Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Memories of Books Well-Loved--III

At last I was ready to read more challenging novels as I headed into sixth grade. I was eager to read books from the adult section of the library, but I am glad to that took the time to read some of the great young adult books that were waiting right there in the "children's room". (Maybe it was just that title of the room itself that had me trying to rush upstairs to the other books.)

Kate Seredy--her name still seems musical to me. Frankly, a retelling of the story of the migration of Huns and Magyars from Asia to Europe does not sound very interesting to most of us. For me, it was the beautiful illustrations that I remember first so maybe they are what drew me to The White Stag. Maybe it was just luck. Whatever, it remains a strong memory of a book enjoyed, even though I may not be able to readily tell you the story that I found there.

In a previous post I mentioned that I am an animal lover. I loved those fictions with talking animals, but I also loved reading about the true animal encounters in Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I have Known. Seton was an early naturalist who published this work in 1898. He had a passion for animals that comes through every word he wrote.

It is proof that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote true classics when I see that his books are still popular with so many Emerson students today. When I was in middle school The Hobbit was almost required reading among my peers. When I got to college I read it again along with The Lord of the Rings trilogy for new meanings and new adventures. Watching the movies and then visiting some of the sites where the movies were filmed in New Zealand makes the stories continue to live on for me.

Equally classic, though not quite as old, is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. Of course I loved this book and its sequels that introduced the concept of using tesseracts to time travel. (I just did a quick search of the word "tesseract" to remind myself of what it means in geometry.) My favorite L'Engle book, however, is much less well known. Meet the Austins featured a much more "ordinary" family. They were so ordinary that in the opening pages there is a mention of flushing the toilet with a bucket of water after the power goes out. It is funny to think about now, but that is what I most remember about this book because I think it was the first book I ever read that acknowledged that toilets exist, much less that they need flushing.

Even though I grew up in Montana, I was never the kind of horse lover that so many girls were then and are now. However, I did read Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and almost immediately begin dreaming of going to Chincoteague Island to watch the horses that inhabited that classic novel. I read some of the other books by Henry, but none stick in my mind as vividly as the trials of Misty.

The other classic horse story that I loved is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, but I have to confess that I did not allow myself to read that novel until I was an adult. Why did I wait so long to read the autobiography of a horse? I don't' know. I didn't know what I was missing.

Another classic that I did not discover until I was an adult--what was wrong with me?--is the wonderful Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I have yet to meet a woman or girl over 10 who has read this book and not be entranced by the this spunky red head. (Did I mention how much I loved another spunky red head, Pippi Longstocking when I talked about books read in elementary school? She is very different from Anne but equally spunky.) One of my dream trips is to visit Prince Edward Island and see the places that Montgomery makes so real.

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