the rebellious attitude of this time period pulled me into the book from the start. There were also several relationships that developed throughout the text as the characters shifted, adding the aspect of love to the classic. Fitzgerald exaggerated these elements of the text, highlighting abundance and dishonesty; yet, as I read The Great Gatsby, the events seemed to be fantasy within a time period that actually holds historical importance in the United States. I was truly amazed that some people could live in such a manner as those in this tale, and I was almost jealous of the freedom and success that thrived during this time.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I did not read the entire Harry Potter series, but the first novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone still deeply impacted me as a reader. As a young girl, I was very imaginative and was always searching for magical elements of life or perhaps another world separate and more fantastic than the one I was living in. The books that I read gave me a way to escape to that other reality, but J.K. Rowling's tale of a boy who got to discover another world full of magic and witchcraft was amazing to me. I was curious about what creatures would exist in such a world, what someone would do if they ever discovered magical powers, and, of course, how I could get there. I never did finish the series; however, I loved the suspense that J.K. Rowling added to her books. The characters were young, yet intelligent, and Rowling created suspense within each book as well as to the next in the series. This book influenced a lot of what I later wanted to read, including books of girls who could fly and teens who escape danger. I still occasionally read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which originated from this series, because the culture of the tale is different than fairy tales usually publicized.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

I first read Hatchet when I was around ten years old. My teacher had given a selected book to each member of the class based on their reading level and I remember thinking that the book did not look very fun because there was a weapon on the front cover and no bright color indicating adventure. This book quickly taught me not to judge any book by its cover. The suspense throughout the novel drove me to read the book any chance I could. Hatchet was a story that revealed the brilliance of sacrifice, intelligence, and the beauty of life which I admired as a young reader. The boy in Hatchet was not looking for adventure, but was unexpectedly thrown into a life or death situation and I could feel the tension and disparity build as I read. As I read, I remember thinking about how brave this character was and I wondered what clever thing he would do next to save his life. However, looking at the work as I have gotten older has made me realize that I admired the character and felt empathy for the boy as he was driven into one conflict after another. The surprising and unexpected adventure that kept the reader on their toes is what has made this book very memorable to me and has influenced my style of reading and writing.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Sadly, I read Holes after I had watched the movie. My older brother was a fan of both the book and movie and quoted it often, so that made me excited to read the book. Not only is this book in my literary canon because of the memories that it evokes, but because of the style of the story told. Desert stories usually told are about isolation and starvation. Sachar brought this element into a creative mix of past and present actions at an all boys camp. I enjoyed the dialect the most simply because it revealed so many qualities about the characters. They were portrayed as clever, intelligent, curious, and misunderstood and their colorful personalities is what kept me entertained when reading the story of Stanley Yelnats' bad luck.

The Holy Bible

The Holy Bible has impacted my life more than any other book on this whole list. Holding historical, moral, and societal importance, the book has shaped my life from the inside out. By reading this, I have learned how to handle some of my hardest conflicts in life such as knowing what and when to pray, what morals I should uphold by, and that I am always loved by my Heavenly Father as it says multiple times through the pages. The quote that I placed on the senior wall was Philippians 4:13, which states, "I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." I have lived by this quote since I made the decision to let God's word lead my life, and constantly repeat this to myself on a daily basis when work becomes overwhelming or drama seems too much to bare. This book has been more than an outlet or an excuse for me, unlike others who claim to live by these verses. God's work has been my direction when I am lost and has taught me to always have faith.

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

I began reading The Hunger Games when everyone began leaking secrets about the new movie coming out. I chose to read the first book so that I would know what the series would be about and compare the book's content to the movie. Since to books are about such a gruesome topic, I wanted to prepare myself before watching the film. However, what turned into wanting to read one book turned into reading the entire series before the release of the first movie. The suspense of the action, comedy of the absurd characters and the capital, and love triangle kept me on a roller coaster of amusement throughout the entire series. I was either wildly entertained, on my toes, or crying out of pure disbelief of events that happened. Collins has a way of writing that makes the audience want to pick sides in this continuous Hunger Games and fight over Katniss' life and love. I found such an absurd and repulsive topic highly entertaining and creative.

Rick Riordan Books (The Lost Hero and The Red Pyramid)

While Rick Riordan is famous for his writing of the Percy Jackson series, I came to enjoy his extension of Greek and Egyptian mythological tales with The Lost Hero and The Red Pyramid. These novels tied fictional tales of Gods and Goddesses into the lives of ordinary people. Just as people had actually believed that these wonderful beings would impact their lives, Riordan does the same by depicting the personalities of Gods and Goddesses in today's society. I enjoyed the two books because Riordan wrote of characters that were about my age and it was as though the audience was experiencing all of the action with the characters for the first time. I liked that I could learn about an important part of ancient culture through relatable fiction. This again fueled my curiosity for monstrous creatures and magical elements that I enjoyed reading about.

Seekers Series by Erin Hunter

The Seekers series was a series that I had begun and sadly outgrew before the series was completed. The books were a continual series of adventures of three type of bears (black, brown, and a polar bear) that came from different homes and ways of living. All of the aspects of their journeys combined so that the three met at the Great Bear Lake. I enjoyed this series because realistic characteristics and habits of the bears were reflected in the fictional characters that seemed as though they were just as intelligent as humans. The trials that the bears faced and the adventures kept me interested and made me empathize with the animals as they showed a variety of emotions and care for one another.

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer

The Twilight Saga was my favorite series as a middle schooler trying to figure out the kind of person I wanted to be. I was an imaginative girl and often thought of fairy tales and cheesy stories where a prince charming would to win over a girl. Twilight was my escape from reality in which I could read about monsters, action, and romance all in the same series. There were hearts broken, violent conflict, and a love triangle that made you choose sides with each novel of the series. The suspense was what drove me to continue the series and the romance gave me a place to escape to when life got busy.