Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book Memories

by Kristine Coblitz

Can you remember the first book you ever read?

Surprisingly, for me, it wasn't a mystery.

My love of reading started in the third grade. The book that started it all was RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8 by Beverly Cleary. Mrs. Katich, our teacher, used to read a chapter of the book to our class at the end of every school day. I remember how much I used to look forward to each installment. We'd all settle into our chairs, nestled in a circle as we eagerly awaited to hear what new adventure Ramona was going explore. After the last chapter was read, we all scurried to the library to acquire our own copies, which we devoured even though we already knew the story.

We all identified with poor Ramona Quimby. We could relate to her struggles with schoolwork and family. The cover shot of Ramona with her funky hair and pudgy face seemed to reflect how we all felt. Saying good-bye to the book was like saying good-bye to a friend who actually understood us.

Even then, the discovery and beauty of reading was taking shape in our minds. We didn't have Play Station, the Internet or iPods to keep us occupied. Books stimulated us instead. Perhaps that's why we didn't have school violence back then, but that's a topic for another blog and another day, isn't it?

If only we could turn back time. If you ask me, the whole Harry Potter reading mania is a step in the right direction. Earlier this summer, while my husband and I were on vacation, I was thrilled to see two middle school girls reading on the beach. Yes, they were reading. They were so engrossed in their books, in fact, that I doubt they were even aware of anything else happening around them.

A few years ago, I bought my own copy of Beverly Cleary's book and it has a permanent place on my bookshelf. Every once in a while I'll take it out and read it, amazed that the magic feeling I felt as a young child is still there. I intend to share it with my own children in hopes that they will appreciate and cherish a good story as much as I did.

Take a trip down memory lane and think about the book that started it all for you. If it's still in print and you can manage to snag a copy, all the better. Is it a book you'd want to share with your children or the next generation of readers?

If so, I want to hear about it. I have a pretty large bookshelf to fill in the nursery and could use some suggestions.


Gina said...

Wow. This brings back memories.

The first real full length book I read was Black Beauty in the 2nd grade. I was lucky enough to have an aunt who gave me a set of Harvard's Children's classics, and there were children's books early on, so I was picking out words I knew before Kindergarten. In fourth grade, I told my teacher I had read Black Beauty (not to mention the rest of the set), and she condescendingly told me that I'd read the children's version, not the real book, but she was wrong. I read that book so many times I had the first three chapters memorized:

"The first place that I can well remember is a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees hung over it, and rushes and water lilies grew at the deep end. . . .

Great post.

Tory said...

Like you, I have a special place in my heart for books that were read aloud to me. I particularly remember the Winnie-the-Pooh books that Mom read to us.

In grade school, I remember our teacher reading us _The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe_ and getting hooked on the Narnia books from there. And I also remember reading all the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And, of course, _Charlotte's Web_!

I still have all of those on my shelves, and dust them off to read now and then. I can't quote actualy sentences like Gina, but I remember scenes and will say, "You remember when . . .?" with fellow readers.

Joyce said...

Great post, Kristine! The Beginner Books had just come out when I started grade school, so I remember Hop on Pop, all the Dr. Seuss books, PD Eastman, etc. My favorite of those was Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman. I have a copy of that on my shelves. Then in third grade I discovered Nancy Drew.

The book I remember most, however, was one called Snow Treasure. I got it from the St. Philip School library in 4th grade. It was about a group of children in Norway who tricked the Nazi's and it was based on a true story. A couple of years ago, I went back to St. Philip's for a reunion, and they still had the exact copy of the book in the library. It still had the date stamps from 1966!

There are SO many children's books that I could recommend. You're in for it Kristine. I'm making a list for you!

Lee Lofland said...

I don't remember the very first book I read, but I do recall devouring every single Hardy Boys book. I even read Nancy Drew and The Bobbsy Twins. I also read all the comic books; Archie, Batman, Superman, The Green Hornet, etc. From there I immediately got hooked on Alfred Hitchcocks Mystery Magazine and Poe. Then came Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jeff Deaver, Cornwell, Block, Grafton, Jance, Kellerman, Burke, Child, Woods, Proulx, Patterson, Harris, Grishom, Connelly, Coben...

The really cool thing is that during my Hardy Boys days I dreamed of becoming a writer, but other things got in the way - other things like 40 years or so, a career, marriage, and kids.

Annette said...

Like Joyce, I started with the Dr. Seuss, PD Eastman books. And I think they were called the Big Little Books or Little Big Books or something of the sort. I had lots of those. But I think the first "real" books I got hooked on were the Lassie books. Then came Fury and Walter Farley's The Black Stallion series. And of course Nancy Drew. The list goes on and on and on and...

Kathy MH said...


Yay! Another Ramona fan! She was also my first friend, confidante, and idol. My mom just gave me all the books for my birthday last year to replace the loaned out copies never returned to me, and I was shocked to discover there was a book I had never read in the bunch.

Ramona was spunky, irreverent, and real and Beverly Cleary made me want to create characters just like her.

Martha Reed said...

Harold and the Purple Crayon. I went back and re-read it to my niece and it is still as vibrant as when I first read it 40+ years ago. I also remember a book about Norwegian children sledding gold past the Nazis. ??? I'll have to look that one up! Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

Joyce said...

Martha, that's Snow Treasure!

Anonymous said...

Joyce's sister, Amy, here: living vicariously again...Since I have several years on some of you, I may go back a bit more. It's kind of a toss-up, like many of my memories, so it comes down to either "Old Yeller" or "The Girl Scouts at Penguin Pass". I can't remember much about either one, but the latter sparked my interest in mysteries. I believe it was on to Nancy Drew at that point.