Jezebel recently trained a book-shaped skylight onto the internet’s cloudy skies (or muck-smeared underbelly–it can be hard to tell*), summoning all nerds to get nostalgic in the comments section with the question: Which childhood books turned you into a reader?
I’m a reader. I’ve always been a reader. And so long as I have sensory input and enough neural connections to join one word together, I will be a reader. So I’m answering this question here because (1) I don’t think it’s fair of me to flood the comments section, and (2) picking only one is like Sophie’s Choice. THE PAIN.
Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves combined three of my favorite childhood themes: wilderness survival, clever but compassionate animals, and Native Americans. Along with George’s My Side of the Mountain (two for three on themes) and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (one for three), I blame these books for my off-and-on plans to run away to the wilderness (usually the creek behind my house) and survive off of dandelions.
John Christopher’s The White Mountains. Dystopia and (some) wilderness survival? I couldn’t wait for the tripods to come so I could rebel against them!
And finally…Robert O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. When I first read this as a kid, I thought NIMH was a made-up research institute. Two years ago, when I reread this book, it finally struck me that Mrs. Frisby’s NIMH and my National Institute of Mental Health were one and the same. Totally blew my mind–along with the fact that this book is eminently rereadable.
* Obligatory joke about internet being a festering pit of spiteful one-star reviews and porn. Although apparently the porn bit’s not totally true.