Thursday, October 29, 2009

Books that shape us

Last week, while browsing in a local bookstore, I happened upon wonderful book, Everything I need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book, edited by Anita Silvey. I was utterly charmed and enthralled as I thumbed through the book. In it, famous people from all walks of life--scientists, authors, actors, NPR hosts, sports figures, business tycoons--talk about what book has had the most influence on them. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, All of a Kind Family, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Little House, The Travels of BaBar. See a trend here? They're all children's books! Which made my librarian and writer's heart swell with pride and hope. I did something I rarely do: I bought the book. I've been dipping into it, savoring it when I eat breakfast or lunch.

And it got me to thinking: what about books in my childhood? I was a ravenous, passionate reader from an early age. Could I really point to just one book? No. But I will narrow it down to two. Casey the Utterly Impossible Horse, by Anita Feagles was the first chapter book I was able to read on my own. It's a wonderfully silly story about a demanding, vain, talking horse who insists he needs his own pair of pajamas. I read it over and over to my father, and we laughed at the horse's foolishness. This book not only marks my ability to read on my own; it also marks a happy time in my childhood. When I was about nine, I discovered a book in my elementary school library: Season of Ponies, by Zylpha Keatley Snyder. I read that book so many times, my name filled up both sides of the check out card. Mrs. Conway, the librarian, had to put in a new card for me to fill up. Why did I read it over and over? It was about a girl who had lost her mother and her father. She was a girl, like me, who's heart was broken and who loved horses, and who longed for things hard to express. It was a book filled with longing, and sadness, and magic, and hope, and horses. I found a friend and myself in that book.

So tell me. What book spoke to you, what book enveloped you, and possibly, shaped you as a child?

1 comment:

  1. Great question, Bobby! I can think of three books that influenced me: Anne of Green Gables, the Betsy-Tacy books, and Little Women. I read them all a bunch of times and they all fueled my passion for writing (I just hated it when Amy threw Jo's novel in the fire!). But there was a Zilpha Keatley Snyder novel that affected me profoundly also: mine was The Changeling, about Ivy, a girl who didn't care what anyone thought about her and insisted on being who she really was whether people thought she was odd or not. It really helped me through those middle school years.