Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reconnecting with Childhood Favorites

I’ve always been an avid reader. When I was a child, I’d trek to the library every Saturday and come home with an armload of books. Our next door neighbor was the children’s librarian, so I would always stop by to say hello and find out what she was recommending that week. Many of the books I read in those days are still among my all-time favorites.

I read the Anne of Green Gables books when I was ten, and since then I’ve reread them more times than I can count. I also have the two made-for-TV mini series on VHS. Every couple of years I have an "Anne" day and I’ll watch all eight hours. Just me, a big bowl of popcorn, and my box of Kleenex.

Little Women was another favorite, and I also love the movie version with Susan Sarandon and Winona Rider. As a child, I think I related to both Anne and Jo because they a little on the tomboyish side and their imagination was always getting them into scrapes. Although I never died my hair green!

I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I even read them to my children, and my daughter named one of her dolls Charlotte, just like Laura's.

The Swiss Family Robinson was completely captivating, especially the ingenious things they did to make a home on that island. Part of me has always wanted to live in a treehouse!

One of my neighbor’s recommendations was Loretta Mason Potts—which, in spite of the title, is the story about a little boy who finds out he has an older sister. Loretta, his sister, had been living with another family. After she returns home, she discovers a passageway in her closet that connects her to a secret world. This book was written in 1958 by Mary Chase, who is most famous for her Pulitzer-prize-winning play, Harvey, about a man and his six-foot-tall invisible rabbit.

Over the years I searched secondhand bookstores and then online for a copy of this book, but with no luck. My problem was that I didn’t have the title quite right. I remembered it as Laura Mason Potts. A couple of years ago I googled "Laura Mason Potts," and to my surprise, it turned up in a review on Amazon. The review had been written by another person who had remembered the wrong title.

The book was reissued in 1989, so I immediately ordered a copy. After searching for so many years, there was always the dangers that the book wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but I’m happy to say it did. The day the package arrived, I tore it open, put everything aside, and read the book cover to cover. I'd forgotten that the book is illustrated, but once I had it in my hands, even the black-and-white illustrations were familiar to me.

Maybe that sense of familiarity is what’s so important about these books. Knowing that no matter what else is going on in our adult lives, a favorite story can transport us to our childhood, and to simpler times.

I'd love to hear about everyone's favorite childhood books.

Happy reading!



Anonymous said...

I love all the same books, Lee!
(except for the Loretta Mason Potts – I've never heard of it, although I loved the movie Harvey.)

In fact, I read my Anne books so often that I wore out my paperbacks and my mom got me wonderful hardcover editions, which I still have.
Same thing with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

I'm off to the library this afternoon and I think I'll nab a couple of Little House books – I remember being completely enchanted with the Little House in the Big Woods – the first one I ever read.

Thanks for the memories,


Lee McKenzie said...

Enjoy the Little House books, Rachel!

It seems to me that authors' writing styles have changed over the years. For example, I find that writers today tend to stay in the point of view of one or two main characters.

In Loretta Mason Potts, the writer uses multiple points of view, so the reader is sometimes in the head of a fairly minor character.

But a great story is timeless, no matter what the writer's style.

Jessica said...

I loved the Little House books and Little Women (also read everything else she wrote) and though I didn't read Anne of Green Gables (not sure why), I loved the movies. I was also an avid fan of the Babysitters Club. My one obscure book that few people read was The Doll Hospital by: James Duffy.

I look forward to the time when I can share these same books with my daughters.

Marianne Arkins said...

Black Beauty... A Wrinkle In Time... The Prydain Chronicles... The Dark is Rising series... The Chronicles of Narnia... The Black Stallion series...

Hmmm... not a real romance in the bunch. Not really even any "girl" books. How odd. LOL...

Diane Gaston said...

My childhood favorites were Nancy Drew and, even better, Cherry Ames, probably because she had a career and she also had love interests (although Ned was my favorite character in Nancy Drew).

I loved Little Women so much I received a "Beth" doll for Christmas that year - a Madame Alexander doll I wish I had kept! I still have my copy of Little Women, though.

The Susan Sarandon movie version was spoiled by Marmie's Suffragette platitudes. They should have trusted the story as it was written. I loved Christian Bale as Laurie.

Oddly enough I never read the Little House books or Swiss Family Robinson.

Loretta Mason Potts sounds like a book I would love, too, Lee!

I am delighted at the booming YA market now. My friend Regina Scott has written a Regency YA called La Petite Four, in bookstores now. I'm depending on her to groom new readers for Regency Historicals!!

Cheers! Diane

Bonnie Edwards said...

One of my faves was THE FOG about a 12 year old girl who for her 12th birthday gets a gift. She's allowed to walk through the fog to visit a town filled with interesting, lively folks who are living about 100 years ago. Sort of a "Brigadoon" for children.

On the eve of her 13th birthday, she learns she's losing the gift. The people in her family have only this one year...it's a really cool concept.

I believe the author's name is Sward...and I read it to my daughters out of the library. I doubt they got much out of it though. They don't even remember it.

But I've loved ghostly stories and events ever since.

Great post, Lee!

Lee McKenzie said...

Jessica, The Doll Hospital sounds intriguing. Thanks for recommending it!

Estella said...

