I was one of those kids who lived in my head most of the time. Come to think of it, I still do. Thinking, pondering, imagining, pretending, projecting…my mind was and is a swirl of activity. Much of this tendency is book-fueled. I learned to read in kindergarten and honestly don’t remember what it was like not to be able to read. Much of my childhood was spent curled up with a book, being transported to other times and places. It wasn’t unusual for me to read a whole book in a single day and I often did just that.
My mom wasn’t much interested in books so most of my literary inspiration came from book-loving teachers. I attended a Christian school from second through sixth grade and all five of my teachers read out loud to the class nearly every day. I’ll never forget hearing “The Secret Garden” in third grade. A lifelong lover of flowers, I was absolutely entranced by the notion of a neglected garden springing to life with the careful attention of a couple of misfit children.
Even though my mom wasn’t a book reader herself, she would buy me a book if I asked for it. That’s how I ended up with a copy of “A Little Princess”. As I began reading, I was immediately captivated by the story of Sara Crewe. Here was a little girl who loved her special doll, Emily, as much as I loved my own dolls. The story takes place in foggy London, a location I’ve always found to be a good setting. Not to mention, I’ve always had this thing for stories about boarding school. As I read, I was aware of how much the book reminded me of “The Secret Garden”. As an eight year old, I was only just beginning to notice the authors of the books I read. I didn’t have a copy of “The Secret Garden” but when I went to school I took a look at the copy in our classroom and was delighted to see that they had both been written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My guess was correct!
I have absolutely no idea how many times I’ve read this charming book. The cheap copy I had as a child started to fall apart so I bought the book in the photo above at a used book store shortly after we moved to Oklahoma. My maiden name is penciled inside so it had to be the first year we lived here. I have fond memories of reading it to Lisa. Whenever I’m in need of what I think of as a “comfort book” (the literary version of comfort food) I pull this off the shelf and spend a few hours immersed in the dramatic story of a cherished little girl who finds out what true character is when her life takes a tragic turn.
Do you have a special book from your childhood? I’d love to hear what it is and why it is a favorite.