Let’s talk books. More importantly, the stories and authors who made a lasting impression, grabbed a part of your mind or your heart, and never let go.
Obviously, this post is inspired by the death of Beverly Cleary. Ms. Cleary was one of the authors who opened up the world of reading for many a young person, male and female. For us Gen Xers, Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby were absolute favorites (with Fudgie and Encyclopedia Brown not far behind). Some of the material was a little bit dated even in the late ’70s/early ’80s world we lived in but the characters were one hundred percent relatable. I can only imagine that today’s kids would find the books positively antiquated. Then again, there was a Beezus and Ramona movie made back in 2010 so that surely proves the quality of the original work.
My mother was an elementary school teacher and I attended where she taught. So there were many days spent in the school waiting for her to be finished with meetings or whatever business she needed to finish up at the end of the day and I spent most of that time reading. Henry, Ribsy, Beezus, Scooter McCarthy and the crew were faithful companions. I can still call to mind how Henry acquired his dog Ribsy, the problems with Ramona and the paper route, even Henry’s struggles working the typewriter (not to mention the big sack of sad that is the “Ribsy” novel). Long story short (too late!) if you are of a certain age and Beverly Cleary’s passing didn’t bring forth some nostalgia and perhaps a little melancholy you were brought up wrong.
But that’s how it should be, isn’t it? There are certain pieces of art, be they books, movies, music, what-have-you, that are important to us because they tell our own stories just as much as they do the stories of the characters within, not to mention their creators. I can tell you autobiographically how I got from the books I read in third grade to the novels and short story collections I enjoy today. My bookshelf is filled with multiple biographies, and books by everyone form Stephen King to David Sedaris. Yet I have never lost the soft spot for those early books that started my fascination with the written word.
Today, children’s literature and Young Adult books are considered every bit as valuable and important as any other release, even if they do live on the other side of the bookshop. Not so when I was growing up. Still, it is not uncommon for kids and parents to read the same books voluntarily. “Harry Potter”. “A Series Of Unfortunate Events”. “The Hunger Games”. All once considered books for kids or young adults, now books for everyone. And there are many more. The line has blurred, and it is a good thing.
So, if there is a young person in your life, check out what they are reading. You may just like it. Then, make a suggestion to them and see if they can get into something from your past, or one of the classics. Tom is still tricking Huck into washing that fence. Ponyboy and Sodapop are still dealing with the Socs. Arthur Dent has yet to get the hang of Thursdays. The Baby Sitters Still have a club. These are worlds waiting for today’s young readers. And they have worlds they want to show you too. You just might have to start with Captain Underpants.
The wonders of reading are one of the most important gifts we can give. And perhaps, the best tribute to our literary heroes we can give.