Weekly Geeks #3: A Trip Down Memory Lane

This week’s challenge asks us to write about fond childhood memories of books. The problem for me is defining “childhood.” Should I include favorites from my teenage years too? Or do I only write about books from before I had any responsibility, my pre-schooling years? I suppose I can define it any way I want, so I’m going to just write from my first experience with chapter books on to books that had a profound impact on me while I was growing up, including some of my favorites from the required reading I did in High School.

So let’s start with my first-ever memory of a chapter book. This goes all the way back to about first or second grade and is my most cherished reading experience. The book was actually the Ralph S. Mouse series by Beverly Cleary and the reader was actually my mom. It took us months to get through these books, as she read them to me at bedtime and I often fell asleep while she was reading (although it was more often that I’d still be awake and beg her to read a second chapter). I don’t remember much about these books aside from them having been about a mouse with a motorcycle, a car, or what have you. He had fun adventures. I remember that. What I remember most though was that cherished time with my mom that I rarely got as I grew older (it’s not easy to get personal time with the ‘rents when you have eight siblings). Other books I remember her reading to me were about the Littles, Ramona Quimby, Amelia Bedelia and something about a sock-eating monster under the bed (couldn’t find it on Amazon).

Once I was reading on my own, I loved series books. I read The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High and The Boxcar Children all the way up until fourth grade, where I discovered Roald Dahl and quickly set out conquering the stack of books he had written. Matilda was my all-time favorite and I read it over and over and over again. The only book to this day that I have ever re-read. I also absolutely loved Island of the Blue Dolphins.

In middle school I don’t remember reading much. I’m sure I read, but it was a time of turmoil in my life. We moved at the end of my sixth grade year, then just as I had established my new best friends and figured out the town my dad announced another move, planting me in a brand new school for my first year of high school as well.

In high school I was required to read, and those books are what I remember most. I know I read other books as well because I was often caught reading a book behind the book I was supposed to have been reading. I’d also read my brothers’ and sisters’ required reading books that they brought home from middle school since I’d missed out on them (I don’t remember there being quite as much required reading in Utah as there is in California).

From this required reading I remember The Giver (which was actually from my younger sister’s list). That book I think was the first thing to make me wonder about where technology is taking us and what our society would be like if we were to become a “utopia.” I remember being shocked to realize that taking away everything bad in our world and shielding people from the realities of life doesn’t necessarily make life better. This book may well have been the most influential book I read as a child.

Then there was The Good Earth – my first book by a feminist. And after that was Ender’s Game, which then sent me on an Orson Scott Card binge for my remaining years of high school.

Of all the required reading though, the one that surprised me most as a favorite was Hamlet. Each year we were required to read a Shakespeare play and each year I would read it and wonder why on earth everyone admired Shakespeare so much. But my senior year I had an amazing English teacher who finally was able to help me understand the Shakespeare thing. Granted, I’ve never tortured myself through another of his plays, but I did enjoy Hamlet. I still have my copy with all of its highlighting, notes in the margins and post-its poking out in all directions. Shakespeare and John Steinbeck remind me that even if I don’t like one book by an author, I should try some of their other stuff before writing them off completely. Sometimes they end up surprising me.

So, what were some of your childhood memories with reading? Some of your favorite books? Authors?

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Published in: on May 13, 2008 at 3:56 pm  Comments (12)  

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  1. I posted my childhood books yesterday, but the more I read other blogs, the more I want to go back and edit my own – AGAIN! I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins (read it several times). I’m just now reading The Good Earth since I didn’t have to to in school. I’m also an Orson Scott Card fan – read those in high school when I was supposed to be doing homework. LOL

  2. I forgot to mention the Babysitter’s Club. That was a great series. Also, I created a meme for this week’s challenge. Here is the link in case you would like to participate:
    http://beastmomma.squarespace.com/from-shelf-to-hand/2008/5/13/weekly-geeks-3-fond-memories-of-childhood-books.html

  3. Ohh, I really liked the Ralph S. Mouse books. My real love though was the Bunnicula books.

  4. Reading through your post, I realised I have missed out mentioning Gulliver Travels. I was fascinated by the stories. Although two are popular, I have read 7 of those. I must fish out my old copy and give it my nephew. I think he is going to love it.

  5. I also remember Ralph S. Mouse — I think it was one of the first longer books that I read. And I completely forgot about the Boxcar Children, I was obsessed with those books, probably because there were so many of them and I felt like I would never run out.

  6. Thanks everyone for the comments! Isn’t it funny how nostalgia gets us all talking?

    Heather: You’ll love The Good Earth. I thought it was a wonderful read.

    Beastmomma: I’ll definitely check out the meme later today. Thanks for the link!

    John: My brother loved Bunnicula too! I don’t remember having ever read any though. I think I thought they would be too scary. Maybe I should check them out now that I’m older and slightly less of a scaredy cat.

    Gautami: I have to admit, I never read Gulliver’s Travels! I really should have read it by now.

    Greyskyeyes: I think that’s also why I loved series books so much. Even still I hate when a story really ends. I always want to know what happens next!

  7. We share Island of the Blue Dolphin as one of our favorites! I’ve been thinking about rereading it. I read The Giver for the first time this year and really enjoyed it. Nice post!

  8. We share a lot of favorites. I devoured The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High. I actually just finished The Giver this morning! I somehow made it out of my childhood without reading this one. Loved it!

  9. Ralph S Mouse! I used to read the motorcycle one to my oldest when she was little. Now she’s in 8th grade and won’t let em read to her anymore… brat. =)

  10. Ooh, fun topic! I wasn’t a big fan of Ralph S. Mouse — animal books and I never got along — but I loved the Beezus and Ramona books: I was SO Beezus, and my sister was definitely Ramona. I adored the All-Of-A-Kind Family books, and every book by Eleanor Estes, and the Trixie Belden mystery books, and the Anne of Green Gables books, and the Encyclopedia Brown books, and the Chronicles of Narnia. And, just to show that I’m a bit weird, I knew where the non-fiction WWII section was, too.

    Now I want to go to the library and start on a memory lane reading binge. In fact, I still re-read the Anne of Green Gables and Narnia books.

  11. Aw, Layla I love you for being a big dork! You know what books I forgot to mention? I totally forgot about my love affairs with The Secret Garden and Polyanna! I loved those books to death. I definitely think I’ll reread those now that I’m older and see what I think.

  12. Oooh, The Secret Garden! I picked up a very cheap hardcover copy at Barnes & Noble a couple years ago, and I actually think it was even better than I’d remembered. I re-read it again less than a year ago.


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