Thursday, November 21, 2013

Books We'll Never Forget

Books We'll Never Forget
By Laura Bradford

On Friday, Barbara Parks, the author of the Junie B. Jones children's series, passed away. And while I never met Barbara, I was well aware of her work.

I'll never forget Daughter #1 coming home from first grade with the latest Junie B. Jones book she borrowed from her classroom library.  She was a relatively new reader (in terms of "bigger" books) and we'd sit on the couch every afternoon and read together. Her baby sister loved this time, too, because it meant more books (her favorite way to spend a day). The baby would sit on one side of Daughter # 1, and I would sit on the other, and we'd listen to Junie B. Jones' latest antics.

At first, I wasn't wild about the character's attitude--a bit too fresh, a bit too spunky. But, in relatively short order, Junie B. won me over with her crazy view of life as a kindergarten kid. At times, I laughed so hard with some of the tales, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Those books made reading fun for Daughter  # 1 and gave the three of us some wonderful memories (not sure what the baby--my now 15 year old--remembers of it, but that's okay...I remember her in the equation).

So then I got to thinking about some of the other books (children's and otherwise) that have touched my life in one way or another.

ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by P.D. Eastman was one of the first to pop into my thoughts. I remember my  mother reading me that book...and the great big deep voice she'd use when she'd give the crane's answer to the little bird--SNORT!  I still smile at that memory.

THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein is at the ready in my mind, too, simply because of the way that story resonated with me, even as a small child.  The notion that this tree would give and give and give, while the boy would take, and take, and take...has stuck with me through life.

As I began to move up through the self-reader ranks, I was introduced to my favorite series of all--the Little House books.  I got my boxed set as a present from someone at my First Communion and I read those books as many as ten times each (probably more). I wanted to be Laura Ingalls.

When I hit fourteen, I came across Mary Higgins Clark's WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN.  I read that book in my bedroom, hunched over my desk, completely oblivious to the world around me. It was at that moment, I became hooked on suspense novels.

And then there was Mary Higgins Clark's A CRY IN THE NIGHT that eventually convinced this then writer-wannabe to try her hand at mysteries.  I still have my original copy of this book. It's yellowed, falling apart (and even signed now), and it will always hold a special place on my "life books" shelf.

Which shoots me ahead (or back, I suppose) to the books I read as a mother...

My girls loved their books as they were growing up. Every night, before bed, they'd each pick two books for me to read aloud. The bookshelf (stocked full) was there favorite place in the house. We read at bedtime, we read in the morning, we read in the afternoon.  My youngest would spend hours plucking books off the shelf and carrying them over for me to read (she is still a voracious reader, even now). We read many books, many of them earning special places in our hearts for various reasons. But my favorite book to read aloud to them?

YOU ARE SPECIAL by Max Lucado.

I can't remember how we came upon this book, but I'll never forget reading it to them for the first time. I literally sobbed when I got to the last page because of how beautiful the message was--for them and for me.

About four years ago, the girls' amazing childhood book collection was sold--for pennies and nickels a book, no doubt--without their permission. Although sad for them (and me), I am slowly but surely picking up some of those old books and storing them in my hope chest. One day, when they are mothers, they can read those favorite books to their own children. They may not be the actual books they touched as babies/little girls, themselves, but they'll be close.

So what are some books that have grabbed a place of honor in your heart over the years?



  1. We loved Where the Sidewalk Ends - another Shel Silversteen book. He didn't like (as much as I did...) The Phantom Tollbooth or A Wrinkle in Time. But we both adored the Chronicles of Narnia.
    Lately, my son has been reading the old Bradbury and Heinlein sci fi books I loved as a teenager. Fun to share old memories.

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  3. For me it was my teacher reading my kindergarten class "The Cat in the Hat" - my mother recalls me coming home from school every day to update her on the cat's adventures. :)

    As for "Are You My Mother?" - I read that to my younger brother. Such fun memories!

  4. Lynn and Kathy, thanks for stopping by. Books really do help shape a life, don't they? Kathy, I had to smile at your Cat in the Hat memory. That was one crazy cat, especially to kindergarteners. :)
    And Lynn, I'm not sure I ever read Where the Sidewalk Ends. Must remedy that.

    1. Love those poems - especially the one about looking for your head, and trading up the dollar my father gave me cuz I'm his smartest son....