Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Childhood Favorites

My old description used to say that this was "A Blog About Books, From a Lifelong Fan of Them." It's true. Ever since I can remember, I've been a reader. When I was 13, I went to a school dance and slept over at a friend's house, and my dad said that he was pretty sure it was the first time I'd gone anywhere for an extended period of time without a book. Even now, I'll often carry an "emergency book": for example, you never know when you might be waiting on the side of the road for Triple A with nothing to do.

As a kid, one of my favorite authors was Zilpha Keatley Snyder, who wrote a lot about children who had encounters with the supernatural or imaginary worlds. My favorite by her was The Changeling, about Martha and Ivy's friendship. Martha came from a socially prominent family. Even her older siblings were popular, but Martha didn't fit in. She never had a friend until she became acquainted with Ivy Carson. Ivy, too, was a misfit in her family: the only one without any criminal aspirations. Ivy was into magic, and showed Martha a whole new way of looking at things. They talked to horses and trees. They spent a lot of time babysitting Ivy's sister, who had past-life experiences. They had a magic place where they hung out. It was totally my kind of story.

I talked a few days ago about how much time we spent searching for the gateway to Narnia; obviously that series was another favorite. I also loved the Prydain chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, which I wrote about in detail when he died.

L.M. Montgomery was another favorite author of mine. I got to know Anne of Green Gables through the made-for-TV version with Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew. I went on to read all eight of the Anne books. I grew up near the Canadian border, and went to Toronto regularly. There was a large bookstore there, in the days before Barnes & Nobles and Borders inhabited every strip mall. Not only was it huge, but they had books that Waldenbooks didn't. I read several more of L.M Montgomery's books this way. My favorite was the romantic The Blue Castle. The heroine, Valancy, awakes on her 29th birthday deeply depressed. She is unmarried and lives with her overbearing mother and aunt. She has never done anything her whole life: she's never had a close friend, or a suitor, or any memorable experiences at all. She sees a doctor -- secretly -- about some pains she'd been having and learns that she has a serious heart condition and only a year left to live. This book is the tale of what happens to her in that year. For some reason, I identified strongly with Valancy. I re-read this one regularly at one point in my life, and have read it so often, in fact, that I probably really don't need the book anymore.

Lest anyone think I was a pure child, I'll point out that I also loved things I knew I wasn't supposed to read. I'd often make an incursion into the young adult section, and my parents didn't censor my choices much (although I thought they might start when I told my mom about the book About David, which is about a teenaged girl whose best friend David murders his parents and shoots himself. I think I was 9 at the time.) The "problem novels", with all the sex, were always enjoyable. I'm pretty sure that I learned where babies came from in one of these books. I also liked Erma Bombeck's Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession, although I wondered what the first oldest profession was until I was in middle school. Judith Viorst's Yes, Married was probably dated by the time I got my hands on it, but there was a lot about sex in that book too. I'm sure it was mostly in a context like: "It's hard to have energy for sex after spending the day washing dirty socks and cleaning up after the kids" but still, it fascinated me, probably more for the glimpses of adult life than anything else.

And like any good child of the eighties, my friends and I were all titillated by Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. We never read the whole book, just this one particular part. I'm not even sure who turned me on to it, but there's apparently a pretty graphic sex scene in there somewhere (well, graphic if you're ten, anyway). The only phrase I remember is "thick and throbbing." It's never been enough to induce me to attempt them as an adult (although maybe it'll go on my list...) but was a surefire giggle inducer growing up.

What were some of your favorite books growing up?

1 comment:

momof3gr8kids said...

When I was really young, I was fascinated with the Little House books, Caddie Woodlawn, and the Boxcar Children. As I got a little older I really enjoyed Little Women and Gone with the Wind. I remember reading Clan of the Cave Bear! I also sneakily read The Thorn Birds in sixth grade. Interesting post!