When I was young, I always had my nose in a book. And if it wasn’t in a book, I was holed up in a corner with my notebook and a pen, scribbling my latest missive. I was a serious Word Nerd–so much so that my birthday presents from my friends were generally piles of blank paper and pens. And I loved it.
And I was lucky that I had parents that supported my bookworm tendencies. I would leave the library each week with a bulging bag. The deal in my house was that when I finished a book, I got to get another one.
I read through what most young girls do–the Ramona series from Beverly Cleary, Anne of Green Gables and all the subsequent books in that series, Judy Blume, Madeleine l’Engle–all the good stuff. But the books that took up the most space on my bookshelf were Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-sitters Club series.
I had an epic collection of them. I read them over and over. I knew most of them by heart. I felt like the characters in them were my friends, and I had my first book-to-movie heartbreak when a Baby-sitters Club movie came out and what appeared on the screen just wasn’t up to snuff with the written word.
I know this sounds super cheesy, but I learned from them: when my Dad was diagnosed with diabetes, I knew all about the disease because one of the main characters had it. The same goes for when I contracted mono–one of the characters had gone through it. I learned legitimate childcare techniques from the books–I built a kid-kit to use with the little ones I watched at Girl Scout gatherings. It was a huge hit. I got all my ideas about romance from them–and back then, they were very innocent ideas. There was no vampire almost-sex or 50 shades of anything–just slow dances at boy/girl parties and holding hands at the mall. And it was enough to make little 10-year-old me swoon.
But little girls grow up, and I stopped reading them and moved on to other books. A couple of years ago, I gave my entire collection to another budding tween-aged girl I knew. It was very much unlike me to get rid of books, but I’d just had a baby and space was at a premium.
I’ve regretted it ever since.
Recently I’ve had an itch to go back and re-read the books that had such an impact on my younger self. Maybe because I feel the world going to pieces and I want to escape to a less complicated time. Or maybe because I’ve been trying to write more and am looking for inspiration. Whatever the reason, I went online with trepidation to see if I could even find any of the paperbacks that stopped being printed in the early 90’s.
I was in luck. Not only did I discover people selling them by the dozens on eBay, half.com and Amazon for a steal, but I discovered that the author wrote a handful more after I stopped reading. So not only can I go back and visit my old friends, I can read new stories.
My husband thought I was a little crazy when my first package arrived and I squealed and immediately buried myself in a book written for a 12-year-old. But when I explained to him what they did for my world, and that I was going to start to collect them again for my future library (you know, the one that I’m sure will look just like the one in Beauty and the Beast) he just chuckled and left me to my reading. I think he’s relieved my new collection is going to be cheap.
What book defined your childhood? Do you still have it? I’d love to hear about them. If you need me, I’ll be baby-sitting with Kristy, Claudia and Mary Anne.