I’m going to reveal a huge secret. I hope I don’t shock anyone. Here it is: A lot of editors are bookworms. Some were born bookish, some achieved bookishness, and some had bookishness thrust upon them. But however we came to it, most of us, from an early age, have spent hours with our noses stuck in one tome or another.
Here in the office, we talk about what books appealed to us as kids. Series fiction is a common theme. Male colleagues named as favorites the Dragonlance Chronicles, the Three Investigators series, the Great Brain books, and the Wrinkle in Time series. Some of the younger women editors were heavily into the Babysitter’s Club books. And it still amazes me that some of our youngest editors started reading the Harry Potter books in grade school!
For my generation, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Anne of Green Gables and its sequels, and Encyclopedia Brown were mainstays. But for many women my age, Nancy Drew was the series. As a kid, I believe I could sense, Obi-Wan-Kenobi-like, a change in the universe when a new Nancy Drew hit the shelves. I wouldn’t rest until it was in my hands. I also loved the Trixie Belden books—a gift from a neighbor who had outgrown them. And, of course, there was the Little House on the Prairie series, with its homespun Garth Williams illustrations.
I started out as a solitary, determined reader. I was working my way through that series of colonial American biographies or my latest haul from the Scholastic Book Fair, and I didn’t care what anyone else was reading. But soon, reading gained a social element. I remember the very first time I received a book recommendation. As we walked home from school, Andrea Moran told me that I had to read Harriet the Spy, it was fabulous. Later, after the popularity of Brian’s Song, we all read—regardless of gender—I Am Third. We enthusiastically talked about our favorite parts of the book and the movie at recess—our playground version of a book club, I suppose.
These days I complain that I don’t have enough time to read for pleasure. I read all day, my eyes are tired, hey, look, Alton Brown is on TV…. I have good intentions, but I’ve been on page 8 of Eugene Onegin since June. I never had a problem coming home from reading all day at school and throwing myself into a good story. Like all kids, I was a sponge, and my parents, teachers, and librarians worked hard to aim a steady flow of books at me.
So how about you? What books inspired, fascinated, and thrilled you in your youth? What books do you see kids getting excited about these days?