5 Books from Childhood that are still very special to me…
#BlogHerWritingLab ~ Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Tell us about five books you remember from childhood and why they were special.
This question is not only easy for me to answer, but I still have 2 of my favorite 5 books that I held in my young hands and read with my very young eyes…
The Secret in the Old Attic by Carolyn Keene ~
I received this Nancy Drew book from a friend at my 9th birthday party (1961), my first real book about mystery, investigative prowess a girl, no less, and even a touch of romance. The clues about the missing manuscripts and the intrigue came fascinatingly fast. I gobbled up that book and read many, many more Nancy Drew books in the series. This book has always remained a treasure to me.
And A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ~
This book was a prize for becoming a Finalist at my school’s Oratorical Contest when I was in 7th grade (1965). I, to this day, treasure the book itself, but when I began to read the book way back then, I became involved immediately and powerfully with the peasantry and aristocracy of the French Revolution. I remember my English teacher telling me that the “story” may be very mature and that I should read it again when I was older (which I did, in college). I was fascinated with the idea of the historical novel, and Tale of Two Cities set me on a path of favoring this genre to this very day.
My excitement for books began long before I came to own these 2 very special books, beginning with my Mom reading to me every night before bedtime and “graduating” to reading aloud to her. I still treasure these times and I still hear my Mom’s voice bringing so many stories to life. I learned very early on that ~
Whomever forms a reading habit will never lose it. It is a treasure no one can take from him…
This brings me to another book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a book that I read as girl. This book moved me in ways that shaped my life. I picked up my very own copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin at an auction of the contents of one of my husband Barry’s Mom’s cousin’s (follow this!!??) estate many, many, many years ago. This cousin was a musician, a pianist, and music teacher. This perfectly tattered and very well used book came with this bookmark, stamped Central Junior High School Book Fair. Central Junior High School was, and still is, in East Providence, RI. My husband attended this school. This bookmark means everything to me and tells us everything about reading. The fact that it was tucked inside one of my favorite books of all time is the kind of serendipity that can only be explained in a book…
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a book I picked up at my town library when I was, maybe, 11 or 12 years old. I had, of course, no idea of the scope and magnitude of this piece of literature. I didn’t know yet of the profound, personal horrors of slavery and the great plight of plantation slaves. I wept as I read, my world never to be the same. Later in life when I became an English teacher, I wished nothing else but to teach this book. I never did get this chance, but the stuff of it has never left that young girl reading to a night light, safely tucked into bed, while my world as I knew it changed around me, forever.
Then there’s Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I came to own this copy many years ago…
The worlds and words of Emily Bronte came to me when I was, if I’m accurate in my memory, at around 13, maybe 14 years old. My world swirled around books, but this book’s passionate intensity was like kaboom! Love, disappointment, revenge! What? Then the language, it’s eloquence and drama. I would later (much later, while in college) learn of the Charlotte- Emily sister thing, but the novel’s literary “inefficiencies” didn’t ever enter the scope of my young brain. I was hooked!
The inside cover of my old Wuthering Heights copy is stamped in red with the names Flo and Joe Curts. Joe and Flo Curts are my late father and mother-in-law. Joe was a musician by night, rather renowned in Rhode Island as a Big Band Drummer. By day, Joe was a bottle washer at our local brewery, Narragansett. Joe’s two worlds would collide once-in-awhile when some big-wig at the Brewery would recognize this guy called “Little Joe” or “Knee-High” at the brewery (because of his height) at a dance club or fabulous evening gala while sporting a spiffy tux. Joe had been offered a scholarship to Berkeley School of Music in Boston upon graduation from high school in Providence (1931), but had declined and eventually headed to New York City. The Narragansett gig, much later, would be to help support his family – Flo and their 3 boys. Flo didn’t graduate from high school, leaving school while in 8th grade to nanny, clean homes, work as a laundress and any employment to help her family (Flo would earn her high school diploma in 1994, a celebration we celebrated big time!). Flo was a brilliant woman, a voracious reader, who would consume books like candy. When Joe and Flo were packing up their home to move to an apartment some 25 years ago, I discovered this one copy from The World’s Popular Classics series, 1930 Edition. Flo had saved this book, this one book, but I know that Joe must have stamped this book, because his “stage” name was Joe Curts, not Couto. This book means everything to me. I loved this book as a young girl and here it was, with a story of its own.
And my favorite book(s) of all, through time, space and literature…
The Bounty Trilogy by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall ~ My Freshman high school AP English class was assigned Mutiny on the Bounty by the most brilliantly understated English teacher in all eternity on the first day of school. The first day of high school, no less. I wanted to run from the class. Who would want to read this book about His Majesty’s armed transport as it sailed to the island of Tahiti to collect a cargo of breadfruit trees for transportation to the West Indies? Not me.
Page one had me hooked. Again, historical fiction had me hooked on this unforgettable journey and the mutiny by Fletcher Christian which Captain Bligh had brought upon himself. This book remains my favorite book of all time through 50+ more years of reading as that 13-year old freshman in high school. That’s the impact of a book, sometimes a book a person wouldn’t consider even picking up. For extra credit, my classmates were encouraged to read the entire trilogy. I did. Men Against the Sea, the 2nd volume, is the story of the 19 men loyal to Bligh and their 3,000 mile voyage in an open boat. Pitcairn’s Island, 3rd volume, is the story of the mutineers who escaped and found refuge on this remote island of the Pacific.
I came upon this Bounty Trilogy edition this past New Year’s Eve 2016 at a antique and flea market in Newport, RI. I had been discussing with my 11-year old grandson William, a voracious reader himself, my favorite “series” or trilogy of all time. I had been telling him that he just had to read the Bounty Trilogy and there it was, appearing like magic. I bought it for him. But of course we already know that books are magic. I am beyond excited to re-read the trilogy and share thoughts with my grandson. Full circle.
These 5 (or 7, if counting all 3 books in the trilogy) books mean everything to me. They are my childhood and my youth. They are my teachers. They are my mind, my heart, my inside, my outside. They inspired me to teach. They shaped my career as an English teacher. They are my mirrors, my reflections, my thoughts. They made me a better girl, a wiser woman, a more accomplished teacher. They’ve made me a better Mom and maybe even a better Grandma above all the other things. These treasures only continue to improve me with age, like vintage wine, as I now share them with my grandkids…
Each book has a story.
Some books have more than a story. My 5 special books have become an integral part of My Story.