28 April 2015

Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Of all the authors I read as a child, I'd have to say Zilpha Keatley Snyder had the greatest impact on me. I read The Egypt Game, of course, but it was The Changeling that really hit home. This is because, like the two girls in that novel, I and my best friend (who conveniently lived next door) also created a fantasy world and played/lived in it. Afternoons and weekends were spent there. It was an idyllic childhood in many ways, and then came the day I had to move away.

Snyder had other wonderful books and I devoured many of them. The Velvet Room. The Truth About Stone Hollow. Libby on Wednesdays. I eagerly await the day my own daughter will be old enough to enjoy these, though I wonder whether she will connect with them as much as I did. A part of me is afraid she'll fail to see the glory in these stories. It is a different world now, with different sensibilities; what spoke to my experience as a child may not speak to her at all.

Even now, though, as an adult, I like to return to Snyder now and then for a quick read. Her books continue to weave magic, even now that she's passed, and I think her writing certainly helped me shape my own.

17 April 2015

Judy Blume

Like many kids growing up in the 80s, Judy Blume books had an impact on my childhood. I read Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing and Superfudge, and even Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. I read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Blubber. For some reason, I remember the bit in Blubber about singing "Sweet and Low," even though I don't know that song at all. This is a blog about things you take with you from books, and that's what I took with me from that one. What that says about me, I  have no idea.

I read a lot of these books several times over, so it's strange that I now remember so little. Every now and then, though, some strange detail will surface in my brain. Like Sheila and the shoes. I think I remember that because I am also particular about shoes; I really dislike it when people wear shoes in the house. Maybe I lived in Japan in a previous life or something. (I do feel a strong connection to the ancient Far East.)

Peter and the turtle, and the dancing with the balloons, and the myna bird, and "Toot, toot, tootsie." Hmm. The songs stick with me. Why is that? Well, I do love music.

What's interesting is that I remember nothing of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. And I read it at least two or three times. So many parents were worried about that book for some reason (was there something about getting your period in it?), but for all the impression it made on me . . . ::shrug::

Of course, books are personal experiences. No one has the exact same response. I'm sure Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret had a huge impact on many readers. And I'm equally certain that if I began to re-read it, it would all flood back.

I was past the point of Judy Blume by the time the later Fudge books came out. I didn't read Forever or Tiger Eyes or any of those. I inhabited a strange space in that I had a reading ability that far outreached my social-emotional development. So in fifth grade I was reading Lighting by Dean [R.] Koontz but . . . somehow couldn't wrap my brain around things like crushes and dating and the stuff of YA. I feel like I skipped a whole genre, went from middle grade to adult.

Sometimes I feel like my life went that way, too.

13 April 2015

Dr. Seuss

I was reading fluently by the age of three, and the first books I remember are the ones so many children remember starting with: Dr. Seuss.

Not Green Eggs and Ham, though. I never liked that one. Later, I would use Green Eggs and Ham to teach my best friend (four years my junior) to read, but for myself, I remember There's a Wocket in My Pocket and I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! to be my favorites. I thought The Cat in the Hat was okay, and of course One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, but Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? topped them, I think. At least in my young mind.

I recall the cartoons, too. Not just Grinch at Christmas, but The Cat in the Hat where he sings: "Cat. Hat. In French, chat, chapeau . . ." (For the record, I cannot stand that new Cat in the Hat cartoon series; I find it truly obnoxious and the very antithesis of the original story.) And the cartoon version of The Lorax, and The Sneeches . . .

Of course, I can't really think about Seuss without also thinking about Eastman and Go, Dog. Go! I spent a lot of time looking at that page with all the dogs having the party in the tree.

And then there was Ten Apples Up On Top! Which had Theo. LeSieg's name on it, but I guess was really Dr. Seuss all along.

When I got too old for these books, I put them in one of my parents' military lockers. They stayed there for years. And then I had kids of my own, and now they read the same books I did. They didn't learn to read as early as I; I don't know what made the difference. Maybe the fact I was an only child and they have each other to play with. I spent so much time alone and reading, but they don't have to. They do love to read, but they do it as a social activity more than a solitary one. They read to each other, or like us to read to them. Whereas for me reading will always be a quiet thing I prefer to do alone.

12 April 2015

The Bible

Let's start with the obvious.

When I was a kid, my parents made me read the Bible every night before going to bed. They'd sit there and listen to me read aloud. I'm sure we talked about it, but I can't remember any particular discussions.

What I do remember is liking Esther and Proverbs. I think I liked Proverbs because the chapters were short and most of what was written there made sense. And Esther was just a good story. Though when I look at it now, I see Mordecai as kind of awful. He eavesdrops and manipulates, and we're supposed to celebrate him for that.

I had a King James bible, leather with my name in gilt on the cover. Words of Christ in red and all that. Later, when I was in private school, I was required to use an NIV bible. But I preferred the heightened language in my King James, and I also like the index and concordance and all the colorful maps in the back.

During church, I would happily thumb through my bible and find all the interesting bits. Because I loved Indiana Jones, I would look up everything I could find about the Ark of the Covenant. And I liked parables, and that story about the demons going into the pigs. Jezebel, too, being thrown from the tower so that only her hands were left, or something like that? Prophets, on the other hand, were supremely boring.

At some point my parents bought me a Life Application Bible. This might have been when I graduated and was going off to university, but I'm not sure. Basically, a Life Application Bible is filled with footnotes explaining how to apply scripture to, well, life.

Did the bible influence my life? I'm sure it has, but being brought up in a religious household probably had more influence than the bible itself. I grew up accepting what I was told and taught, mostly because I had no reason not to accept it. These teachings did not conflict with anything in me. It wasn't until much later, when I began looking at things through a historical lens, and when I began recognizing streams of hatred in some of what was being said, that I stepped away.

I'll admit, I no longer read my bible regularly. It's on my shelf, and I sometimes go to it for a half-remembered scripture, just to see if I've got it right. But while I like to think I live a moral life, and a spiritual one, I no longer live a very religious one.

I'm Here

This site, at least at its origin, will be about books. I know there are a lot of sites out there about books, but this site will be about books that are and have been important to me—books that have had an impact on me and my life, have influenced me, have stayed with me for better or worse. Sometimes life can be made up of what you remember from books. A lot can be discerned about a person from not only what he or she reads, but from what they take away from all they've read. This is my life in books. And I'll be interested to hear from others whose lives are in books as well.