So this month the three of us chatted about books we remember from childhood – that golden age between about 6 and 12 when we read EVERYTHING WE COULD GET OUR HANDS ON. What stood out? Why? Good things, bad things?
At the end is a list of books we really remember, and do tell us what books YOU remember from those crazy golden years.
Tessa: ok. so. books we remember from childhood.
Maggie: I remember seas of books. Individual titles, not so much. I remember sitting in the stacks reading books because I had too many to take home from the library.
Brenna: I was thinking about this, and at least for me, the books I remember aren’t just memorable, they also either shaped how I write, or maybe just represent my personal taste
Tessa: for me, I remember images from beautifully illustrated books, then long series that were never ending and easy to lose myself in, and finally the books i read over and over and over and fantasized about living in and being part of.
Maggie: I remember shocking things. Like the first book I ever read where someone got killed, violently, and didn’t come back. It was one of those combo Hardy Boys/ Nancy Drews books. And one of the Hardy Boys’ girlfriends got exploded by a car bomb at the beginning. And baby maggie was like O_O.
Sorry if that was spoilery for anyone reclaiming their 80s youth through popular literature. But. She dies.
Brenna: I remember quirky books, because when books were weird, they were SO much weirder than movies
Tessa: Yes, firsts, and shocking things. I remember the first time I read THE VAMPIRE LESTAT. I was 12 I think, and I was like “omg, I didn’t know you could write like that” because it was first person POV and he was AN ASSHOLE. I was used to Nancy Drew and heroines from fairy tales who were kind and beautiful and brave… not like Lestat.
Brenna: One of the first books that made a huge impression on me was THE TWITS, by Roal Dahl, for the same reason. They were MEAN.
Maggie: Roald Dahl always left an impression because he did not go easy on kids. The Witches made my eyes bug.
Tessa: this might get me kicked out of the YA club, but I hated all of his books. I might have come to them too old though. (I hope. That’s my salvo.)
Brenna: that was another of my absolute favorites, THE WITCHES
Maggie: I read them at an age when I didn’t hate any book. I wasn’t exactly sure what a less than “love” response was for a book
Brenna: yeah, me too–ages 5-9
Maggie: because that was all I seemed to have. Read it. Or Loved it.
Tessa: I was appalled by the whole mouse thing. It wasn’t appealing to me. I liked books that made me want to live in them.
Maggie: So, like Ballad.
Tessa: Exactly. How did you know?
Maggie: Because you proposed to Sullivan the other day.
Tessa: Ohhh that WAS quite the tell wasn’t it. (ps. i have a really nice ring.)
Maggie: (he is fond of large rings)
Brenna: when I was really young, I don’t think I knew that you could want to live in a book
Tessa: (…..*being quiet*)
Brenna: I always felt like I was watching through a little window. I mean, the Twits legitimately scared me–I thought they wanted to eat me–but I liked them anyway
Tessa: Oh, Brenna! That was my default. I talked to characters I loved and imagined walking into their cities. And being cool. and they all thought I was cool. I might have been imagining early-form fanfic. HA! “I thought they watned to eat me, but I liked them anyway”That says so much about you.
Maggie: HA! This tells me TESS STOP USING MY WORDS. I was about to say that. But Tess takes everything.
Tessa: I’m a taker.
Maggie: I was about to say “I can tell you what doesn’t stick with me” and then I realized that I was about to list books that actually had. i.e., the babysitters club. Because I still remember reading the book where Stacy had diabetes (oh ho I drop another 80s spoiler). Of course, none of the others. but I remember that one. I think it was that shocking thing again. Because it was permanantly shifting their status quo, and that is sort of not allowed in young middle grade
Tessa: That’s interesting – do you think, Maggie, it’s bc your childhood was… stable?
Brenna: I remember one, this one book where Mary Anne is babysitting (imagine!) a kid, and the kid gets sick, and I kept waiting for something terrible to happen and nothing did
Maggie: Quite probably. My parents were married, nobody died. I think it was more because I read so many books where the stakes weren’t high that when they were, they stood out. Yes, like the one Brenna just mentioned. which, by the way, is the second book in the series. There was no stakes in that. I mean, she was sick, but you knew nothing bad would happen.
Tessa: I can’t believe you remember htat.
Maggie: But then when something DOES. Shut up, Tess.
Tessa: I only remember books I’ve read 10+ times.
Maggie: Don’t judge me.
Tessa: It’s my memory. One of the reasons I’m able to imagine a long happy life with Sullivan is that I’ve already mostly forgotten how BALLAD actually ends.
Brenna: you made up your own ending? with you in it?
Tessa: Yes. I’m very very very good at that.
Brenna: I think I thought that if the kid got sick, the book would be about that, and instead it was about her coping well
Maggie: Yeah. Which was very within the scope of a Babysitters Club book.
Maggie: But when Stacey or whatever got sick, you just figured, okay, she has, I don’t know, tendonitis or a mild case of nettles, and she’ll be fine. But she WASN’T fine. And also, I wrote Tess into the ending of Ballad. She plays the stage.
Tessa: I thought I was the doorway he walks through at the end.
Maggie: OH YOU WISH
Brenna: okay, now I feel totally misanthropic, but I never got too concerned when book characters weren’t okay, but I was always SHOCKED when something bad happened to animals
Tessa: OK – that point about stakes, I think that’s one reason people have a love/hate relationship with Joss Whedon. Not to be all BUFFYRULZ, but he is not afraid of killing, maiming, and otherwise completely altering everything about the show in two seconds.
Maggie: I agree with that about Joss Whedon. And also about animal maiming. It still irritates me more than people maiming
Tessa: I like animal maiming.
