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Thursday Thirteen: Books I Loved As a Child

September 13th, 2007 (10:06 am)
nostalgic

current mood: nostalgic
current music: Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

It's time for another ThursdayThirteen! I chose this topic after hearing of the death this week of one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle. I grew up on her books, and still love to re-read them from time to time. Though I never met her, I feel almost as if I'd lost a friend.



Thirteen Books I Loved As a Child


1. A Wrinkle In Time and A Wind In The Door (the sequel), by Madeleine L'Engle. I love the later sequels too, but she never topped the first two books. A seamless blend of science fiction, fantasy, and coming-of-age. Highly recommended.

2. All of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Every time I re-read these, I'm impressed, again, with how Wilder managed to convey so much in such simple, straightforward language.

3. Mandy, by Julie Edwards. Awww. Not as well-known as some of the others here, it's the wonderful story of an orphan who finds an abandoned cottage in the woods and turns it into a home. By the way, Edwards is the married name of singer/actress Julie Andrews.

4. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. My sisters and I used to love this book -- in part, I guess, because it's the story of four sisters, just like us (and like the Ingalls family, from LIW's books, in #2). And it wasn't lost on me that in Little Women, and in the Ingalls family, and in my own, it's the second sister (which would be me) who grew up to be a writer. The relationships among Alcott's characters always rang so true. I hope today's kids still read this classic.

5. Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. Many literary types decry what they call "the Judy Blume-ization of children's literature." No, she's not Dickens. But this book -- and many others written by the prolific and insightful Ms. Blume, made me feel that someone understood what it was like to be a 13-year-old girl. Any book that helps kids make sense of growing up is a good thing! And many of us who grew up on Judy Blume did go on to read Dickens and Shakespeare and to became literary types, ourselves.

6. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene. During World War II, a teenage girl in a small town in the southern U.S. helps a German soldier who's escaped from the local POW camp. When she's found out, people are shocked, especially since she's Jewish. An intriguing premise (based on a true story) and a poignant, realistic portrayal of a troubled teen in an unforgiving society.

7. Why Have the Birds Stopped Singing? by Zoa Sherburne. This one's the dark horse of the bunch, a gothic-toned story about a girl who goes back 100 years, to her great-great grandmother's life, every time she has an epileptic seizure. My friend Caroline owned this book; I used to borrow and read it repeatedly. I recently came across a copy and re-read it -- and wasn't nearly as entranced as I was when I was 11. But it captivated me then, and is probably the first thing that got me interested in time travel.

8. Phyllis A. Whitney's travel mysteries. She's better known for romance novels, but back in the 70s, Phyllis A. Whitney wrote some teen mystery books that seemed part travelogue. They weren't really a series; every book had its own characters and settings. In each one, an American girl traveled to an exotic location and got caught up in a mystery that involved the local history and culture. I remember especially one set in Kyoto and one in Istanbul. These books made me want to travel the world.

9. Watership Down, by Richard Adams. I adored this book when I was 12, and I still love adore it today. A page-turner about love, war, friendship, courage, alienation, tyranny, and more. And did I mention that all the characters are rabbits?

10. The Trixie Belden mysteries. Trixie was my favorite teenage detective, hands-down. Unlike the perfect Nancy Drew, Trixie had to ask permission to go off on adventures. She was sometimes broke and had to negotiate an advance on her allowance. She argued with her brothers, got grounded, and did chores. She didn't speak three languages, and she didn't drive a hot car. But she always solved the mystery. A teenager I could relate to. These books were old when I first read them, but some were recently reissued, so they're not as hard to find as they used to be. (I don't list an author, because several different names were listed as author through the life of the series.)

11. A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare. I first read and performed in this one in fifth grade, and fell in love with it. I've been a Shakespeare fanatic ever since.

12. All of a Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor, and its sequels. Here's another story about a lot of sisters, though this family had five girls. It's a portrait of the joys and struggles of a Jewish family growing up in on New York's Lower East Side in the early 1900s.

13. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, and its sequels. For some reason, spunky orphans are a staple of children's literature. Anne is one of the best ever! Her adventures, her optimism, and her wild ideas always made me want to be her.