Friday, April 25, 2014

Defining Moments - Childhood Book Edition

Remember that school program Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R)? Gosh, I miss the 90s. My mom either invented that or just heavily capitalized on it, because once we grew too old for naps, she encouraged quiet time or silent reading time every day - alone in our rooms with books and barbies and the doors shut. Of course this was something we - or I, at least - hated and then grew to love.

It was my time to get away from the world of big sisters who were "too cool," and crying babies, and chores, and homework. It was my time to get lost in the pages of a book, to climb outside of myself and explore with reckless abandon and wonder. And the books I read and loved growing up helped define me. I can't wait to share them with my children and my nieces and nephews one day.

 What were some of your favorite childhood books and why? Here are just a few of mine:

Oh, these stories. One of my all-time favorites was Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and the No-Quitters Cure. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was my whimsical, dreamy grandmother-nanny, who could fix anything from whining and bad attitudes to scraped knees with her magical cures and charms. Before I have children, I am going to re-read these books.

Yes, this book, the one you give to expectant mothers? Maybe I stole it off of my mom's shelf and refused to give it back, but holy cannoli: I loved this book growing up, and to this day it still makes me ugly cry SO HARD. Such a beautiful narrative of a mother's love for her child.

Amelia was MY GIRL, my mentor, my confidante. She was just the perfect mix of Lucy from "I Love Lucy" and Pipi Longstocking, and there are few other characters in the HISTORY of fiction that I could (and still can) relate to more. In her charming klutzy way, she would ruin - and then save and then maybe ruin again - the day, but always with love in her heart, a smile on her face, and that daggone bonnet-hat-thing on her head. Plus she was ungodly lanky - what more could an awkward 10-year-old ask for? 

Ohhhh, Miss Rumphius - she was so beautiful, so classic-ly ageless, and so lonely in her secluded little cabin. I felt for her deeply and I was so moved by the hand-painted imagery - especially those gorgeous little flowers. American Book Award winner - 'nuff said.

Jan Brett, the storytelling sorceress, was my favorite author from the dawn of time until, maybe, college? I cannot tell a lie about this. I loved her stories and the beautiful artwork that lined the pages of her books. Everything looked so realistic. It didn't feel like kiddish "filler" art. "The Mitten" drew on my love of animals, the wonder of long Virgina winters, and the magic of the forest coming alive as soon as humans turn their backs. Not to mention, the concept of losing things, as is my signature. Great, great stuff here.

This, too, is sort of a book for parents, I feel like? You know, individuals who can comprehend the level of love, sacrifice, selflessness, and emotion behind bringing life into this world. But anyway, it spoke to me so deeply - again, the striking artwork, the lush dream-world feel it carried, plus the touching depiction of a parent's love for his/her child. Also one that still makes me cry.

Mmmkay, I maybe just shrieked and filled up with tears upon remembering this one. Carl was the most capable dog around - doing the Christmas shopping and wrapping on time, babysitting the kid, dolling out hugs and kisses when his family needed it most. I was obsessed with these books, as our childhood pup was a sweet Rottweiler named Maggie - the most loving and gentle creature you could imagine (unless you were livestock). My little sister would have tea parties with her and she'd follow us around the farm and sunbathe on the front porch. My love for dogs began with Maggie - and Carl.

Have you read this book? This should be required reading for all adults. I mean it. It was perhaps the first-ever self-help book. In it, the adorable little blue engine isn't sure if he can make up over the crazy, scary mountain - and he tries and fails and tries and fails - but he doesn't give up - and eventually he makes it over the mountain and saves the circus, or the small town's economy, or maybe both, or whatever. 
      WOW. I was reading this in elementary school. I was inadvertently learning that adversity is GOOD for us. CHANGE and FEAR are things we must face. "I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN," the little engine says at the beginning of his journey. The power of positive thinking. One of my favorite parts of the book (and I think this is from the book and not the movie that followed it?) is the part where the engine hits a rough patch in his ascent and begins sliding back down the mountain. "I THOUGHT I COULD; I THOUGHT I COULD; I THOUGHT I COULD," he says desperately. Openness, honesty about our struggles. HOLY CRAP I DON'T THINK I CAN DO THIS BUT JUST HOLD ON. This is powerful freaking stuff - all in the pages of a children's book. I look back at it now and marvel at the messages shared: "YES, WE CAN" (Obama owes royalties) and "WE CAN DO HARD THINGS" (a lotta' people owe royalties). They still ring true for me and you all these years later, whether we're able to see that through the fog of everyday life or not. Let that be a lesson to all of you - and to me, who needed to be reminded of this today - I THINK I CAN. I THOUGHT I COULD. I THINK I CAN. I THINK I CAN. I THINK I CAN.

And all of a sudden, we're DOING it, people.



1 comment:

DoshTate said...

My favorites:
"The Big Orange Splot" where Mr. Plumbean decides he does not want to live on a "neat street" - he wants to live where everyone displays their unique, funky, weird and honest selves, through paint and tacky lawn furniture.
"Good Families Don't" I did not discover this until I was older. Its about farts. Canadians who fart, to be exact. One of Robert Munch's finest books.
"The Man Who Cooked For Himself" - this is probably known now as the hipster/hippie manifesto, but it tells the story of a man who didn't know how to cook, fish, etc for himself. He learns not just how to do these things, but how to enjoy the process. This probably explains why I always make my own pie crust. (that, and I'm crazy).
Love this post! How about a middle school/YA edition?