I'm reading a book called The Shadow of the Wind for my book club. It was published in 2001 and translated to English in 2004, so you've probably all heard of it...I'm the one who's been in the dark. Anyway...
At the beginning of the book there's a passage that reads:
Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later - no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget - we will return.
So, I started thinking about what this book would have been for me. I know there are some books that left a distinct impression on me and my love of reading early in my life...Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Boxcar Children series, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and a tad bit later, Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret. I can't tell you which I read first. They almost all came into my life around the time I was in the third grade, so somewhere around the time I was 8. That was when I REALLY started to LOVE books. I couldn't get enough of them. And each of those books left a different impression on me for different elements. Charlie was just amazing in all the wonder of the chocolate factory. What kid wouldn't be enveloped by that whole magical setting? The Boxcar Children were my first mystery books. I never really did the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys thing, but my third grade teacher introduced me to The Boxcar Children. She brought in her complete set of the original series - all hardbound, and I read each and every one from cover to cover during our personal reading time in class. Sideways Stories from Wayside School was just too much fun for a child my age. I absolutely LOVED the "ah ha! gotcha" moment in every story. And Beverly Cleary is definitely the author who initiated my love of character. Ralph was definitely my favorite, but don't think I didn't devour each Ramona story as well.
But I also remember the effects Gone With the Wind and The Thornbirds had on me when I read them the summer I was in Junior High School. I'm sure it has something to do with the raging hormones at that stage of life! ;) Or Johnny Tremain during my sixth grade year - I was hooked on historical fiction after Johnny Tremain. A Wrinkle in Time as a fifth grader was one of the few sci-fi books that ever grabbed me. To this day, I'm not a big fan of sci-fi, but I'd pick up A Wrinkle in Time again. It's one I'll make sure my niece and nephew have the chance to read.
My freshman year in college Dante's Inferno from The Divine Comedy had a HUGE effect on me spiritually, intellectually...WOW! I think that was the book that sparked my love of TALKING about books. I was brimming with excitement about this book and it was just too much to contain. I needed to share my thoughts and ideas with other people...the people in my class...my mom on the phone. And my mom isn't a book junkie like me. I'm sure she probably set the receiver down while I talked and went about her housework, checking back ever so often and saying "yes, dear". But I just HAD to talk about that book...I haven't shut up talking about books since!
So maybe what this passage from Shadow of the Wind is saying is that this mark the book leaves isn't necessarily the mark that has the biggest effect on you, but rather it's like a first crush. You're completely convinced that you're in love with this person and there can be no one else in the world for you (at 6 or 7 or 8 ha!). You don't ever forget that person and there are others who eventually come along that you feel more passionately about - who have a bigger effect on your life, but that first mark on your heart is one that stays there forever in a very special place, captured and frozen - never to be disenchanted because you always remember it as perfect!
So which book was YOUR first crush? Which left the first mark on YOUR heart?