A trip down literary lane

When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.
– Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail

Nursery rhymes. The most recent Poem Off topic got me reminiscing about things I heard and read as a kiddo. I think there ‘s a lot of truth to the quote above, don’t you? Whether you read a little or a lot as a child, it tends to stick with you. With that in mind, come with me on this memory lane jaunt, revisiting some of my early influences–just a small sampling. Maybe it’ll jog your memory too.

I’ve always loved reading. I guess I came by that naturally: both of my parents love to read, and my mom is a retired librarian. When I was very young, most nights my dad would read me a book that he let me pick out. I loved those times. One book in particular got chosen a lot. Horton Hatches the Egg was a Christmas gift from a neighbor. I can still hear the promise Horton repeated time after time: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!” It’s a great book. I mean, how can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss? …And a flying elephant-bird, for goodness’ sake?

The Bible also captured my imagination. Sunday school each week was filled with incredible stories! The older I get the more convinced I am that God is the master storyteller. …A boy killing a giant with a slingshot, a talking donkey, a short, little man who climbs a tree to see Jesus, a city’s wall falling after only marching and shouting, a man falling out of a window and dying (and coming back to life!) because he fell asleep, walking on water… who else could make up this stuff? And it’s all true! Genius, to understate the obvious.

Poetry. Not everyone associates little kids and classic poetry recitation. Mrs. Ables, my second grade teacher sure did, and it scared the jeepers out of me. We had to choose between two poems, memorize it, and recite it in front of class. Despite being the bold tomboy that I was back then, that thought made me nervous. Mrs. Ables encouraged us by reciting a poem her teacher made her memorize in second grade. My eyes got big. I didn’t know that someone “old” like her could remember that far back. (Oh, how perspectives change!) I chose Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing,” and even survived reciting it for my class.

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roof so brown–

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!

Ramona Quimby was another one of my literary buddies. I loved Beverly Cleary’s books about this little girl around my age, and by coincidence we even had the same awful haircut. It made me feel a little better about that. I saw a lot of myself in her and her family, and it was plain fun following her escapades.

I’ve already had a request for a post about literary influences as an adult. That will come later. For now, I’d love to know what stories you remember from your childhood.