Monday, January 21, 2008

Write Now: Childhood Books

Today's Write Now once again comes from the book, "Normal Is Just a Setting on the Dryer" by Adair Lara.

No Books Will Ever Be as Good as the Ones You Loved as a Child

Hmmm. I disagree with this one. I disagree, because in my experience, a true love of books is a love that never lets you down, no matter how old you get. I hope to still be reading and discovering new favorites up to and including the day I die. And I would hate to think that none of those new favorites could ever, no matter how well-written and beloved by yours truly, be able to compete with "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret."

What I WILL agree with is the idea that a book, once loved in your childhood, will always hold a little space in your heart. That said, here are some of my own childhood faves:

"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster. This is a fantasy book about a small, bored young man who travels on a small car through a toy tollbooth to the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he sets off on an adventure to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. This book is full of silly puns and wonderful imagery, not to mention bad guys called the Demons of Ignorance. A so-so animated movie version was made by Chuck Jones in 1969. I would love to see a non-animated movie based on this book with today's special effects. It would have to be better than The Golden Compass, no?

"On Your Toes, Susie!" by Lee Wyndham. I came down with a terrible bout of the mumps in elementary school. I was miserable and frankly, bored. My mother scoured the local secondhand bookstore and found this tome for me. It's the story of a ballerina named Susie, who finds her place as number one in her ballet class in serious jeopardy when a little French girl named Mimi arrives. Mutual jealousy and competitiveness keeps these girls as rivals until both end up with the mumps...and both end up being nursed by Susie's mom. Of course, they end up being friends in the end. It's not that great of a story, but because of the sentimental value involved (how long did it take my mom to find a book about a girl my age with the mumps?), it will always be a favorite.

"Stories From Japan" by Edward W. Dolch. I don't remember how I first got ahold of a copy of this book. It seems it was always there, in my home, when I was a child. But once I began reading it, I couldn't put it down. It's a collection of stories of various ages of antiquity. The watercolor pictures are lovely, and the stories are gorgeous. One of my favorites is the first one in the book: "The Willow Tree," a story about the spirit of a willow tree and how she becomes a wife and mother before dying when the tree is cut down for the emperor's bridge. I was so much in love with this story, that I planned to name my first daughter Willow. (This was, of course, before I got married and discovered that Willow Mymarriedlastname did not sound good all.) As I grew older, this book was somehow lost. I spend several years looking for it before I finally won a copy from eBay. It is now a favorite of my son's, and I hope, someday, it will be a favorite of a grandchild's as well.

"Beautiful Girl" by Elisabeth Ogilvie. I wanted to hate this story about a beautiful girl who gets nothing but tsuris for her looks...but it's so charming, I just couldn't. Besides, any book that starts with a precautionary tale about using the word 'persnickety' to your parents can't be all bad.

The Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell et all. Some girls loved Nancy Drew, but she wasn't for me. I was a Trixie gal. My favorite of the series is "The Mystery At Saratoga," although "The Red Trailor Mystery" is a close second. (If you happen to be a die-hard fan, there is a Trixie Belden convention this year...go to for more details. I almost want to go myself...not only is it Trixie, but it's being held in the Smokey Mountains, near to my own hometown. Which is a little odd, when you think about these books actually take place in rural New York. But hey, it's fiction, and poetic license is allowed...)

There are several other books that I remember fondly...but not enough to actually run out and buy it. One was a series of books, if I remember correctly, about a girl who wants to be a trick rider and loves horses. I loved these books and can even remember one picture from it quite clearly...but the title escapes me. It's possible that only one book was about the trick riding, while the others were about life on a dude ranch. Sadly, I can't remember enough about them to know for sure. There are three other books for which I remember the title, but seem unable to find anything else on them. The first is "Circle of Love," a book about a young German Jewish girl named Anna, a Polish soldier named Anton, and how their lives intersect repeatedly and how WWII continues to affect their lives long after they have moved to America. Another is "Carol's Story," a tale about a young girl who survives physical and sexual abuse, alcoholic parents and the foster-care system to become the wife of a minister. It is a moving story, and if I remember correctly, it is a true story as well. I went through some of the same things Carol did, and just knowing that you can move on with your life was a message I really needed to hear. The last book is called "Roxanne." I think, technically, it's a romance novel, which I usually don't like. But for me, the romance aspect takes a back seat to the historical fiction at play. Roxanne is a young girl from a midwestern town in the late 1800's/early 1900's. She runs away to the east coast (I want to say Baltimore, but I'm not certain), marries a glovemaker and moves to the South (Georgia, I think), and then ends up in the Klondike during the Gold Rush there (where she dances for money and is called "Klondike Roxie"). Eventually, she finds stability and true love in San Francisco...right after the Earthquake. It's a story that has stuck with me, and I'd love to find it again. If you know anything about these titles, leave a message for me on this post or email me at I'll be eternally grateful.

Well, thanks for sticking with me for my second Write Now. Adios for now.



At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ida B Wells
Sarah Winnemucca

So glad to see you blogging again.


At 3:22 AM, Blogger MostlyRomance said...

"The last book is called "Roxanne." I think, technically, it's a romance novel, which I usually don't like. But for me, the romance aspect takes a back seat to the historical fiction at play."

The book is THESE GOLDEN PLEASURES by Valerie Sherwood. Heroine is Roxanne Rossiter, hero is Rhodes (not Gavin) Coulter. Here is back cover blurb:



She was beautiful - and notorious.

But beneath the silks and the diamonds, within the supple body so many men had embraced, was the heart of a girl who yearned still for love. At fifteen she had learned her beauty was both a charm and a curse. It had sent her fleeing from Kansas, had been her downfall in Baltimore and Georgia, yet had kept her alive in the Klondike and the South Seas.

Now on this fateful night in 1906, here in San Francisco’s most glittering atmosphere, will she at last be able to reveal her secret longing? Will she be able to call love by name and claim it?

Sandi M
Mostly Romance


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