Sunday, April 28, 2013

What book made you LOVE books?

This article in Publisher's Weekly got me thinking about what first fired up the need-to-read in me.

In first grade, I hated reading. This was mostly due to the fact that my first grade teacher, Mrs. Nielson,* had assigned me extra work to do at home. My mom would make me sit at the dinner table and do extra workbooks while she made dinner and my siblings played.

(Freakish Hermione nerd alert: I found out later that all this extra attention was due to the fact that in 20+ years of teaching, Mrs. Nielson had never come across a kid who never got anything wrong. The extra workbooks were designed to challenge me. But because my parents and Mrs. Nielson didn't want me to get a big head, they never pointed that out until I was in high school. Who knew?)

But by third grade, I had discovered the lure of Ann M. Martin and The Baby-Sitters Club, which I found enjoyable primarily on the basis that (1) Kristy was awesome and (2) you could read an entire BSC book in one night, partly because you can always skip the second and third chapters, which tend to just re-explain the business structure of the club. ("One night when Kristy was eating pizza, listening to her mom on the phone trying to find a babysitter for her little brother David Michael ...")

In fourth grade, though, the reading fever really took hold, thanks to a little book called Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I tore through that series and then everything else that followed.

What was the first book that made you interested in reading?

* Here's a brief ode to Mrs. Nielson, who passed away a few years ago. In addition to being my first grade teacher, she was also my Sunbeams teacher in church, and a good friend of my parents', so I was always slightly confused about whether I was allowed to called her Nanette, Sister Nielson, or Mrs. Nielson (since I had been using all three interchangeably my whole life.) Believe it or not, there was one other relationship Mrs. Nielson and I shared, I found out later -- sorority sister. After I went to college, I found out that Mrs. Nielson had also been a member of Theta Phi Chapter, Delta Delta Delta.

Mrs. Nielson was also an artist, and when she illustrated her first book, she used me and my sister Echo for her illustrations. (We--and Echo in particular--were weirdly beautiful children. It must be so disappointing for our parents that we turned into merely-adequate-looking adults.) Unfortunately, the book was never published, so no one ever gave a crap that we were former-baby-models. C'est la vie.

But man, that book was a winner. It was based on a true story from Mrs. Nielson's childhood. If I recall the story correctly, it was about a little girl named Emma who loved ducks. Her parents told her to never let the ducks get into her mom's poppy patch, but one day Emma wasn't paying attention, the ducks ate the poppies, got stoned, passed out, and little Emma was super sad because she thought they were all dead. She planned a funeral for the ducks, and when she started singing to them, BAM! all the ducks woke up. I'm pretty sure some other stuff happened too, but it's been awhile.


  1. As a kid, it wasn't just one book it was a series of books called Sweet Pickles that I loved reading. I like them so much I read them to my kids as they grew up.

  2. Mrs. Nielson's book sounds awesome. :-)

    I can't remember which book made me fall in love with reading. I definitely remember the Baby-Sitters' Club books, but I was a hard core reader even before that. I know one of my very favorite books was called The Seeing Summer, about a girl who becomes friends with a blind girl and they both get kidnapped.

  3. Hmm...trying to remember where it all started for me. I honestly don't remember when I started reading "Chapter Books". The Great Brain series was a big favorite when I was in 1st grade, but I also remember stuff like Lloyd Alexander, Hardy Boys, and then later Terry Brooks and yes, Susan Cooper. Thankfully I managed to avoid seeing that seemingly-awful film adaptation of "The Dark is Rising" that was made a few years back ("The Seeker", I think?)

  4. Easy . . . "Witch Tree Symbol", a Nancy Drew book by Carolyn Keene.
    There was also some book that I read in around third grade called "The Secret Language" and it had a secret code in it. I was fascinated! I tried to find the book again, but I never could . . . sadness. But I own Witch Tree Symbol and made (yes, made) my daughter read it and as many other Nancy Drew books as I could.

    I hated reading in first grade, also. I couldn't figure out the word "the" for the life of me. I kept reading it as "tuh-he" as in "Dick and Jane walk to tuh-he car." It got really embarrassing after awhile.