I’ve written of this before so forgive me if I repeat myself. Growing up, books were as scarce as hen’s teeth. My mother and father didn’t read novels and, furthermore, my mother thought them all foolishness. Read the “truth,” she told me, “not junk someone made up.” Until the age of ten the only books I remember in our home were a set of encyclopedias and a set of short stories and poetry that came with the encyclopedias. I still have them on a shelf in my closet. Because I read them over and over while I was growing up, their covers are ragged and pages torn. My mother probably didn’t realize what those books actually were. I never saw her open any of them, so I guess she thought I was reading “true” articles from the encyclopedias. This was one of my favorite stories:
And, after we moved to France. when I turned eleven, we moved into the supposedly former Nazi-headquarters house. (For more on this, see: God's Plan.) The first floor contained a treasure-trove of books. And, thus began my love affair with books. Probably to get me out of the way and because I had nothing else to occupy my time, my mother allowed me to ride the bus onto the army base once a week and check out an armful of books. But she fussed continuously at me for reading too much. To avoid her scrutiny I would use a flashlight and read under the covers at night. She soon discovered the flashlight and took it away. However, my mother has always left a light on at night in the bathroom. After everyone was asleep, I would tiptoe into the bathroom and sit on the floor and read. And laugh and cry.
The library on base had one wall of children’s books. Horses were my passion and I read Black Beauty, National Velvet and all of the Black Stallion books. When I ran out of those, I read Old Yeller and Lassie, Come Home. The Wizard of Oz books came next and Little Women and its sequels. Most, if not all, of the classic children books stood on those shelves and, as far as I remember, I read them all.
When I finished that wall, I moved to the section labeled “Teens.” I read a few of them, but found none of interest. I don’t remember a single title from that wall of books. Most I didn’t bother reading, but simply moved on to the adult section and discovered James Bond. Probably not suitable reading material for an eleven-year-old girl.
I never paid attention to age-appropriate books. When I was in sixth grade, we went to the school library once a week. We sat at tables in assigned seats and waited our turn to check out a book. On the shelf by my table within arm’s reach were books I had never read or even heard of by someone named Dr. Seuss. The memory of reading them is very vivid, perhaps because the other kids at my table laughed at me for reading “little kids’ books.”
Books from my childhood. Books that molded and shaped me. Books from my sunsets.
What are your favorite books from childhood?