Monday, May 30, 2011

The Books of Childhood (Book Nerds Unite)

I remember the first time I read by myself. I don't recall the name of the book but hazy illustrations have remained in my mind. I was around 4 years old, sitting in my bedroom at my parents' first house. That realization that the letters meant something, that I could understand how they composed a story.  That moment changed everything.

I have many fond memories of the books that raised me. Mom reading to my brother and I. Classrooms full of books to read and borrow. Our local library, a frequent haunt of mine, which won awards.

I still see myself sitting on my favorite part of the couch, feet propped on the coffee table, reading for hours and hours. My parents used to tell me to go outside, get some fresh air, and so I'd drag my book with me, setting up camp on a swing or the random inner tube we had. It's not that I didn't like playing and running outside- I did. But it was hard to remove myself from a story once begun.

There are so many books that I've forgotten about.  Many contenders from Battle of the Books, like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, that I know I loved but can't remember why or what the plot was about. Books enjoyed at the time that now make me cringe or reflect my reading tastes back then. These listed below still endure. I may or may not have reread them in recent years.  A well-loved book might be better than comfort food at times.

Chances are you will tell me about your favorite childhood books and I will smack myself on the forehead.  Of course!  How could I forget? That is what I have appreciated about this book series, not just sharing the books near and dear to my heart but hearing about the ones you've loved best.  Adding to my To Read list but also remembering the ones I'd forgotten. Thank you for that.

Favorite Childhood Books:
Black Beauty- Anna Sewell  I went through a horse book phase. I couldn't read enough books about horses but this one always stood out against the rest.  It's funny that I loved these books because I never had a desire to go riding myself. Apparently I just liked reading about other people that did.

Bridge To Terabithia- Katherine Peterson  Secret imaginary kingdom plus boy and girl friendship and then a horrible twist. Did anyone read this and not cry?

The Face on the Milk Carton- Caroline B. Cooney Remember those milk cartons with the pictures of missing children?  Yep, there's the inspiration. A girl discovers the people she thought were her parents actually kidnapped her and she has a "real" family.  Bonus points if you remember that Kellie Martin starred in the TV movie. Cooney's books were great, though I tended to stay away from her "scary" titles.  The Girl Who Invented Romance was another fave, simply because the name "Leigh" is mentioned.

Frog and Toad are Friends- Arnold Lobel  I mean, it's just so sweet and endearing!

The Giving Tree- Shel Silverstein The tree who loved her boy. It totally could have been creepy, yet it wasn't.  Where the Sidewalk Ends was always good for a laugh.

Hinds Feet on High Places-Hannah Hurnard Mom read this allegory of the Christian life to my brother and me, as well as its sequel. Better than Pilgrim's Progress from my recollection of the two.

James and the Giant Peach- Roald Dahl I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dahl. Such interesting stories he spun for us. James the orphan who befriends insects living inside a giant peach. It's a strange premise yet it works perfectly.  The BFG was another favorite.

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott I always thought of myself as a combination of the strongminded Jo and artistic Amy. I can still remember taking it off the shelf in my 4th grade classroom, unaware of the four sisters its pages held yet ready to dive into their world.

Little House on the Prairie- Laura Ingalls Wilder My friend Ruth and I used to play LHOTP in her backyard. We were all about the pioneer life!  I first read this in 2nd grade and loved not just the story, but also knowing it was based on a true story.

Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock-Carolyn Keene I should have mentioned Nancy in my series list but she's so solidly connected to my childhood that it seemed more appropriate here. There was something about the plucky teen sleuth that was relatable. I envied her convertible and boyfriend Ned. Wherever Nancy's books went, I inevitably followed.  I can still picture where the books were kept in the library and the time I found an original copy at a resale shop. Those Case Files were the best but it all started with the Secret of the Old Clock.

Old Yeller- Fred Gipson I can barely think of this without crying. Saddest dog story ever.

Ramona Quimby, age 8- Beverly Cleary Ramona's adventures were enjoyable tales. Who couldn't relate?

Seventeen Against the Dealer- Cynthia Voigt The final book about the Tillerman family was my favorite. Dicey's struggle to make her way ends up leading her away from her loved ones. The lessons she learns are lessons we must all learn.

Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene Maybe this is where my interest in World War II began? A young Jewish girl strikes up a friendship with with a Nazi POW leading to repercussions for herself and her town.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit- Beatrix Potter Oh that Peter Rabbit! The illustrations bring the story to life. The movie based on Beatrix's life is worth watching just to see how she found inspiration.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith My all time favorite book when I was in middle school, this coming of age tale of a girl observing her family and trying to make her way in spite of her surroundings still resonates with me today.

The Westing Game- Ellen Raskin Such a great mystery! I never saw the ending coming. Did you?

Winnie the Pooh- A. A. Milne Silly, willy, nilly old bear. Winnie the Pooh and company still hold my attention. Lovely stories, lovely lessons on what friendship really means.

A Wrinkle in Time- Madeline L'Engle Love, love, love this story of the Murray children's adventure! I read the continuing stories but there's just something about this one that I cling to. Maybe remembering the awe I felt for the world the Murrays encountered, the grave responsibility they held, and my all-consuming wish to be more like Meg.  Oh, and did you know I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. L'Engle herself?

