Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.

With all the publicity surrounding the release of the Where the Wild Things Are movie, I've been thinking about some of the books I read (and loved) as a child.

Now, I can't say that I really got all that attached to many so called "Children's Books." I of course read Where the Wild Things Are, as well as others like Goodnight Moon, the Madeline series of books, and, if you talk to my Dad, What Do Smurfs Do All Day.

But the books that perhaps made the biggest difference to me growing up were the books I read as I got slightly older--the chapter books that I read early in life. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell--I loved this book. In fact, if I'm being honest, I still do. I'm pretty sure this is the book that is responsible for starting my love affair with horses. I remember that after reading this, I spent months giving anyone who would listen a lecture on the evils of the bearing reign. I'm sure my parents were thrilled.
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--Another of my favorites. I still read this one about every two years or so. As a kid, something about these girls struck a chord in me. I loved spunky Jo, gentle Beth, prim Meg, and pretty Amy. (But I loved Jo the best and wanted to be just like her.) And I still want Laurie to end up with Jo every time.
  3. The Babysitter's Club books by Ann M. Martin--I have no idea how many books there are in the series now, but I know for a fact that I read (and owned) at least the first 25 or 30 books and a few of the "Super Special Editions." They may not have been high quality literature, but they certainly gave me plenty of ideas for when I started baby-sitting on my own a few years later. I owe many a saved evening to the girls of the Baby-sitter's Club.
  4. The Thoroughbred Series by Joanna Campbell--Another series of books that has continued to expand. I loved horses as a kid and these books fed that love. It also made me want to be a jockey, that is until I had my growth spurt at 10 and ended up being 5'8". Still, little did I know that 15 years later I would be living in Lexington and seeing the places mentioned in the books every day.
  5. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume--This book is responsible for me having a turtle. The little boy in this book wins a turtle at a birthday party and I always thought that was the coolest thing. I wanted a turtle too and when I mentioned this to my sister a decade (and a half) later, she went out and found me one. And now I have Dean.
  6. Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O'Dell--I loved this book about an eskimo girl who races in the Iditarod with her father's dog sled team. I loved the sense of adventure that this book had and the information it gave me about dog sled racing. In fact, for awhile I wanted to move to Alaska and race dog sleds. That phase passed as soon as I figured out that it was dark for 6 months up there.
  7. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George-There was something about orphan books or books where the parents were absent that I loved as a kid. I loved this one and dreamed of running off to the wilderness and living off the land. The only problem was finding a falcon to hunt for me. And I wasn't sure I could find a hollow tree big enough (and I looked).
  8. Where the Red Fern Grown by Wilson Rawls--There are only 2 books I've ever read that made my cry. This is one of them. The ending gets me every time. This was also one of the first books I read for school that I really really loved. Sadly, there were not that many more in the future.
  9. A Wind in the Door by Madeline L'Engle--I'll admit, I never read A Wrinkle in Time. But I did read this sequel and loved it. It was a perfect mix of fantasy (which I still love) and science (which is now my career). It also introduced me to mitochondria, and I still can't help but think of this book every time I sit through a lecture on mitochondrial dysfunction.
  10. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter--Possibly the only books that held my attention as well as books about horses were books about Native Americans. There weren't many of them for kids to read, but this was one of them.

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