I loved them all. Cannot pick any favorites.

Lee McKenzie said...

Marianne, I loved The Black Stallion books! I think they were also made into a movie, but I haven't seen it.

Lee McKenzie said...

LOL, Diane! I hear what you're sayiing about "Marmie Suffragette" in the film version of Little Women!

I guess the directorial licence didn't bother me so much because it really is a story about strong, capable women.

I read a ton of Nancy Drews, and really enjoyed Trixie Beldon books, too.

Lee McKenzie said...

Bonnie, it's interesting that you loved The Fog but your daughters didn't care for it.

Taste in books is so personal, and yet some have a universal appeal. I'd say the Harry Potter books are a great example of that.

Lee McKenzie said...

Estella, stated like a true booklover!

Trish Milburn said...

I loved the Little House books and the TV show. I was also a big fan of survival or wilderness stories like Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie of the Wolves. Also enjoyed Nancy Drew mysteries.

MJFredrick said...

Trixie Belden was my gal, and anything with a horse on the cover. I'd read all the Little House books more than once by the time I was in 4th grade - imagine my frustration as a 4th grade teacher when the kids only want to read picture books! I loved Lois Lenski books, too. One of my favorite summer memories was when the elementary school in my neighborhood opened one morning a week during vacation so we could check out books. I would go home with armloads.

Susan Lyons said...

When I was little, little, I loved the Pookie books. Illustrated children's books - Pookie, the rabbit with wings, who lived in a magical forest.

Then, does anyone remember The Happy Hollisters? After that I graduated to Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and The Hardy Boys. And anything with horses. The Black Stallion and Misty of Chincoteague come to mind.

And oh yes, the Anne books. I have a wonderful Anne story. When I was in my late teens my family lived next door to an elderly couple and the wife - in her 70s - also loved the Anne books. She and I got to be good friends. When she died, her husband gave me her collection - the entire set, in hardcover, some still having the original paper covers tattered from the number of times she'd read the books. I just went to check my bookshelf and Anne of Green Gables is the 1st Canadian edition, 1942. The inscription is "Christmas 1943. To Mom with love from Rosemary." And inside the front cover there's a postcard of Green Gables. No date on the 6 cent Canadian stamp, and I can't read the year on the postmark from Charlottetown, PEI.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Lee.


Esri Rose said...

I loved an extremely wholesome and morally uplifting book (written within 13 years of "Little Women") called, "The Five Little Peppers - and how they grew." I read it over and over, much to the bemusement of my mother.

Other faves were "Harriet the Spy," and the Narnia books.

I still haven't read "Little Women." Guess I should rectify that. Right now I'm on a Jane Austen kick.

Esri Rose said...

And when I was younger, I ADORED "Jenny's Moonlight Adventure." If you have children, get a copy of that book immediately. There's a whole series of Jenny and the Cat Club books, but that one stood out.

EllenToo said...

As a child I read books like...Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, and even the Hardy Boys. I also read Black Beauty.

Lee McKenzie said...

Trish, I agree that there's something about wilderness and survial stories that really tugs at the heart.

PBS often runs a program called Alone the Wilderness. It's about a man who went to a remote part of Alaska, built a cabin and lived there for about thirty years. I never get tired of watching it!

Lee McKenzie said...

Mary, I just google Lois Lenski. She was very prolific. Thanks for recommending her!

Lee McKenzie said...

How wonderful, Susan, to have the entire Anne collection. And a first edition!

I was given an old copy of Emily Climbs (copyright 1925). It's the second book in L. M. Montgomery's three-book Emily series.

I love the feel of old books.

Lee McKenzie said...

Ooh, Esri. I remember The Five Little Peppers!

Becoming Jane is currently on my list of must-see DVDs. Not sure why I haven't rented it yet, but I will - soon!

Lee McKenzie said...

Ellen, I haven't thought about Cherry Ames books in years! They weren't among my top favs, but I know I read a few of them.

Sarita Leone said...

What a great post. It makes me think of all the wonderful books I read when I was younger. I think my hands-down favorites were Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. :)

Lee McKenzie said...

Sarita, based on your comments and others, I think it might be difficult to find someone who isn't a fan of Nancy and Trixie ;)

Anonymous said...

I loved Nancy Drew and any stories with horses in them, especialy Black Beauty. I grew up on a ranch in Colorado and we didn't have television so we read after our chores were finished. I think I read every book in the children's section of that small library. I have been reading ever since. I am saddened to see that my grandchildren aren't in to reading.

Lee McKenzie said...

Joye, I hope your grandchildren will someday share your love of reading.

TV shows and movies and computers are all great, but IMO nothing exercises the imagination like a deliciously good book!

cheryl c said...

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were my favorites. I loved to read when I was a child, and I still do!

Lee McKenzie said...

Hi, Cheri2628! Another Nancy Drew fan! It really seems that children who are avid readers become lifelong readers.

Trish Milburn said...

Lee, I've seen part of Alone in the Wilderness. My hubby loves the program. Actually, he just finished reading the book by Richard Proenneke (the guy the program is based on), and I'm going to read it next.

Lee McKenzie said...

Trish, I'll look for the book on my next trip to the library. The show is on DVD, but I've only ever seen it on PBS.