Saturday, March 3, 2012

Books from the Past

Growing up, I think we all have those books that stay with us, for one reason or another. Recently, there was a course being offered at my university dealing with children's literature and the required reading included a book that I hadn't read in almost a decade. I didn't end up getting into the class, unfortunately, but it did get me thinking about other memorable fiction from my childhood.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell:
Twelve-year-old Karana escapes death at the hands of treacherous hunters, only to find herself totally alone on a harsh desolate island. Based on a true story.  
I'll admit that I don't remember much from this one, but every now and again, I think about it anyway. There's something about this book that has stuck with me. I believe I read this in the fourth grade, during our Native American unit. While reading this book, we also got to pick our own Native American names. With true originality, I chose "Dancing Dolphin". I wonder why. Definitely due for a reread.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene:
Fan of the book;
the cover not so much.
Minutes before the train pulled into the station in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. But she never could have imagined that her summer would be so memorable. German prisoners of war have arrived to make their new home in the prison camp in Jenkinsville. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are only Nazis. But to Patty, a young Jewish girl with a turbulent home life, one boy in particular becomes an unlikely friend. Anton relates to Patty in ways that her mother and father never can. But when their forbidden relationship is discovered, will Patty risk her family and town for the understanding and love of one boy?
Be not fooled by the title of this one! As romance novel-y as it sounds, it's actually a very affecting story, as I recall. I read it in the eighth grade so, again, it's been a while. But I do remember pivotal scenes from this one! Most importantly, this book proudly owns the reputation of being the first book to ever make me cry, thus showing me that books can really make you feel. Personally, as a writer, making my readers experience some kind of emotion -- happiness or sadness, or anywhere in between -- has always been my aim. And I believe this novel was critical to my understanding of literature as a sort of gateway to the human heart. Excited to reread this one, especially after taking a course in WWII. Maybe I'll read it this summer. Wouldn't that be apropros? ;)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien:
If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. [. . .] For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited various notable persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent; and was present, rather unwillingly, at the Battle of the Five Armies. This is all the more remarkable, since he was a hobbit.
It's got a talking dragon, people! If that doesn't sell you on this book, I don't know what will. Kidding aside, it's an adventure story that provides the foundation for the larger epic Lord of the Rings, and somehow manages to equal it in excitement. To this day, I'd argue that Tolkien's narrative style is unmatched. It's uniquely intimate, which adds to the charm; it literally feels as though you're sitting at your grandfather's knee, listening to him tell you a story. With the first movie coming out next year, I'm trying to decide whether I want to reread the book before seeing it or not. Chances are I won't get a chance to with all the other books I want to read! But for those who haven't read it, I highly recommend it!

What are some books from your childhood that have left an indelible mark on you?