The Northwoods Children’s Book Conference had a neat event In honor of keynote speaker Anita Silvey’s wonderful book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book. Each of the presenters, plus some attendees, got up and spoke very briefly about the children’s book that most influenced them.
I found this impossible and failed the assignment.
I don’t remember specific reading moments like so many people do. I just lived in books. I read so many books, and I didn’t love all of them equally, I’m sure. But there’s no way I remember my reactions enough to choose a favorite or most influential.
So I cheated. Here are 10 books/series I read and loved, plus something they taught me. I didn’t pick up on those “lessons” at the time, of course. But looking back, I think these are some tiny examples of how books shaped me.
The Bobbsey Twins taught me that no matter how bad things were, I could escape into a book.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret taught me to ask endless questions and accept that there aren’t always answers.
Where the Red Fern Grows taught me that love is risky, but worth the risk. And teachers cry, too. (One of the very few specific book-memories I have is my third-grade class sobbing–at least all us girls–while Mrs. Gracey read us this book.)
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler taught me to fight for my own worth and create my own adventures.
Harriet the Spy taught me that words are powerful and demand careful handling. And, as an adult, that if you’re going to write a journal about family members, password-protected files are helpful.
The Figure in the Shadows taught me the pleasure of one good friend, one trusted grownup, and one scary book, read alone, at night, curled up in a comfortable chair.
A Wrinkle in Time taught me that being different, a “sport,” a misfit, was ok.
Nancy Drew mysteries taught me that adults were often incompetent and teenagers could do anything they set their minds to. And that I wanted a wealthy father and a nifty convertible.
The Agatha Christie mystery with a child as the killer taught me that humanness doesn’t start with adulthood. We’ve got it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly—inside us from a very young age.
Flowers for Algernon taught me that the most stunning, life-changing books, the ones that stay with you forever, are the ones your mother is most likely to find you reading and take away from you and hide in the file cabinet in the home office. Those books are worth finding–and finishing.
What about you? What children’s book most influenced you?