Thursday, March 3, 2011

Doldrums, My Evolution of Reading, and House Guests

This time in late February-early March is the doldrums of the sports world. Football is over, baseball hasn't started, and basketball/hockey isn't getting exciting for another month or so. You just float aimlessly along in your sports sailboat and hope that the wind picks up and carries you to March Madness and baseball's opening day. April 1st for the Twinkies!

Yesterday I was talking to one of my professors (Michelle) about what her kids were reading these days, and it got me thinking about what I read as a kid. One of my favorite books were the Great Illustrated Classics series that put out all the classics in abridged, simpler versions for kids. They all looked something like this:

I think I read Around the World in 80 Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth a half-dozen times each. My other favorites included The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and Oliver Twist. I had them all lined up on a ledge overlooking the staircase in a big, long row. I remember a couple times getting mad at my brother, waiting until he was walking down the stairs, and knocking the books down on top of him. Good times.

Thinking of reading as a child, I also remember very clearly my parents reading to us before bed. You see, our upstairs consisted of two rooms, and you had to walk through one to get to the other. My brother and I shared one, and my two sisters shared the other. So, my parents would sit in the doorway between the two and read from that spot. It was here I heard my favorite childhood book, Where the Red Fern Grows. Oh, Old Dan and Little Anne! Why? I remember my mom crying so hard as she read the last chapter or two that my sister asked if she should take over.
I got to relive these memories when I read WTRFG to the Hermantown KidCare kids (Kindergarten-5th grade) during the summer when I worked there during my undergrad days.

I think I kept up with books like these until I stumbled upon John Grisham in 4th or 5th grade. The Client may have been the first "grown-up" book I read (I wrote "adult book" first, but I didn't want you to get the wrong idea). I quickly moved on to the other Grisham books, and my mom would serve as censor, paperclipping together those pages I wasn't allowed to read (for my own benefit; the beginning of A Time to Kill, for instance, would have assuredly given me nightmares/anxiety for months). I think I alternated between Grisham books and The Hardy Boys series.

In 10th grade, I was told by my English teacher that I needed to read this book about a wizard who goes to a wizarding school in England. That next summer I stumbled upon Tolkien at my friend's cabin, and the rest is history! I really nerded it up that year (and continued to for the rest of my life up to this point)!

Oh, I also have house guests this week. Leah and Wade Gunderson are in town for a couple of different conferences, and I'm privileged to be hosting them! Good times had by all. I should now go home and make sure they haven't torn apart the apartment. Later.


  1. Glad someone else had Great Illustrated Classics. The ones I remember most are Robin Hood (probably to blame for my obsession with the character and the fact that "Robin Hood" is still my favorite Disney movie) and the Edgar Allen Poe anthology, which I found amazing/traumatizing. (What about "Cask of Amontillado" screams "appropriate for kids"?) "The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series was similarly traumatic, but that's another deal.

    My mom also read WTRFG to me, and it was similarly huge in my childhood. The scene with the "bad" kid falling (spoiler alert!) onto that axe will forever be seared into my brain. Also, that "parent-reading-from-the-doorway" image is a pretty great one.

  2. My favorite was the invisible man and journey to the center of the earth...oh, and picturing you getting mad at Stephen and pushing all the books on him-that's also a favorite classic of mine=)

  3. i fear i won't be able to get through some of my favorite stories trying to read them aloud to my children some day. i'm a wreck with the velveteen rabbit for crying out loud!