Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The book I remember most fondly from my childhood is Stuart Little. My father, who traveled a lot, read one chapter a night to us before bedtime. Dad read from his own boyhood copy - a brown, hardback copy with illustrations; his mother had dedicated it: "To Dickie from Mother, Christmas 1945."
My sisters and I would beg my Dad to read "just one more chapter" but Dad would refuse. He would make us wait until the next evening. We would grumble and then close our eyes so it would be tomorrow. It was agony having to wait. Some nights I would lie awake trying to figure out how Mrs. Little, Stuart's mom, could have given birth to a real mouse, and whether my mother could give birth to a puppy.
Other childhood favorites of mine were: Goodnight Moon, Meet the Circus, by H. A. Rey, and Make Way for Ducklings. One series especially close to my heart were the books called The Witch Next Door and The Witch's Christmas. The witch hung a wreath on her door made of bats, and the snow that fell on her roof was black. Eventhough the witch was living in suburbia -- and was, well, a witch -- the kids still loved her. The books were written with a light touch by Norman Bridwell who also penned Clifford, the Big Red Dog.
As I grew older, I remember devouring Charlotte's Web, the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the original Cheaper by the Dozen, and The Stars Under the Tent. As I grew older and life became less dreamy, I got into the Judy Blume books and I read all the "boy adventure" books -- Kidnapped, The Red Badge of Courage, The Call of the Wild, and Treasure Island. I also read Mao's Little Red Book, and stayed in for an entire day to read The Secret Garden in one sitting.
You see, my parents had a little bookshelf that was built into the wall. It had blue doors with brass nobs. The shelves were just deep enough to hold paperback books -- and it was along the hallway to my room. I would sit in that hallway for hours and read. My parents could have put anything in that bookcase and I would have read it.
I decided, when I became a Mom, that I wanted my son to have a secret bookcase, too. I took a narrow closet with sturdy shelves and removed all the towels and linens. Then I loaded the shelves up with books. I put a blue cushion on the floor of the closet and added a flashlight. It didn't take long for Nick to find it. He would hide in that closet and when the house became very quiet, I knew he was there. Which favorites Nick will remember? I don't know -- but I can't wait to find out!
(Photo credit: Amy C. Spaulding)