Susan covered some wonderful books on writing, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and talk about the books I read when I was a child that lingered in my mind as favorites. I think part of the reason I wanted to write, was I loved the power these books had to take me away, make me cry or laugh—or want to be one of the characters and live the adventure I was reading. These are the books I looked forward to reading to my children—and when I did, some of them surprised me.
Not all of these books wove a magic spell on me the second time around when I read them as an adult to my son. I sometime wondered if some of these books were too rich or introspective to read aloud—or maybe because my own writing is so sparse, the details that didn’t bother me in the past bogged me down. Even if a couple of these books didn’t grab me as a grown-up, I still distinctly remember the emotions I felt reading them as a child.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead
1) Fifth Grade: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell—assigned reading. I lived every minute on the island with Karana. I ached when her brother was killed and she vowed revenge on the pack of dogs. My heart soared when she befriended Rontu and the power she had to forgive. I remember trying to convince my family to name our new kitten Rontu—but alas, stubbornness to honor Rontu to the puzzlement of my family resulted in the new kitten being forever called “Kitten.”
2) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. I vividly remember finishing this book. It was by far the most ambitious book I’d read other than The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. (That was an assigned book—one I put off reading until the day before the report was due—story of my life. I had to play sick, and then spent the ENTIRE day reading. It’s a very long book and I ended up really enjoying it, only to reread it years later and again wonder why I put up with soooo many long-winded descriptions.)
Anyhoo—I was sharing a room with my two stepsisters and they complained loudly about the light being left on so I could read, and I stupidly woke them up after midnight to tell them I’d finished the book and that it was THE BEST BOOK EVER. They weren’t book lovers, and my jubilee was met with a painful sock in the arm for waking them up. I ended up reading the entire series, but the Hobbit was the only one that captured my heart. I think all the fighting toward the end turned off my impressionable heart—and not even Orlando Bloom can persuade me to watch the movies.
3) The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears. Ah, romance—well romance wedge in between Puritanical fear and a fish out of water story. Always feeling a bit out of the main stream myself, it was easy to imagine I was Kit living in a world in which no one understood her—except Nat—sigh. This is one book I haven’t reread—I’ve been burned before, but this book stirred those first feelings of “someday someone will sweep in and take me away from this life.” Um, note to hubby, everything is just great, and no I’m not still hoping to get swept away—well, most days I’m not.
4) Sixth Grade: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. Here’s the romance again—and a child wanting to grow up faced with an almost impossible decision. I was riveted to Winnie and what she’d decide. While this book has lived up to rereading, I did have to press more than a few students to read past the ambiguous first page to get to the good stuff.
5) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson—assigned reading. OH MY GOD! I’ve read this book dozens of times and cried like a baby each and every time. I remember reading it to one of my fifth grade classes and having a student read the ending because I was too choked up. This is one I haven’t tried with my kids—I’m not sure why, but I could read this one a hundred times over.
Other favorites that didn’t live up to the reread—A Wrinkle in Time, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Phantom Toll Booth—but I loved them all as a kid.