Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Books that Become Part of Us . . .

I firmly believe part of who we turn out to be in life is a product of the people we surround ourselves with and the books we read. At no time is this more true than when we are children. The books I read as a child were grafted onto my soul with such firmness, I still remember the thrill of Black Beauty, the determination in Where the Red Fern Grows, and the joy and sorrow of Little Women as if I'd lived those fictional lives myself.

And sometimes, the books come back to us with such force, we have to pull them off the shelf and mull them over again. That happened to me yesterday when I posted Stella Price's "secret" contest. Just the word "secret" triggered a remembrance of that little verse. It's from a little book called THE CHEERFUL CHERUB by Rebecca McCann. The volume was old and tattered when it came into my hands, but I still have it and it's one of the few books I moved with me from Missouri. It's a simple book of verse with line drawings, but I adore it. As a child I pored over it and committed so much of it to memory, not a week goes by but something happens in my life that calls forth a "cherub quote." Here's an example:

Through fear of taking risks in life
I've missed a lot of fun--
The only things that I regret
Are those I haven't done!

There's no measure by which this can be called great poetry, but the verses make me smile. Here's another favorite:

The butterfly just floats through life
As careless as a bubble.
I walk a stern and moral path--
A soul is lots of trouble


The faults of my friends
Which I freely condone
Are always the ones
Which resemble my own!

I wonder if I'd get into copyright trouble if I shared one with you on a weekly basis. They've given me so much pleasure over the years, I'd love to pass them on. I don't think the book is still in print, though I did see one online for a ridiculous sum ($168.00, but it was in mint condition. Mine alas, is about to fall apart, but even if it wasn't, I'd never sell it!) The Cherub is too much a part of me to let it go.

At any rate, it's your turn. Please share a book that meant something to you as a child.

PS. Today is the last day for your to participate in the NightOwl Romance SummerLove WebHunt. You can get started on my website, collecting the correct colors of the NightOwl graphics spread on 7 author's sites. There will be three Grand Prize Winners!


Unknown said...

Emily --
I loved to read Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie and Pippi Longstockings books, but my all-time favorite remains Mio My Son by Astrid Lindgren (who also penned the Pippi books).

My kids are big fantasy fans, too, and they love Goosebumps, Harry Potter, Narnia, Eragon and oodles more. Shame on me for not adding my fave to their library!

Your blog has not only allowed me to reflect on the wonderful sources that led me to write fantasy and paranormal, but reminds me to share my personal "classics" with my kids as well.

Penny Watson said...

Oh! Good topic, Emily! Favorites from early childhood...Babar! Favorites from middle school...Gone With The Wind and Rebecca! Those two books made quite the impression on me. Got me totally addicted to reading. My favorite place in middle school was the library...it was dark and quiet and had a very comforting feel to it. I can still picture the library copy of Gone With The Wind...it was an old copy, about 6 inches thick, with a black cover. I carried it around like a bible for weeks!

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for sharing, Stephanie. I too loved the Little House books.

Keeping my oldest daughter in books when she was growing up was quite a challenge. She tore through them at a voracious pace (and is also a big fantasy fan!) And long before Gaiman penned Coraline, she wrote a short story about the magical kingdom on the other side of the crawlspace door where they celebrated Sept. 20th as their highest holiday (her birthday!) No problems with self-esteem here!

Reading together is a wonderful way to share yourself and the ideas that shaped you with your kids.

EmilyBryan said...

Penelope, I didn't get to Gone with the Wind until high school and I'm sorry to admit that Scarlett irritates the fool out of me. If ever there was a woman who didn't know a good thing when she saw it, it was Scarlett.

But GWTW does immerse you in a vivid fictive world. And that's a bit part of why I read--to armchair travel.

How else can we visit Middle Earth or British India?

How cool that you associate reading with a comforting place.

Christie Craig said...

Wow, this is powerful stuff, Emily.

Thanks for sharing.


EmilyBryan said...

Christie--I remember reading by the crack of light coming in my bedroom door (guess I didn't have a flashlight!) and when I hit middle school, I volunteered to take the bedroom in the creepy basement so I could stay up late with my "literary friends" without my parents knowing the light was still on. Reading has always been a "subversive" activity for me! LOL!

Mari said...

I absolutely loved The Little Prince.
The Diary of Anne Frank was very moving as well.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Excellent post.. one of my fav sayings is mary Englebrets,"Home is where to start from." I think this is so true of the books we read, the influence they have on our childhood!

I loved The Boxcar Children series--thinking of how fun it would be to have the adventures they did!

Little House books and as I grew older--CS Lewis's Screwtape Letters, The Cay, Dr. Zhivago, Five Smooth Stones--

I used to read Shel Silverstein poetry to my kids when they were young and Dr. Suess's lyrical whimszy--

all good stuff that sparks still our imaginations!

Interestingly, I havea sticker on my computer that has been there for years...that says, "The greatest risk is not taking one."

I wonder now if its derived from that poem?

Amanda M

EmilyBryan said...

Mari--I remember weeping uncontrollably over Anne Frank. I will always count her one of my dearest friends.

EmilyBryan said...

Amanda--I remember the Boxcar Children. They were so resourceful! And CS Lewis! Oh, how I loved Narnia and how his SCREWTAPE LETTERS chilled my heart.

So much great literature is aimed at children and young people, but if it's worth reading at 5, it's worth reading at 50.

Beth said...

