My father brought these books home for me one by one beginning when I was five years old. He worked on Madison Avenue at the time, and I remember the thrill on the evenings he walked through the door with a white F. A. O. Schwarz bag in hand with a tell-tale yellow cover showing through. The whole series had the yellow covers with appealing illustrations from Garth Williams. My mother read the whole series to me then, and I reread them several times on my own. They still hold pride-of-place on my bookshelf. I read them again a number of years ago and was amazed at what a different story they tell to an adult and a mother.
I was seven and held the books as a firm favorite when the series was televised. I already wore my hair in two braids and had a distinct overbite –larger than but not completely unlike Melissa Gilbert’s. For a few years often I heard that I looked just like Laura on Little House on the Prairie. It was a popular show and I considered it a great complement. It was enough to make up for the liberties the show took with the story and only made me love the books more.
I’ve decided to add a new feature on the blog, starting tomorrow. These won’t be reviews exactly; they’ll be memories, as Flashback Friday suggests.
I read a lot. I read quickly. I forget a lot of what I read, but some books stay with me. Fridays will be my chance to reminisce about books that have made an impression on me, that have shaped my life or ideas, books that are connected to the people I love or the person I was.
I’ve reread all of these books since the first time, but I haven’t read any of them recently. I’m writing these short posts from my memories to explore the part these stories had in shaping me as a reader and a person. As I’ve been thinking back and writing about books for upcoming Flashback Friday posts I’ve begun to notice interesting connections between my reading life, family life, and my social life, too. Perhaps someday I’ll write a post about what I discover.
I’d love to hear about your Flashback books. What books make your list? What did they mean to you?
Simon Pulse, 2013.
When the lights unexpectedly go out during a school dance, Bea can tell just by his breathing that the boy near her is having a panic attack. She doesn’t know him, has never seen him, (can’t see him now in the dark), but Bea can sympathize with his extreme anxiety. She often suffers from the same type of attack herself. This chance encounter is the start of an unexpected and unconventional romance between Bea and Beck, two teens who are struggling to live with all the ordinary problems that adolescence dishes out as well as a chaser of anxiety in the form of obsessive compulsive disorder.
I found this a compelling story. Bea’s OCD is primarily focused on keeping everyone around her, friend or stranger, safe, which though it’s obsessive is rather endearing. Through Bea’s group therapy sessions we see many other manifestations of the disease as well. There’s a lot to learn through this book, but it doesn’t feel teachy or preachy. It’s a fascinating story. I wanted to learn what happened to the characters, how the story fell out, and I picked up both information about the condition and empathy for the characters along the way.
All readers are different, but I think for me a novel like OCD Love Story is one of the best ways to learn about a complex mental disorder. It gave me a feel of having inside knowledge about the disorder and it also gave me a whole lot of sympathy for the struggle that sufferers go through. Nothing was sugar coated here, including the difficulty Bea’s best friend had in dealing with Bea’s condition. In the end, one can’t help but admire the tough work teens with OCD have to do to manage their condition in addition to navigating everyday adolescent life. This gets beyond the jokes and the Monk episodes. OCD Love Story would make a great addition to middle school and high school class and school libraries.
Gladys Gatsby had been doing a great job of keeping her cooking addiction a secret from her parents. But one day she resorts to using the blow torch she found in the garage to finish her crème brûlée and sets the kitchen on fire. Her parents arrive home just in time to witness the fire and are flabbergasted that she’s been doing something as dangerous as cooking. They take away her cooking privileges. Why can’t she just go to the mall after school like a normal kid?
After the little fire-starting incident Gladys is stuck with parent-approved activities: play outside, go to the mall, play on the computer, and she’s nothing less than miserable. Before long, though, Gladys’ new teacher unknowingly sets her on a path to become a restaurant reviewer for a New York newspaper. The only trouble is, she’s going to have to find a way to get to New York without her parents finding out.
This is a fun and funny read. Gladys’ parents are kind and perplexed but otherwise struck me like the parents in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, anxious for her to do all the things most parents don’t want their kids doing. Gladys’ antics in order to achieve her dream were charming and her worry about how she might be using others to achieve it noteworthy.
This is a great middle grade read. There’s such satisfaction, even as an adult, in reading a story in which a kid secretly manages a grown-up job. Kids will cheer to read about Gladys’ adventures and the cast of characters that help her find a way to reach her dreams.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.