Stay tuned for more reasons why Leigh Likes Books:

Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite childhood books?

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  1. Most of those are on my favorites list as well. I would include five-book series, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

  2. Love this list. I read "The Face on the Milk Carton" so many times that a few years ago my mom got me a signed copy for my birthday.

  3. I loved a Wrinkle In Time and now I am thrilled to hear that they continued it! I never knew that! Thanks Leigh!

  4. @Shawn, I've never heard of The Chronicles of Prydain! Wonder if they'd still be worth reading?

    @Ruth, your mom is the best.

    @Brownie, I think there are 3 or 4 more about the Murrays, all fantastic. Enjoy!

  5. Hey Leigh- I thought I was "the best" as I like to think I had a part in introducing you to your love of words. Ha! I enjoyed reading your list. Had flash backs to your meeting Ms. L'Engle & Battle of the Books. Do you happen to have my copy of Hinds Feet on High Places? Love you...

  6. yes! i LOVED bridge to terabithia and all the katherine patterson's books. i reread judy blume's just as long as we're together a bit, too. loved the westing game and the face on the milk carton (and you KNOW i watched kellie martin in the movie:)

    i read everything i could get my hand on when i was little: many you listed, babysitter's club, boxcar children, indian in the cupboard. i remember some mysteries: view from the cherry tree and a series about twins named after food (the hot fudge sundae affair...) wish i read so much now!

    i didn't read a tree grows in brooklyn until i was an adult, and i loved it so much we almost named our daughter brooklyn:)

  7. LIke this list. Of course, L'Engle ( I'm a little crazed) and as I shared earlier, I loved Nancy Drew. Had them all, most copies from the 1940's. Y'all are so much younger than me. I read most everything on your list, later in life for students or my children. Back in the dark ages, choices seemed slimmer. I really like The Taste of Blackberries, I read about James and that Peach of his about my third grade year. I read lots of non-fiction - nerd that I was, the encyclopedia, all my granddad's 30 years of NatGEO. I read most anything. I even read the Hardy Boys - my Daddy had them all. Not so many cool, big words as Nancy, but not bad. I think I also read all my Dad's Zane Gray's. Not so great, but I read them.

  8. The Westing Game! Love. Only book I will not let my students read ahead.

    Number the Stars by Lois Lowery

    Where the Red Fern Grows
    Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.
    Anything by Dr. Suess and Chris VanAllsbutg
    Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna
    Charolette's Web
    Mr. Popper's Penguins
    Pink and Say Patricia Palacco
    The true confessions of Charolette Doyle by Avi

    Will definitely have to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

  9. Can I just say
    "Yes yes yes yes yes!!!" Because I have to restrain myself from writing about EACH.ONE.OF.THESE.BOOKS....I loved them ALL!

    Thank you for saying that Hinds Feet is better than Pilgrims Progress. I SO agree!

    Little Women is one of those books that I grew with. I read it the first time when I was in 3rd grade and loved it. Then I read it again the next year and (still loved it) understood more...this continued for several years.

    Face On the Mild Carton exasperated my secret belief that I was adopted and my parents just hadn't yet admitted it to me. I did read a few of her scary books, but didn't like them as much.

    Charlotte's Web was a favorite for me.

    OOOOOH! And the Borrowers (they made a movie about the first one, that was SO bad.....I couldn't even make it through the whole thing) I loved the Borrowers.

  10. The one book that sticks out from my childhood is Oranges and UFO's by Muriel Leeson. I read it a lot. I don't remember why I liked it, but it could be one reason why I like sci-fi today.

    i also read the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and anything else that came through the doors of our house. It was entertainment, not having cable TV for many years. Thus having 2 sisters, I read Ramona Quimby. I read some of the Babysitter's Club series.

    And as I was writing this comment, I thought of another series I read. It is the Bruno and Boots series by Gordon Korman. I loved it until I got a little older. Now it is nostalgic to think about it.

  11. @Mom, yes you are The Best! Thank you for passing on your love of books.

    @Suzannah, Of course you watched the Kellie Martin movie! Love it. I never got in to Judy Blume, partially because I wasn't allowed to read her for awhile. Love that you almost named your daughter Brooklyn after the book. That is so sweet! I'm sure some day you'll get back to your old reading habits. Rumor has it that parenting changes things:)

    @Kim, stop it with the "y'all are so much younger stuff." You are not that old!!! I've not heard of The Taste of Blackberries. I was known to peruse an encyclopedia from time to time. And I totally read the Hardy Boys- they just didn't compare to Nancy Drew in my mind.

    @Heather, how could I forget Where the Red Fern Grows and Charlotte's Web? Ack! I remember liking The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle too. Also, I miss you!

    @Tracie, we are totally Book Buddies! Loved the Borrowers and definitely wondered whether I belonged in my family after reading The Face on the Milk Carton.

    @Doug, I've never gotten in to sci-fi but I love that you can trace your interest back to that book! Also love that your reading was not limited to just Boy Books.


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