Saturday, November 8, 2008

In the Heart...

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?


5 comments:

darbyscloset November 8, 2008 at 4:51 PM  

Jen,
I too loved the Boxcar Children !!!
I think though the first crush was "The Secret Garden" or "Watership Down" (remember that one!) along with the other one the Watership Down author had out "All things great and small" (out same time yet may of been by a different author - was about animals and their doctor).
Great conversation topic!
Thanks
Darby
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Jen Robinson November 9, 2008 at 3:39 PM  

I loved the Boxcar children, too. And too many other books to list. But I think my first crush was probably the Little House books. I remember reading the series from my classroom library in third grade. But it's funny - I've had very little interest in re-reading them, unlike with other books that I loved later, and still re-read (The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key, the Maida books by Inez Haynes Irwin, the Anne of Green Gables books, several Zilpha Keatley Snyder books, etc.).

Corey Wilde November 10, 2008 at 9:27 AM  

I cannot remember a time when I was not taken with books. Before I could read I would pull down the encyclopedia and moon over the illustrations of world flags or butterflies. I learned the alphabet by asking my mother for the book with flags and she taught me how the encyclopedia was organized by letter. What a revelation for my tiny brain!

I was a big fan of Bible stories (go, Samson!) and fairy tales, before I learned to read. I pestered my siblings endlessly to read to me. Once I could read more than simple three-word sentences, the first book that I fell in love with was probably a book about Sam Patch. Sam was a hero to me, I thought jumping was real athleticism, and hey, the illustrations were terrific. Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins books were a joy to read. And I remember reading Robert McCloskey's Homer Price stories, those were the best! Hard to find now though. 'Old Yeller,' that was great, I think I read that in 4th grade. And a book by F. Van Wyck Mason called 'Winter at Valley Forge.' That book, along with 'Johnny Tremain,' started me on a love affair with the history of the American Revolution.

Debbie November 10, 2008 at 1:40 PM  

I'm a huge Boxcar Children fan! The book that has left the most memories for me tho, was "The Godfather". I snuck read it when I was 12 years old.
I learned things from Sonny Corleone that no 12 year old girl should know. Good thing I didn't understand them. :~) It remains a favorite of mine to this day.
It's a weird one, I know. Especially since everyone else is listing much-loved children's books.

beauvallet November 10, 2008 at 10:31 PM  

Third grade, 'Cinnabar the One-O'Clock Fox.' Loved it. And everything by Dr. Seuss.

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