Friday, March 11, 2011

Reader for Life

Here is a non-surprising fact about me: when I was a kid, I spent about 90% of the time with my nose in a book. Excellent for my imagination. Not so great for my social skills.

Moving on.

I sometimes get asked why I choose to write fiction for kids and my answer is pretty simple. As much as I adore many, many books as an adult, I don't think I will ever forget some of the first books I read as a kid and the world of sheer wonder that they presented to me. Those books are in the fabric of who I am. And the thought that maybe I could be a part of that as an author gives me goosebumps.

Recently, I was thinking about those early books and the authors who wrote them. It didn't take me long to figure out the three main ones who made me a reader for life. And they are:

Beverly Cleary
Her books are the first novel-length ones I ever remember reading. My second grade teacher read a couple to us in class and--because one of my favorite things to play at was teacher--I made my mom buy those same exact books at home so that my stuffed animals would get as top-notch an education as me. And then I made her buy me more. And more. Ramona, Beezus, Henry, Otis, Ellen, Ribsy, I love you forever. And thanks, Ms. Becker, wherever you are!

Roald Dahl
This is a big one for me. The slightly twisted humor. The deliciously clueless adults. Quentin Blake's drawings. Dahl continues to be one of my biggest inspirations. He died when I was nine, and I distinctly remember hearing about it and being extremely sad because that meant that there would only be a finite number of his books I could ever read. I so carefully rationed them out to myself at the library over the following two years. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me was my last one. I'll never forget that.

Ann M. Martin
I sincerely challenge you to find an American girl around my age who did not read The Baby-Sitter's Club. These books were the first taste I ever had of devouring pages. Sometimes I would finish them before we had left the bookstore, but insist on buying them anyway because I wanted them for my library. That pastel shelf in my library still makes me wistful. There was something incredibly comforting (and somehow page-turning) about being a part of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, et. al's world and I consider them some of my first fiction BFFs.

What about you? Who are the children's authors that turned you on to reading?


  1. I remember loving all the Marguerite Henry books :) Really my sister and I devoured anything with an animal in it!

  2. Sarvenaz,

    Yes, Beverly Cleary was one of my favorites. I loved Ramona Quimby. I was an oddish sort of girl so Ramona was my hero. And DEFINITELY Roald Dahl. Definitely.

    Also a favorite, Judy Blume, especially her SuperFudge series. Fudge is one of the greatest characters of all time.


  3. Lynn and Jenny, Marguerite Henry and Judy Blume are both excellent choices! Jenny, I completely agree about Fudge: a fabulous character for the ages.

  4. We used to get book fair catalogs at school, and we could order Baby-sitter's Club books as they became available. Good times :)

    My favorite author for a long time was James Howe. He wrote the "Bunnicula" series (the vampire bunny! With Chester the cat!) and also some mystery books for kids and a few more serious MG/YA ones like "A Night Without Stars."

  5. Sweet Valley Kids!! I never got into Sweet Valley High but Sweet Valley Kids were awesome chapter books.

  6. I don't think I remember those, Z! Were the twins in middle school instead of high school?

  7. Little House on the Prairie series-especially Little House in the Big Woods. Also Anne of Green Gables. Oh and Harriet the Spy. I LOVED that book. And of course Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley High and I read all of the Nancy Drew books. I still remember in the old library where the Nancy Drew and Garfield books were kept.

    You know why we weren't friends as kids-because we were on opposite sides of the library with our noses in a book :)

  8. Oh, I LOVED "Anne of Green Gables" and "Harriet the Spy" and those Garfield comics. Also, I'm pretty sure your depiction of us on opposite sides of the library is pretty spot-on.