Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | L.M. Montgomery

Melanie Heuiser Hill

Melanie Heuiser Hill's Self on the Shelf

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. Alas, some of my favorites from child­hood were library books that I checked out again and again but nev­er owned. And I sus­pect the world record books were thrown out by my moth­er who did not share my fas­ci­na­tion. (The lady with the longest fin­ger­nails in the world is the one that sticks forty years on….)

But the books in this stack — these were deeply deeply loved  by me as a child. The Pooh books are the ones I have very clear mem­o­ries of my Mom read­ing to my broth­er and me. I know she read oth­er things to us, but these are the sto­ries and poems I remem­ber. She gave me the leather bound edi­tions when I had lit­tle ones of my own — our orig­i­nal copies, which were paper­backs, are a bit frail look­ing and might not have sur­vived anoth­er generation’s love.

Bev­er­ly Cleary’s Ramona books — and the Hen­ry Hug­gins and Rib­sy books, too— were favorites when I was in sec­ond and third grade and div­ing into inde­pen­dent chap­ter book read­ing. I picked up Ramona The Brave off a RIF table when I was in sec­ond grade. Mrs. Perkins, my teacher, read sev­er­al Cleary books to us and I was, and remain, a huge fan.

Ramona Quimby

Ramona Quim­by, illus­trat­ed by Louis Dar­ling, from the books by Bev­er­ly Cleary

But Charlotte’s Web is the first chap­ter book I clear­ly remem­ber read­ing on my own — same year, same teacher. I fell so com­plete­ly into this sto­ry that I couldn’t bear to go out to recess. I couldn’t even extract myself from the sto­ry to close the book and get my boots and coat on—it felt phys­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble. I remem­ber Mrs. Perkins say­ing that just once I might stay in dur­ing recess to read. I’m sure I didn’t even say thank you, just kept turn­ing the pages, know­ing I had to fin­ish since I’d have to go out the next day.

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er was kept from much of my ele­men­tary school because I so con­sis­tent­ly had it checked out from our school library. I was required to return it for a week every once in awhile “to see if some­one else might want to read it,” but I vol­un­teered to re-shelve it so I could hide it behind oth­er books and be assured it’d be there for me the next week. (This auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal detail found its way into my nov­el Giant Pump­kin Suite—dif­fer­ent book, but one also on this list!) The Mixed-Up Files won the New­bery Award the year before I was born. It is bril­liant, as are all of E.L. Konigsburg’s books, in my opin­ion. The book­ends of the nov­el are impor­tant, but if you’d asked me when I was a kid about Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er, I would’ve said her name was sim­ply in the title, for rea­sons I real­ly didn’t under­stand…. For me, the book was entire­ly about sleep­ing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. I have always had a fas­ci­na­tion with what it would be like to be locked in after hours at a muse­um, or a library, or a gro­cery store — to just have run of the place and have it all to myself. I don’t know if I had the fas­ci­na­tion before read­ing this book or if this book spawned it, but I remem­ber tak­ing notes on Clau­dia Kincaid’s bril­liant plans of hid­ing in the bath­rooms until secu­ri­ty was gone, blend­ing in with school groups dur­ing the day so as not to be noticed, fish­ing the coins out of the foun­tain to spend at the automat, etc. I nev­er owned this book as a child, but I bought it as an adult at the Met the first time I went to New York City. I read it on the plane home…which was the first time I noticed Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er!

Har­ri­et The Spy was a favorite of mine around the same time as The Mixed-Up Files, and between the two of them, I fell in love with New York City decades before I ever set foot in the city. I loved Har­ri­et because she was not nice — her blunt voice was often the tween voice in my head — and because she kept a note­book. I used to ask for note­books and pens/pencils for Christ­mas and birth­days. I loved that Har­ri­et did her spy­ing and wrote down what she noticed in ALL CAPS. Some­times I do that in my note­book, in homage. When Ole Gol­ly gave Har­ri­et advice, I con­sid­ered it advice to me, as well. This book, maybe more than any oth­er, gave me a yearn­ing to be a writer.

And the best for last…. The Anne of Green Gables series. I received the first nov­el in this series for my tenth birth­day. Over the next few years I received the next in the series each birth­day and Christ­mas. I love this series so much it makes my heart ache. And, as I wrote here, I per­pet­u­al­ly read them as an adult. I always have one going. It’s not great for my writ­ing. L.M. Mont­gomery wrote in a dif­fer­ent time, and style has changed con­sid­er­ably. I always have to cut my drafts by half — and I still use more words than many writ­ing today. But for char­ac­ter study and emo­tion­al arc, I think I can still learn from Mont­gomery. In any event, there’s not a bet­ter way to end the day than read­ing a chap­ter of Anne, as far as I’m con­cerned. I com­mend the prac­tice of “per­pet­u­al read­ing” to you — what­ev­er series makes your heart glad.       

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Skinny Dip with Caroline Starr Rose

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

L.M. MontgomeryAuthor L.M. Mont­gomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I’ve read all of her books sev­er­al times over, includ­ing the jour­nals she kept from four­teen until the time of her death. In fact, I’ve com­mit­ted to revis­it­ing Maud’s jour­nals every ten years. So far, I’ve read all five vol­umes twice.

