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Friday, May 4, 2012

Books I've Invited into My Heart

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Shawna is a photographer, graphic designer, and Jill of all trades. She is happily married and enjoys spending time curling up on the couch with a good book and a steaming cup of cocoa. She also enjoys creating macaroni art portraits. You can find more of her at Ramblings of an Otherwise Coherent Mind.

Topic: “Tell about your favorite childhood book and why it means so much to you.”

A hard task indeed. After all, a child is a work-in-progress; ever growing and learning and developing and in that process ones tastes change. But there is one truth that doesn’t change… certain books have a way of allowing us to open up, inviting them in where they twine themselves around our hearts.

For a girl constantly getting in trouble for having her nose in a book rather than playing outside in the fresh air or getting chores done in a timely manner, there was a lot of books that marched their way through my heart and imagination… I’ll wean my list down to just a few treasured favorites.

Ladybird put out a series of easy-read books in the 1960s. Among them was Cinderella, which came out in 1964. While I have always been a fan of fairy tales, I admit that I was more drawn to this rendition of Cinderella for its gorgeous artwork… but then, it can be forgiven, since I was in the second grade when I first discovered this book in my school library. I would wish on the first star I saw every night that Cinderella’s dress would be waiting under my bed for me when I woke in the morning.

It never was. Years later I was able to find a copy of this little gem for myself and its now sitting on my shelf of beloved books from my childhood.

I was ten when my grandmother gave me my first Trixie Belden book. It was # 18 in a series of 38 books and she had found it at a yard sale. It was my first experience with a mystery novel and my ten year-old self thrilled at the adventures that fourteen year-old Trixie and her friends found themselves in. Here was an average, everyday girl; slightly pudgy and bad at math who often got herself into awful jams, but still managed to figure the puzzle out in the end and save the day, and I desperately wanted her to be my best friend. When forced to play out of doors I often found myself sleuthing alongside Trixie and the gang hot on the trail of stolen social security checks and planning our next charitable function (for the Bob-Whites of the Glen were always doing charitable work in one form or another).

Trixie’s series never made it out of her teens (unless you read some of the online fan fiction) and for a girl who has been around for decades, she still has a strong fan following. I often find myself reaching for one of her adventures when I have a few hours of time to myself and am feeling nostalgic, and admit that I read the entire series from start to finish about once a year. “Mystery of the Phantom Grasshopper” (it was a weathervane) isn’t the most popular of the series amongst fans, but it will always hold a special place in my heart thanks to my grandmother.

In the fourth grade my teacher, Mrs. Blue pulled Season of Ponies by Zilpha Keatley Snyder from the shelves and assured me that I would enjoy it… and I did. Pamela is a lonely girl who is left with her two aunts on a farm surrounded by empty barns and no animals whatsoever except for a cranky old cat named Brother. It seems to Pamela that she has been stuck on the farm forever, and not even the odd amulet her father, a travelling salesman, gives her is enough to lift her spirits.

One day Pamela hears a flute playing a haunting melody and races to the window to see a herd of delicately beautiful in gold, pinks and blues dancing in the mist, lead by a boy who lives free and comes and goes as he pleases. As he and Pamela spend the summer playing and creating ever more fanciful games, Pamela has to make a decision that ultimately gives her the courage to have a say in how she lives her own life.

I am sure many people who knew me as a child/young adult would expect Season of Ponies to be my favorite book. Surprisingly enough it isn’t, however, my favorite was written by the same author.

The Velvet Room introduces us to Robin, who lives in a Model T with her family during the Great Depression. When the car breaks down one morning outside the gate of an old plantation, Robin wanders off and discovers a large abandoned hacienda. When her father returns with news that he has found work in a nearby orchard, Pamela finds opportunities to wander back to the home, wondering what lies inside. A local elderly woman gives her a key that opens a secret entrance to the home, and, once inside she finds a grand library, with velvet drapes and so many books that it would take her years to get through them all. Among the books is a diary of a young girl, Bonita, which soon fills Robin’s thoughts.

As Robin spends more and more time in her “Velvet Room,” dreaming of being Bonita, she begins to pull further away from her family and the harsh world she lives in. It isn’t until the near destruction of her beloved library, that Robin realizes just what she has by being herself and how much she is losing by spending so much time wishing to be someone else.

I could certainly go on and on, but I suppose I could just drop an “honorable mention” to a few other books that I still love and adore:

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban
One Monster After Another by Mercer Mayer
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The Pinballs by Betsy Byars
Homecoming by Cynthia Voight
Piper at the Gate by Mary Stanton
The Maggie B by Irene Haas
Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I spent many an hour reading Trixie Belden growing up. I LOVED Trixie Belden. I had all 38 books. I say 'had'. My parents moved while I was away at college and Trixie didn't.

I have since started buying Trixie Beldens for my daughter. I miss the old cream color covers. Seeing the image you've posted brings back so many memories.

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