“A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.”
In grades three through five, little Aila was a precocious, passionate little thing. Imagine that, right? I loved recess more than most anything, and it was just as true back then as it is today: I took my fun seriously. I can’t just spontaneously have fun, no. I had my recess routine down pat.
First, I had to run to the swings; not walk, run. I couldn’t risk another kid getting my swing. I would swing until I was so high up I was certain I’d go right over the bar and the chain would start wrapping around the frame. (By that point, my adrenaline rush was deemed sufficient and I moved on.) Then, I’d go to the monkey bars and meet up with my boyfriend. (We were crazy in love for third graders, split in the fourth, and were back on for fifth!) Then, I’d spend time on the merry-go-round, and I’d end my playtime by sitting in the softest patch of grass with my best friend and we’d make hippie jewelry with braided daisies or dandelions.
Why not play hard until the very end, you ask? Because right after recess was story time, and I didn’t want to be out of breath and unable to focus, or so tired I couldn’t listen.
My favorites probably aligned with most everyone’s at around that age, Where the Wild Things Are, The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Sidewalk Ends… but the first book I remember absolutely falling in love with was one of my first chapter books. After my teacher read it to me, I rushed to the library and checked it out and reread it several times over, each time looking for clues I may’ve missed before, and analyzing symbolism – things I felt pretty advanced for being concerned with as a fifth-grader.
Wait Till Helen Comes had me on the edge of my seat as a child, which wasn’t easy since it was actually a desk, and we weren’t allowed to sit sideways.
The lovely teacher that brought this book into my life was named Ms. Williams; she had a real knack for voices, inflection, and building suspense. I would beg her to read more than one chapter per day. She gave in once, and read an extra one, for my birthday.
While I don’t write in the horror or supernatural genres, I believe this book is what gave me an appreciation for both, and it definitely gave me that first nudge towards reading and writing.
Let’s skip ahead a couple of years. I’m in the seventh grade, my boyfriend from elementary school is now just a friend,(actually, we’re still friends.) and there are no more swing sets, monkey bars, or merry-go-rounds on the playground. In fact, there was no playground. We had a track, and bleachers, and a few picnic tables. People sort of just wandered around aimlessly, keeping to their various cliques and whatnot.
Where was Aila, you ask?
In middle school, I usually traded my books for boys, and I spent most of my free time walking around the track with one, trying not to get caught holding hands, and making ridiculously mature plans for someone who couldn’t yet drive. Ahh, the good ole days.
There was one book, though, which stole my soul and set my imagination on fire. It was considered mandatory reading, and technically it was homework, and there were quizzes and tests, and drudgery – but I’d have read this book regardless. In fact, I have, several times since then. I own a copy as an adult, and may very well pick it up again. I’m not ashamed.
The Giver was the first book, that I can remember, which played like a movie in my head as I read it. It was the first time I really felt immersed into every scene of the book, the first time every idea vividly translated into moving pictures in my mind. I was in awe.
This is how I try to write. Now, don’t take that to mean I feel I am in any way on the same level as Lois Lowry, or that anything I write will ever be as cherished as this work; but, I do attempt to choose words which might help people see my ideas rather than just read them.
The next book from my childhood (and at this point, “childhood” may be debatable) is one that I picked up again rather recently. August of 2015, to be exact.
High school is not an easy time for anyone. Even when it appears that way on the surface, I believe it is rough for all. Trying to figure out who you are, what you want to do for the entirety of your adult life, what kind of person you want to be – that kind of sucks a lot of fun out of life, or at least, it did for me.
Perhaps all the rough things I dealt with during that time were what drew me into Fahrenheit 451. The thought of a society where books were burned and information was a crime was terrifying. I couldn’t put it down, I read it way sooner than the material was required to be finished, and happily reread it again immediately.
This book made me realize the importance of reading and obtaining knowledge, not just for fun, but because it is vital to a functioning society. It truly made me reassess my opinions on the power and magnitude of the written word, which is why the notion of banning books baffles me. Even if the material of the book offends you, it doesn’t mean the work isn’t valid. Think about it, it is just as important to learn what not to do as it is to learn what to do. (I’m kind of waiting on people to show me examples of ultra-offensive work, now.)
What were your favorite books growing up? why? Have you picked any of them up recently? Did they have the same effect on you as they did the first time?