Monday, June 16, 2014

Sharing Memories: Favorite Books of Childhood

Oh gosh - what were my favorite child books? I was an avid reader, often going to our little library and taking out seven books and a week later returning for another seven. I always said I should have become a librarian - other than the music/art rooms at school, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the library. I could live in a library and never leave and I would be perfectly happy. My local librarians always look to see what I am reading because they find my tastes interesting! That being said, it's childhood I am thinking about today.

I honestly don't remember which series of books I read first, but my guess is that is was either The Bobbsey Twins or The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton.I think I enjoyed the Blyton books because they took place in England and that intrigued me. I remember in one of the books they talked about Puffins and I have had an ongoing interest in them since. I even tried to talk my daughter into going to Puffin Island while she was living in Scotland, but alas, it did not happen. I recently read two of her books just to see if I still found them interesting and I thought, I wish I could give them to each of my grandchildren!

 From there is was pretty easy to segue into my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys phase - I am guessing I read every book in all these series; one of my obsessions I suppose. Next I read Betsy, Tacy and Tib
- another series I would love my granddaughters to read. I bought one at a yard sale not long ago and they stand the test of time as well.  I think what I love about these books is the inherent innocence of a lost time. Everything children read today seems to have lost that. Its about monsters, chillers and thrillers, geeky kids...I guess there are some nice ones - surely some of the Caldecott winners  are really good books, but I remember fighting with our local elementary school to get classics into the reading program instead of books like Bunnicula and Judy Blume books. They kept telling me kids didn't like classics any more - we are talking about Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa May Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Jonathan Swift, Hans Christian Anderson; how could that be?? If you don't try them, how are you to know? Argh...this is s a pet peeve of mine and just one of the reasons we decided to home school our children.

At any rate, getting back on track here, I also loved The Five Little Peppers books, another series with good values and a timeless message. I have this small collection in my
attic of many of these books - they just hold such a dear place in my heart - they were like my friends. In truth, like many readers, they transported me to another time and place and I could see myself playing with these children and being a part of their families. Crazy?? I don't think so, I think that is the joy we receive when we read -as a child, we believe what we read and want to emulate the things seen in books - how many kids have built a raft after reading Tom Sawyer or gone into nursing because they read the Cherry Ames series?? How many directors could visualize what they read and as  they grew older made use of movie cameras to make litttle black and white movies of the dreams they had when they read The Prisoner of Zenda or The Three Musketeers? I think I could safely say many people who have gone on to do great things, had reading play a large part in their dreams and goals.

My girlfriend Vivian and I share a love of the Beany Malone Books. Beany was from a big family that had big hearts. I wanted to make the 15 egg white Lady Eleanor cake that was made for special occasions and be friends with her and her friend Dulcie! I also was intrigued with Norbett, the guy she was always trying to impress! My friends and I shared these books back and forth and all loved them! When I first met Vivian through a theater group, we started talking about books we loved - she mentioned Beany Malone and I couldn't believe I found someone who remembered her! Many years later, when the internet became available, I tracked down the book and sent it to her as a gift

How can I forget Lousia May Alcott - I loved Little Women, Little Men, An Old Fashioned Girl, Jo's Boys, Under the Lilacs and Eight Cousins. I was madly in love with Laurie from Little Women and remember writing in my autograph book in sixth grade as Laurie - beyond weird as I look back, but that just tells you a little more about me!

When I moved at the end of sixth grade, I met a girl in my new neighborhood who introduced me to the Cherry Ames nursing series
I am pretty sure I spent the entire summer wrapped up in this series. I wanted to be a nurse! I loved the books because they introduced you to all types of nursing - Visiting Nurse, Flight Nurse, Army Nurse - you get the idea. There was always a little romance mixed in which for a 12 year old who was just a tad boy crazy, was just about perfect. I never did become a nurse, but did go on to work for a doctor and in hospitals - does that count?? Maybe I was trying to relieve what was captured in those books.

The next series that caught me was the Penny Parrish series. I have my friend Pauline to thank for that. Now I was sure I knew what I wanted to do - I wanted to be an actress!! I came closer to that than anything else, spending years in community theater, dinner theater, singing and performing at many places and being a part of Up With People right out of high school. I think those books and my eighth grade English 
teacher who took me to my first Broadway show, sealed the deal for me!

What books were your favorites? I also read Trixie Belden, most of Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, all of the Books of Knowledge encyclopedia (yes, I was that dorky), Hans Brinker, Black Beauty, Son of a Hundred Kings (which was really an adult book, but I loved it) and oh so many more.

What I did not read was Little House on the Prairie, Winnie the Pooh or Paddington Bear, The Hobbit (until after I was married and then became a huge Lord of the Rings fan) or The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe. I still haven't them (except LWATW) as I read other stories to my kids and my husband did the Little House books with our daughters and Winnie the Pooh with our son!

I cannot leave without mentioning my absolute favorite series for all time - Anne of Greene Gables. One of my friend's moms was Canadian and introduced me to these when I was around 8 or 9. Oh, I was taken in by Anne instantly. I have read all the Anne books over and over, even as recently as two years ago and I still love them. I still cry when Matthew dies and root for Gilbert and Anne to fall in love. I have enjoyed the PBS series done with Megan Follows, but it still pales next to the books. When my mother in law (who was Canadian and an Anne fan) heard I loved Anne, she gave me her first printing of Anne Of Ingleside as a gift. It definitely cemented the great relationship we had. To this day, when spring arrives and the trees on Main Street are all white - my husband knows I will look at him and say "White way of delight" - I can't help it!

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