Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Books of My Childhood

I've wanted to do some more personal posts for a long time, but I have had trouble figuring out what to do. When I think of something I convince myself out of it because I just don't think people will be interested, honestly. While this is probably just stupidity on my part, I figure that is the case sometimes, so I've taken some time to figure out what to write. But I was browsing some blogs and came across Belle's Bookshelf. First, she clearly loves Beauty and the Beast (my favorite Disney movie of all time). I immediately liked her. And second, she's done a lot of posts listing her favorites of things. One she had was "Top 5: Series that Defined My Childhood". I read it, and immediately knew that was what I wanted to talk about. I've always been fascinated hearing what made people the readers they are today, and have never really explored it in myself, though I've always wanted to... So thanks Belle! My list is not exactly the same; it's not a top 5 and it's not necessarily series, just books that impacted my reading life growing up.

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

This is one of the first books I remember loving as a child, aside from the Berenstein Bears books. The puppy always reminded me a little of myself, getting curious and wandering off to find interesting things, and I always got sad when he didn't get his dessert. As a kid who loved her food, I felt for a guy who didn't get that pie.

Every once in a while I pick it up at the store and find myself reading it, since I'm not sure where my childhood copy went. I always smile. I always find the puppy's plight sad, but it's also a perfect reminder of the time in my life when the saddest thing that could happen was being sent to bed without dinner. I certainly haven't had a hard life, but, as is inevitable, I've become more jaded and realistic than I was as a child, and I love the reminder and the memories of my parents reading about the poky little puppy as I fell asleep.

The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Apparently I was a competitive little bugger growing up. In elementary school, we had Accelerated Reader. If you don't know what it is, it's a system where books are assigned a grade level and points, and you take a test after reading them to earn those points. At the end of the year, my school awarded the student who had earned the most points in each class, as well as in the school. In first grade, I decided I wanted to win. Badly. So I picked up The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, with a grade level of 8 and worth 26 points. I read it and took the test, pretty much on the last day that we could earn AR points. I HAD THE MOST POINTS IN THE FIRST GRADE. I WAS SUPERIOR TO ALL AND WAS QUEEN OF THE WORLD. Until the teachers decided it wasn't fair that I had taken a test at the end of the year worth so many points, and didn't let me win. I got a special certificate, but NO TROPHY. Needless to say, it has scarred my memory ever since, and the book that would have been a fleeting memory is ingrained for having helped me beat all of the wimpy first graders, and yet not.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Even today this is one of my favorite books. Out of every book I've ever read, I've read this one more times than any of them. I'm not huge on rereading things, but I've easily read Ella Enchanted thirty times. I remember a time when I literally read it over and over and over again. I finished it and immediately flipped back to the first page and started again. If that's not love of a book I don't know what is.

I think this is what fostered my love of fairy tale retellings. It's one of the first books I remember that gave me the familiar yet new sense that I love about retellings, and what has made me seek them out even now. It didn't hurt that I was in love with Char and thought Ella was about the coolest girl ever. I think Char was probably my first swoon-worthy love interest; the first male character I wanted to marry. I even love the hokey movie starring Anne Hathaway that is practically unrecognizable from the book. In my mind, this book is flawless and always will be.

---We're on to my fantasy phase! The one that really lasted from the middle of elementary school and pretty much hasn't stopped. I read other things, but fantasy is kinda my lifeblood. I don't read it often even, but it's what I love more than anything. I'm not sure about the order of these last three in my life, since they all go together in my brain, but it's not really of importance.---

The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

Interestingly, The Golden Compass was the first book I ever listened to as an audiobook, and I think it set the tone for the audiobooks of my life (of which there are very few). I feel like I don't get the story properly. When I finished listening to this, I immediately picked up the physical book and began reading it again. This was partially because it was awesome, but also because I didn't feel as connected to the world as I was used to.

After I finished it, I got the next two pretty much immediately and devoured them. And though the first one is the only one I've read twice, I feel profoundly connected to these books. I was close to Lyra's age when I first began them, and felt like she and I were related in some way. I didn't go on fantastic adventures like she did, but I was finding myself, just like Lyra was. I was certainly jealous of her, going into alternate dimensions with Pantaliamon while I was stuck learning math, but Lyra was important to me and, really, she still is.

The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

To this very day, as I sit in my bed, Robin McKinley is unequivocally one of my favorite authors of all time. I'm a couple of books behind on her recently, but I at least own everything she has written. She is one of the first authors I could admire simply for her writing itself. The words flow on the page so beautifully and her worlds practically create themselves in my head. I read these two books as I was growing to appreciate such things and as I was learning not every story has a perfect happy ending. The Hero and the Crown was written second, but takes place before The Blue Sword, so I read them for chronology, rather than publication date, but it really doesn't matter. Both stories are of women finding themselves in situations that should be beyond them, yet they persevere and they succeed beautifully, but not without a cost. I don't love many books like I love these two. They've both gotten later rereads to find that I love them just as much now as I did then, though I'm due for an all out McKinley fest. (Would anyone join me???)

The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix

Sabriel and the other Abhorsen books were definitely some the first darker books that I read, and clearly grew to love. A girl who can control the spirits of the dead through a set of powerful bells. My first introduction to necromancy, a subject I've been fascinated with ever since (but not in the evil way, I swear!) The idea of the Old Kingdom living alongside a normal world was such a new idea at the time that I couldn't really even fathom it. I didn't get how a world full of magic and the ways of a forgotten time could exist right alongside cars and gas lamps, and yet it did here and it worked so well. This is also one of the first series that I just couldn't get out of my head when I finished. Honestly, it's still very prevalent in my imagination. Luckily for me, next year Garth Nix is supposed to be publishing a sort of prequel about Chlorr of the Mask, called Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen! I know I will be rereading the series before it's release and will be first in line for it. Part of my excitement lies in the continuation of a beloved story, but another part is simply excited to reenter a world I loved so long ago with a fresh story that I've not read before.

So there we go! These are the books that most formed my tastes as a reader and formed, well, me. I'm sorry it's so long-winded, but I got started and just wrote to my heart's content. This is what I got! I hope I haven't bored you, and I hope y'all will share the books of your childhood, either here or even as a post. :) I'd love to chat, guys.

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