My all-time favorite book from childhood was the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read the entire series several times and bought the set for my daughter when she was young.

Also enjoyed Boxcar Children and Pippi Longstocking and read Carl Sandburg. I was deeply touched by The Diary of Anne Frank.

Funny how many of us liked the same books with all the books in the world!!! Great post idea.

EmilyBryan said...

Beth--I too love Carl Sandburg!

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches 5
and then moves on.

Did anyone else fall in love with Watership Down? What an adventurous, courageous bunch of rabbits! Sounds silly when you put it like that, but the author created a language, a history and a theology for his four-legged heroes. It is brilliant and very worthwhile reading as an adult.

Cheeky Girl said...

I had two that really spoke to me...

The Anne of Green Gables books - I still have the complete set my mom bought me many moons ago.

Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of Nimh is the other. I checked it out so many times from my school library, that my librarian gave me my very own copy for Christmas. Shh...she didn't give everyone presents...just the girl who lived in the school library!

EmilyBryan said...

One of the many joys of having children was the chance to revisit kiddie lit and pick up a few new favorites from the ones I missed the first time around. My girls and I really enjoyed the poetry of Langston Hughes. Here is his Dreams:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Makes you think, huh?

EmilyBryan said...

Cheeky--No discussion of kiddie lit would be complete without a loving nod to Ann Shirley and Green Gables. My life has "more scope for imagination" because I know Ann.

And your mention of NIMH reminded me of a great sci-fi classic, A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'engle. I think the librarian at my school got tired of checking it out to me.

Barbara Monajem said...

I read so many wonderful books in my childhood that I couldn't possibly list them all, but the ones I have re-read the most -- and still re-read -- are the Swallows and Amazons stories by Arthur Ransome. A family friend gave me my first taste of Ransome -- The Picts and the Martyrs -- and I was totally hooked... and that's still my favourite book of the series.

Penny Watson said...

I keep thinking of new ones! How about James and the Giant Peach...loved that book! Also loved A Wrinkle In Time. I just wrote a description of a book store in the novel I'm writing (and how the heroine feels about books) and this post today really helped with that! I incorporated everyone's book choices! Thanks, Emily!

EmilyBryan said...

Barbara--I've never read Arthur Ransome and it sounds like I should. Thanks for sharing!

EmilyBryan said...

Penelope--I'll look forward to reading your description of your fictional bookseller! Make sure to include Arnold Loebel's FROG AND TOAD ARE FRIENDS in the kiddie section! Loved to read that one aloud.

Sandy said...

Wonderful post, Emily.

Black Beauty and Little Women were some of my favorites, too, and so many more. I have many of my old books.

Where are you from in Missouri, Emily? Or have you told me that before? The memory goes first. Smile.

mrsshukra said...

This is making me nostalgic! Mine were the Nancy Drew books and John Milton's Paradise Lost!

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy, we lived in West Plains, in the heart of the Ozarks before moving to Boston two years ago. Can two hillbillies find happiness in Beantown? Evidently, the answer is yes!

EmilyBryan said...

Etirv--Along with Nancy Drew, I loved the Trixie Belden mysteries. She was always so smart, a great role model.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily-
What a great idea for a post. Funny because I was just helping clean out the parents garage yesterday and today and I came across my box of books you can't get rid of. And it really is amazing how much of an impression those books make on you.

My favorite child hood book was From The Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankwyler. All about a sister and brother who run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It gave me such a love for travel, adventure, and most of all history.

As I got older I became quite the reader of historical romance, sneaking the Amanda Quick and Bertrice Small books out from under my mother's bed, then blushing over the racy scenes. I also became even more enamoured with history.

Then it was Ian Fleming's James Bond books. I fell in love with modern history, the cold war and all things spy.

Of course now I love to write Spy fiction and have been seriously thinking about getting a master's in history, so it really goes to show how reading can frame who you eventually become.

Thanks for this topic.

EmilyBryan said...

Kim--Thanks so much for sharing finding that box of books in your parent's garage. I bet it was like finding a bunch of old friends!

One of the things I love about books is how you develop a shared vocabulary and almost like a secret language when you share a book. My kids and I always did read alouds even when they were in middle school. It was a wonderful way to share the experience.

Patricia Barraclough said...

Didn't have many books at home. In the evenings, I'd make up stories to tell my brothers and sisters. Peter Pan and I had some great adventures:) I lived at the library but read mostly nonfiction. My aunt had a complete set of Nancy Drew books and I devoured them. The first transition of taste was when I discovered MY FRIEND FLICKA, THUNDERHEAD, and GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING by Mary O'Hara. The next shift came my senior year in high school. For history, we had to read a historical novel. I chose LYDIA BAILEY by Kenneth Roberts. It opened a door to a whole new type of reading.

Carol L. said...

Hi Emily,
I too loved Little House and Little Women but my favorite book was Old Yeller. Loved the dog and the movie.I cried like a baby. ) The Web Hunt was a lot of fun. Have a great day Emily.
Carol L.

EmilyBryan said...

Patricia--My library was a little sparse at home, too. I was known to crack open the encyclopedia from time to time. But whenever my grandparents visited, they brought me a book. I bet I acquired every "Lassie" book ever written that way.

EmilyBryan said...

Carol--To this day, I approach dog books with trepidation because of Old Yeller. They always die. Please can't someone write a dog book where the dog lives!

Glad you enjoyed the NOR SummerLove Webhunt! And thanks for the reminder that I need to take it down now!