Saturday, November 19, 2005

National Children's Book Week

Do you remember your favorite book as a child? As National Children’s Book Week (Nov 14-20) winds down I’ve been thinking about the books I loved to read as a child. To be honest, I can’t remember most of the titles or authors, but I loved to read. From the moment I learned to string words together I was rarely without a book.

In first grade, looked forward to Fridays. I don’t remember if that school had a library, but our teacher had a collection of books at the back of the room and we were allowed to choose a book or two from the shelf to take home over the weekend. I never thought that was enough, always wanted to borrow just one more. Certainly some of the books were read more than once, but that certainly didn't bother or stop me.

My favorites then were CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG series, MY CAT LIKES TO HIDE IN BOXES by Eve Sutton, WHY CAN’T I FLY? (in which a monkey wishes he could fly) by Rita Golden Gelman and, most of all, SOPHIE AND GUSSIE (stories and poems about two squirrel friends) by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat – except I had difficulty mastering Sophie’s name, and so she was always “Soapie” to me. That book was so well loved and oft-read that the covers eventually disintegrated, and so too, I imagine, the rest of the book since it disappeared eons ago. Recently I was surprised when my younger sister asked me about that book – who it was by, and what the title was. Of course she had read my book and was wondering if it was still in print or if there was a chance of finding a copy for Payton. You can be sure we’ll both be searching for it!

At the end of first grade, there was a field trip to the public library. Oh my! So many books in one place! I couldn’t wait to get my very own library card, but it was not to be — at least not right away. Our family was moving, and so I had to wait a few months, when we were settled in our new home. How wonderful that there was a library in the shopping center right across the street! Summers found me making frequent trips across that busy road.

During the school year, I carried armloads of books home from the school library every week. I loved finding new books on favorite subjects, which at that time were mystery and anything that had ghosts or witches in it. I remember particularly liking the Dorrie books, stories about a young witch. I read so many books during second grade that at the end of the year, another classmate and I were both warded copies of THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett for reading the most books. I still have that book, though it is tattered and missing the last page.

Receiving the regularly distributed Scholastic Reader catalogs was always a delight, and then there was the monthly book club as well. So many books to choose from! I was usually allowed to buy one or two from the catalog every couple months, and also at the annual book fair supported by Scholastic. My mom grew impatient with my long deliberations over which book(s) I would choose, but with so many choices it was important to choose well. One of those was THE GHOSTS, by Antonia Barber. I found the premise fascinating, and it wasn’t until many years later, in college, that I learned it was based on a concept by poet W.B. Yeats.

As I grew up, other favorites included THE FOUR-STORY MISTAKE and AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE by Elizabeth Enright; the ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY series by Sydney Taylor; The Chronicles of Narnia; Lois Duncan, Joan Lowry and Judy Blume; and while most girls my age were into Nancy Drew, I preferred the more down-to-earth Trixie Belden and friends. Julie Edwards’ MANDY and Sally Watson’s WITCH OF THE GLENS garnered multiple reads. I still have my well-loved original copy of MANDY (printed in 1973 and faring much better than THE SECRET GARDEN), but the other was the library’s and I have never been able to find my own copy.

I’ve never lost that love of books and reading. Not only do I have overflowing shelves full, but several boxes stored in the walk-in closet as well. I find it difficult to get rid of any book I’ve read and enjoyed, having done that once before and regretted it. Some, like my Trixie Belden collection, may be passed down to my niece some day. And if I am ever forced to get rid of others, I hope they will find good homes somewhere.

Though National Children’s Book Week is nearly over, you don’t need a special occasion such as this to buy a book for a young reader, to nurture a love of reading within them. What were some of your favorite books as a child? Many have proved timeless and are still in print today. Go out and find one of your old favorites. Give it to a favorite child, a son or daughter, niece or nephew, and read it with them today!


Jana said...

Oh gosh! Favorite book as a child? Well, let's see, there was Up a Road Slowly, Summer of the Swans, Summer of My German Soldier, I practically consumed the Sweet Valley Twins series...well, as much as I could. Those had to be bought and well, wasn't much $$$ for new books. And then the Sweet Valley High series. There were a couple of other series type books that I used to read at school but I can't remember what they were. Plus, I discovered Harlequins at a very early age. hehehe

Heather said...

Yes! Summer of My German Soldier was an excellent one. I also read the sequel. Can't think of the title, now and wasn't quite as good, IMO. Also just recalled two by local YA writer Jocelyn Riley: Only My Mouth is Smiling and Crazy Quilt.

And then there were The Boxcar Children (can't believe how huge a series those are now), The Littles, and The Borrowers.

Rae said...

Just wanted to thank you for popping onto my blog and congratulating me.

I was a huge Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys fan, but before that it was Clifford, Curious George *gg* and I love, love, loved the Velveteen Rabbit. In fact, I still read it to my youngest.