Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Before Harry Potter

Remember that great teacher you had in third grade who made knowledge come alive for you? I think the special books of your childhood can be like that, too. Maybe they're stories you discover at a sensitive time of your life. Maybe they're answers to emotional questions or triggers to complex thought. Maybe you're caught up in the lyrical quality of the writing, the historical context, or the way the book keeps you on the edge of your seat. Maybe they're inspirational. Or maybe they're just a rollicking good time.

Whatever it is, there's no question that our favorite books as children can wield a great influence over the rest of our lives, especially if we're writers.

So with that in mind, here's the list of my five favorite childhood reads:

HALF MAGIC by Edward Eager

The troop of siblings and friends tromping through Edward Eager's books had a retro feel and down-to-earth reality as they bickered and experimented and reasoned their way through adventures by whatever magic talisman they'd discovered this time. I spent hours imagining what wishes I'd make with such a talisman.


It was thrilling to watch James break free of his sheltered life into a world that rivaled Oz and Wonderland. I especially liked all the anthropomorphic animals (though I'm sure I didn't know that word then!).

THE HARDY BOYS by Franklin W. Dixon (actually 17 different men and women!)

I didn't care for Nancy Drew, but Frank and Joe were so clever and playful, I used to wish they were my older brothers. The vocabulary was very adult, and the stories were exciting and full of cliffhangers.

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle

This book had everything...fellowship, adventure, great love, crushing fear, hard-won triumph. Best of all, the heroes of the story were nerds like me.


The nobility and honor of the real and magical characters in this four-book series--Arthur, Guinevere, Launcelot, Galahad, Gawaine, Merlin, Pellinore, Tristram, Nymue...were inspiring. I used to sigh over the dramatic pen-and-ink drawings, too. I'm sure these books are what fired my affection for knights in shining armor.

So how about you? What were your favorite childhood books?

Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night!
LADY DANGER - Riding to the rescue April 2006
CAPTIVE HEART - Coming for you October 2006
KNIGHT'S PRIZE - Stealing your heart April 2007
DANGER'S KISS - Flirting with trouble May 2008


Diana Holquist said...

My favorite childhood books were grown-up books. I think I started in with James Clavell when I was about eleven and I never looked back. Tai Pan, Noble House, King Rat. I loved that stuff. I just shrugged off the bits I didn't get, and read the rest of it over and over.

Now that I'm an old lady, though, I read my kids' books, and love them. Jerry Spinelli--Maniac Magee, Stargirl, Eggs, etc--all brilliant. I like Dahl now that I"m an adult. James and the Giant Peach was too dark for me when I was younger. I recently read Half Magic, and was SO impressed by the writing (same with Wrinkle in Time), but couldn't get my kids to love the story.


Thanks for the trip down memory lane...

Tori Lennox said...

I love Edward Eager's books! Even now I wish he'd written more.

Other favorites were the Trixie Belden and Judy Bolton series (I liked them much better than Nancy Drew). I read pretty much everything the local librarian put in front of me. :)

penney said...

I like those but my favorite was the Box Car Children!! I read the first one over and over so much then when the others started coming out I read them.