In the beginning, before I found myself within the pages of a book identifying with this character or that one, I listened to my grandmother read aloud from My Book House while surrounded by my eight siblings. The giant, multi-volume anthology contains poetry from Mother Goose to Shakespeare, selections from the Song of Solomon to Christina Rossetti to Robert Louis Stevenson, folk and fairy tales from around the world, Aesop’s fables, as well as some not-as-old previously published stories like The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.… more
Such is the narcissism of youth that, sadly, one often learns about some important things about a parent only when they have passed on. Such was the case of my mother. Even as I began to publish, she never told me that she had wanted to be a picture book writer. I only learned of that when, after she died, I came upon some manuscripts she had written.… more
When I picture myself as a kid, I think of my bedroom in our split-level West Virginia house, a room I loved but had to leave behind at age eleven when my family moved to Maryland. For years, that room was my own little world, my book nook, my place to cuddle my cat Rag, collect china-cat figurines, and, yes, read books about cats.… more
This stack is largely the Self-On-The-Shelf stack of my childhood. There would be stacks of others, as well, you understand. I was surprised how many were missing when I went to pull books for this column, actually. Where were all the Judy Blume books? Where was How To Eat Fried Worms? And, I suppose if I’m really honest, I would need to include a small stack of Guinness Book of World Records from the late seventies…I wore the covers off those books.… more
A few days ago, I scanned my many bookshelves in anticipation of writing this piece. My charge was to assemble a small stack of books that had significance to me. Perhaps, I thought, I’ll write about my love for mysteries. After all, I spent countless hours as a young girl devouring the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries before moving on to Agatha Christie, Tony Hillerman, and Sara Paretsky.… more
Books swept me away, one after the other, this way and that; I made endless vows according to their lights, for I believed them. (Annie Dillard, An American Childhood)
It’s hard to say which came first: did I adopt traits of the main character in certain books I read, or did I gravitate towards those books because I already had those traits?… more
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