Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I finally got around to reading a book that’s been on my list since last year. The author of the book actually shops at the same comic book store I do, or did rather when I could afford comic books. The book, The Forest King: Woodlark’s Shadow, is written by Dan Mishkin and illustrated by Tom Mandrake. For anyone who reads comic books they might remember Mishkin as the creator of DC’s Blue Devil.
It’s a children’s book and it definitely seems like they are planning to make a series out of them. It was pretty short and I got through it fast. Of course, it’s always a change to read children’s novels. They’re paced differently and more simplistic. I always have to remind myself of that when reading.
It was a children’s book and it got me thinking about books I loved as a child, books that still stick in my mind and children’s books that I read now.

I read so much when I was younger. My whole summers were spent reading. And sometimes the books were so obscure I doubt that I’d ever be able to find them again. I would love to list every book in my head that I remember from my childhood. If it’s something I still remember it must have made quite an impression on me.

When I was young I remember reading a lot of Berenstain Bears and of course Dr. Seuss books. I also remember reading a lot of Baby-Sitter's Club books. I didn’t find them interesting at first but my sister had them and it was another book for me to read. I remember my grandparents buying me a few Baby Sitter’s Little Sister books when they bought Baby-Sitter's Club for my sister.

I’d say the year that I really became completely engrossed in reading was 5th grade. I had a teacher, my favorite elementary school teacher, Mrs. Tracy, who really loved to encourage reading. We had lots of reading activities. She would read to us. We’d have book reports and silent reading. I loved it. And I remember she really appreciated how I read so much. She would bring in books from her personal collection that she thought I would like. It’s the first time I can really remember someone doing something thoughtful for me, something that required a person to actually know a little bit about me and take an interest in me. I had never really gotten attention like that before and it meant a lot to me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I really came to love reading.

Enough of me being sentimental and giving out way too much personal information. That was the year that I read a lot of the stuff that would come to be some of my favorite books. Maniac Magee and Number the Stars were two books that I really liked. I felt like they both had good messages at least for me. Both books to me were about acceptance, which is an issue I struggled with as a child, as I’m sure most people do.

I also loved Louis Sachar books. Sideways Stories from Wayside School and all the books from Wayside School that followed. To me they were some of the most original stories I had heard. I was also a big fan of Holes. And when I was in middle school Louis Sachar came to our school. He signed my books but sadly I have no idea what happened to them. Probably lost with everything else that found its way into the house I inhabited in my youth.

One of the books my teacher gave me was Little Women. And I loved that book. Mostly I related to it a lot because I was definitely one of the more economically challenged kids at school and it was obvious to everyone. The most memorable parts of the book for me were that the girls weren’t rich but they were happy and I felt like my sister was the only one I had growing up. It took me a lot longer to realize it then it ever should have but I know now.

My sister also gave me the Diary of Anne Frank to read in fifth grade. She had read it and gave it to me. I don’t think I really understood everything about it at the time. Maybe I was a little too young to have my attention held by such a long piece of non-fiction. But my sister gave it to me when she heard we were studying World War 2 and the events leading up to it. She thought it would help me.

And yes even in my childhood, I was a big fan of science fiction and fantasy books. One of my favorite authors was John Bellairs. My teacher read us one of his books, The Revenge of the Wizard’s Ghost, and I was hooked. I started reading everything I could find by him. A few years ago I really started thinking about those books. I ended up getting a bunch of them off eBay and rereading them. I eventually ended up doing that with the Wayside books as well as Shel Silverstein poetry books, like Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic, which are other books I found that year.

I wish I had the time or the patience to name every book I can remember reading as a kid. Sometimes I feel depressed knowing that I can’t remember more about certain books. I wish I had kept better track of stuff from when I was younger but I didn’t.
Maybe one day I’ll be reading a book to my kids and all of a sudden get an epiphany that I once read that book a long time ago.

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