Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Fives: Childhood Favorites

Ok, I hope my students forgive me for this, because I imagine seeing your teacher become an internet fangirl is a little like seeing her in her pajamas, but: I have to SQUEE a little at this week's Friday Fives topic from Paper Hangover.

They want to know:

What are your FIVE favorite childhood books?

Ok, kiddos, let's see if I can boil this down to five. I spent the first twelve years of my life, easy, reading exclusively from the children's section of my library, and only reluctantly transitioned to the YA section, with frequent trips back until I actually got my dream job in 11th and 12th grades: shelving books in, you guessed it, the children's section. These days, I read a lot more YA than children's/middle grade books, because it holds my adult attention better and also because I teach high school. But I suspect that truly, my heart will always belong to the books I discovered in the children's room of the Schenectady Public Library--Central Branch--under the guidance of an amazing staff of librarians who I saw at least once a week pretty much from birth to age 18 (thanks, Mrs. Butch and Mrs. Grossman!)

1) The Josefina Story Quilt by Eleanor Coerr (who also wrote one of my runners-up: The Big Balloon Race. Before I loved Little House, even, I think I loved this one. I was doubly captivated by the story of Josefina, a beloved pet chicken on a wagon train west, and by the concept of a story quilt, where the materials used and the patterns on the quilt represented experiences the family had, like a scrapbook. I basically wanted to take this out every week, including the weeks when we had just returned it.

2) The Oink and Pearl books by Kay Chorao. True, Oliver and Amanda seemed to be the more popular pig siblings, but I was nuts about Oink and Pearl. When Oink tries to make Pearl a great big fizzy ice cream soda for her birthday--but uses baking soda instead of liquid soda? Classic! I laughed, I cried. Well, not really. I didn't know what baking soda was either, I was four. But this was another one that spent more time at my house than at the library.

3) The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, specifically On The Banks of Plum Creek. Little House In The Big Woods gets an honorable mention, mostly for the description of making sugar-on-snow candy and eating a piping hot roasted pig's tail. Actually, all the books in the series contain some superb food writing, but Plum Creek features Nellie Oleson prominently and really highlights the dreadful gloom of having straight brown hair instead of curly blond hair. I used to just stare at myself in the mirror and will my hair to curl. (And maybe it worked--if I cut it short enough and put goop in it when it's wet, it does indeed fall right into ringlets. If there's a full moon. And I throw salt over my shoulder.)

4) Saint Therese and the Roses by Helen Walker Homan. (Disclaimer: Since I write this blog as part of a school activity, it's important for me to mention that including this book is not meant to endorse or recommend its religious views. I'm including it because of how much I enjoyed its story, and because it was meaningful for my mom to share a book she had loved as a kid with me.) This is a biography that's told as a really engaging childhood/coming of age story. I do endorse the basic message that being kind in small ways can really add up, which was really influential for me, but I don't think that's necessarily connected to any particular religion or religion at all. My mom had read it as a kid, as I mentioned, and she read it to me--and when our library deaccessioned it, she bought me a copy. It was out of print, so she had to use a newfangled internet shop to find one--yes folks, this book is also memorable as our household's first-ever purchase.

5) Possibly my all-time favorite book, ever, anywhere: A Little Princess. I actually got my copy from the shelf to put the ISBN into Goodreads, because it is maybe the physical book I treasure most as an object (not counting signed/inscribed books--I love this book just for itself, specifically Jamichael Henterley's illustrations.)

(Sara's eyes! Her hair!)
This is another book with traits I love from both the Little House books and the St. Therese biography. Sara is my favorite kind of heroine--smart, plucky, and brunette (like Laura!). She doesn't think she's pretty (although of course she is, but not in the crowd-pleasing way that Isobel Grange, with her "dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long hair the color of gold"--which is why it completely infuriates me that in the two highest-profile film versions, the actresses cast as Sara are blondes with round, rosy cheeks and dimples. I mean, Shirley Temple? Really?) and that actually is part of who she is. More importantly even than that, though--she's kind. She's generous and open-minded and takes care of people who are smaller or worse-off than she is even when it's terribly hard for her. She's pretty much been my role model for my entire life--but she's not perfect. She struggles to do the right thing, and she gets mad and cranky and misunderstands her friends and has to subdue her pride, and on and on and on. I just could not love her more.

So there you have it--my first Friday Five!


  1. I can't say I'm overly familiar with most of your selections, but your tantalizing descriptions should certainly pique the interest of your students. My wife has been reading the Little House books to my younger girls. Great books.

  2. Ooh, some fabulous choices! I especially love the LITTLE HOUSE books. I'm reading that series to my daughter now. We haven't made it to PLUM CREEK yet, but you are not the first person to mention it as a favorite. Can't wait to share it with my kiddo!

  3. I love A Little Princess too - such a great story. As for the Little House books, we had the whole set, but I'm not sure I read them. Definitely watched the show, though :)

  4. Jaime--read them now! Seriously, the plot sometimes fades for me but I still get hungry just thinking about the way she describes food. Ohhhh man.

  5. A Little Princess- what a great book. I should reread it. Such high high and low lows in that book- even though I knew the story I still worried it wouldn't all work out in the end. Great pick.

  6. I'm a HUGE Laura Ingalls Wilder fan and I loved the Little Princess to death too. You have great taste. ;)


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