Brenna: we know
Maggie: which reminds me, Sam should get a dog. Tessa: You’ve been saying that for 2.5 books now. Maggie: I know. He doesn’t get one. He never gets anything he wants. Brenna: you have yet to produce the dog Tessa: except Colelovin Maggie: Grace is more likely to produce a — wait, that’s spoilery Brenna: you don’t let him have what he wants!
strike from the record. Aaaaaaaanyway. I also remember weird turns of phrases. I still remember some random fantasy book where it said: “she kissed his bruised lips” and I was still at the age where kissing was vaguely gross (yes, this was before Shiver) and also, I wondered how she could tell they were bruised.
Oh, I remember swearing too. I remember the first time I read “Damn” in a book. It was Dogsbody
Tessa: really? you kids are so cute.
Maggie: and a dog had just bit Duffy’s leg. Smart ass.
Tessa: Speaking of dogs, I read my first doggie-style graphic sex scene in 5th grade, and it all went down hill from there. That REALLY made an impression. I’ll never, ever forget that book. Don’t tell my mom.
Maggie: and she said damn and I was “WHOA! SHE REALLY SAID THAT!” It was sort of like that fan letter I got from that student who was all amazed that I got his teacher to say ‘ass’ in assembly while reading my letter to them.
Brenna: okay, not that’s something I remember: reading “Rage” by Stephen King, in the library, and without warning, he busts out one of the worst words EVER
Maggie: Which word? Spell it with your fingers.
Tessa: does it rhyme with grunt?
Tessa: that isn’t very bad
Brenna: Yes! I was 12 and somehow hadn’t realized that you could write it down. I thought I was going to get int trouble for reading it in the library.
Maggie: That’s the thing. With “Damn”. I knew it existed, but I hadn’t seen it in print before, and I just didn’t think it was done. I must’ve been very small. Because I found anarchy after that, and everything went to pot.
Our conversation went to pot around this point, too. So we’d like to leave you with a list of the books we really remember from childhood and why we remember them.
THE TWITS because it was the first book I’d ever read where the main characters were completely awful and unrepentant
HIGGLETY PIGGLETY POP because it was so strange that I was surprised it could even be allowed, and because Jenny sticks her head in the lion’s mouth
MOOMINLAND MIDWINTER because it’s another completely strange book where you have no idea what’s going to happen next–quirky details galore
DRAGON WINGS because a lot of people get dragged out of opium dens (I think by the police)
WHISPER OF DEATH by Christopher Pike. This was a glossy series horror novel like all his other glossy series horror novels, only the plot centered around abortion. No, I’m not joking.
THE FORBIDDEN DOOR by Merilee Heyer, because of the amazing illustration. I adored it, but barely paid attention to the story. It was the images.
THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR by Jean M. Auel, aforementioned crazy doggie-style sex. I was too young and impressionable.
THE VAMPIRE LESTAT by Anne Rice, because the narrator was an a-hole and I didn’t know you could do that. Also I barely understood anything that happened.
THE LITTLE MERMAID, because the illustrations in my version were gorgeous and the HEROINE DIES. *shock*
BEAUTY by Robin McKinley. It changed my world because it retold a fairy tale in novel form.
THE HERO AND THE CROWN, because Aerin says “ah, hells” and I loved it, and she kills a dragon 1000 times her size.
THE NANCY DREW FILES WHERE NANCY AND NED BREAK UP, because I was horrified. Nancy and Ned 4EVR.
A SEASON OF PASSAGE by Christopher Pike because it scared the CRAP out of me. (hey, Brenna and I both have Pike!)
THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN QUEEN. Portals! Unicorns! Portals! Unicorns!
THE LAST KISS OF SUMMER- Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew SUPER MYSTERY! I remembered this because Joe’s fiancee died. Not in an explosion, as I’d remember (hoped?), but by a hit and run driver. And she stayed dead. And there was angst. Pretty much, it became my genre. Killing people and making other people sorry about it.
DOGSBODY, Because it was the first time I read “damn” in a book. When Duffy got bitten by Sirius. On the calf. I remember it vividly. Also, I remember certain scenes from this one, like the cold hounds and the dog sex, that I will never forget.
SOMETHING CAT, I can’t remember the name, but it was a fat book about a cat during world war II and there was cat sex. Yes, there was.
A TALE OF TIME CITY Because the protagonists eat “butter pies” and I always thought they sounded delicious.
FAIRY REBEL The first faerie book I ever read with evil faeries. I was totally hooked. Also, the protagonist was named Bindi, which is not a name, and she had a lock of magical blue hair that she tied around her mother’s gimpy leg to heal it. I think maybe it stuck with me because it was the first book that hit all my buttons, before I knew I had buttons.
DOG MAGIC, I know this one is because they were performing experiments on the animals and I thought that was horrifying and great to read about.
SILVER ON THE TREE/ DARK IS RISING, Because it had Arthur in it, and I was like OMG IT’S ARTHUR. IT’S REALLY HIM. Again, the itch scratching thing.
Lloyd Alexander’s WESTMARK series, Because it had high stakes, swearing, and really really dead people in it. Also, on one of the covers, one of the characters was really cute and I was in love with him. I’m trying to find the sexpot cover, but I can’t see to. Oh yeah, here it is. http://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/1586058.Westmark Damn, that shirt is cut to WHOA and he’s got some sort of flintlock pointing out there. A flintlock is a gun, you dirty people.
Whichever Babysitter’s Club book where Stacey got diabetes. I think because I was used to things reverting to normal and they did not revert to normal.
THE RAMONA BOOKS, Because apparently, I was Ramona, and for a long time, I mistook these books for my memories.
What books stand out most clearly to YOU? Why?