Though I have a feel­ing Maud wouldn’t approve of me (she was not fond of free verse), she has always felt like a kin­dred spir­it. Like me, she was a teacher, a Pres­by­ter­ian pastor’s wife, a moth­er to two boys, and an author. I’d like to think we’d have a lot to talk about!

Lat­er this year my best friend and I are head­ing to Maud’s home, Prince Edward Island — a trip six years in the mak­ing and dream come true.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The Phantom TollboothI adore Nor­ton Juster’s The Phan­tom Toll­booth. I’ve prob­a­bly read it thir­ty times, first as a stu­dent, then as a stu­dent teacher, then with my stu­dents, and final­ly with my own chil­dren. It’s wit­ty, it’s clever, it’s fun, and oh so quotable. It’s also great for teach­ing ele­ments of sto­ry. There’s a reluc­tant hero on a clas­sic quest, and even the cli­max takes place at the high­est phys­i­cal point in the sto­ry — the Cas­tle in the Air.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Ernest HemingwayI’m going to change this one slight­ly to my most star­ry-eyed lit­er­ary child­hood mem­o­ry. My fam­i­ly host­ed a Span­ish exchange stu­dent named Paula when I was in fourth grade. Since then, Paula’s fam­i­ly and my fam­i­ly have con­tin­ued to remain close. The Maci­ciors own a home that is hun­dreds of years old, a grand thir­ty-four room struc­ture in the Span­ish coun­try­side, near the city of Pam­plona. In the 1920s Ernest Hem­ing­way rent­ed a room there while work­ing on The Sun Also Ris­es.

I vis­it­ed this house as a pre-teen and a teen. Though I hadn’t yet read any­thing by Hem­ing­way, I knew his name and was thrilled to learn I’d get to stay in the room where a real-live author had tem­porar­i­ly lived. There are two beds in the room, and you bet­ter believe I slept in both, to cov­er my claim-to-fame bases.

Caroline Starr RoseBroth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have a half sis­ter and half broth­er who are ten and twelve years old­er than I am.  I often describe myself as a semi-only child, as much of my child­hood was spent as the only kid at home. This taught me to enter­tain myself, cer­tain­ly, and meant I had plen­ty of time for read­ing and imag­in­ing and just mak­ing do.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

This is one I’m still learn­ing (and prob­a­bly will be till I die). But so far I’ve learned con­tent­ment comes from grat­i­tude, from real­iz­ing how many sim­ple, won­der­ful, often-over­looked gifts we expe­ri­ence every­day. Like breath­ing. Have you ever con­sid­ered how amaz­ing it is that there’s air to fill your lungs every sin­gle moment? Con­tent­ment comes from lov­ing and being loved. And it comes from acknowl­edg­ing what you can con­trol and let­ting go of what you can’t. Eas­i­er said than done, I know.

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Skinny Dip with Melanie Heuiser Hill

9_30RamonaWhat’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

Ramona the Pest. My ele­men­tary school was vis­it­ed by RIF (Read­ing is Fun­da­men­tal) twice a year — the best days of the year. You had to be in sec­ond grade to peruse the tables of nov­els that were set up in the entry-way to our school. It was enor­mous­ly excit­ing — so many to choose from! I picked that slim Ramona vol­ume from all the oth­er books piled high on the table and I read it “hid­den” in my lap dur­ing math class that after­noon. I can’t imag­ine I fooled my teacher, Mrs. Perkins, but she had com­mend­ed me on my choice ear­li­er, so per­haps she didn’t mind…even at the expense of math.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

That some­day I would actu­al­ly love being tall. I was 5’10” at the age of ten and it was rough. I’m six feet tall now and real­ly enjoy being tall — but it took a long time to get here. I sup­pose my 10-year old self would have just rolled her eyes — what an adul­tish thing to say to a kid! But it’s true and I wish I could’ve believed it then.

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?  

Only three?! Well, I’d have to have a series of din­ners, I guess. Here are two in that series: If I could invite three who are no longer liv­ing, I’d invite L.M. Mont­gomery, Arthur Ran­some, and E. L. Konigs­burg. If I had to lim­it myself to the liv­ing (rea­son­able, I sup­pose) I’d invite Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff, Kevin Henkes, and Deb­o­rah Wiles. Now to plan my addi­tion­al din­ners….

Where’s your favorite place to read?

This week it’s my new bright red Adiron­dack chair in the gar­den. SO com­fort­able, big wide arms for a glass of iced tea and a pile of books, and beau­ty all around. It is bliss.

9_30SwallowsWhat book do you tell every­one to read?

For the last ten years I tell every­one about Arthur Ransome’s Swal­lows and Ama­zons series — most­ly because Amer­i­can read­ers have almost nev­er read it and it has been A For­ma­tive Series for my kids. It’s a series of tremen­dous adven­tures with quo­tid­i­an details — some­how a mag­ic com­bi­na­tion. Sev­er­al of the books fea­ture the Walk­er kids — four dear sib­lings who are afford­ed a tremen­dous amount of free­dom on their sum­mer hol­i­days and know just how to use it. In oth­er books in the series there are fright­ful pirates and né’er-do-wells. We have read them almost exclu­sive­ly on vaca­tions — a big nov­el each trip, me grow­ing hoarse read­ing by lantern in the tent, on pic­nic blan­kets, and in hotel rooms. The audio­books done by Gabriel Woolf are tremen­dous and hours and hours of time in the car have been filled with these books.

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