Thursday 4 April 2013

Zoe Cannon – My Top Ten Childhood Nostalgia Books/Series

My Top Ten Childhood Nostalgia Books/Series

by Zoe Cannon  

The Animorphs Series by K.A. Applegate

After stumbling across these books in one of those elementary-school book fairs – remember those? – I was obsessed with the series for years. The elements blended together into a perfect combination for me. The ensemble cast that was a staple of middle-grade series; the aliens; the characters’ double lives and need for secrecy… but the part that was the most compelling was the emotion that permeated the series, the moments of triumph and tragedy and despair. These were darker than most middle-grade books, and although they got a bit scary for me sometimes (you’re talking to someone who has never willingly watched a horror movie), that sense of heightened emotion was what kept me coming back.

The Baby-Sitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin

What girl in the 90’s didn’t grow up on the Baby-Sitters Club? These books were ubiquitous when I was growing up – I bought tattered copies from the used bookstore with other people’s names written across the inside cover in careful third-grade cursive, carried them home from the library by the armful, borrowed them from my normally non-reading friends. With how many of these books I absorbed over the years, I’m fairly sure they, and other books like them, taught me a lot of what I knew about people. To this day I sometimes find myself speaking in the rhythms of middle-grade fiction.

The Camp Sunnyside Friends Series by Marilyn Kaye

While the Baby-Sitters Club was everywhere, this series belonged to me alone. I found a few tucked away in a corner of the used bookstore, and kept going back for more until I owned them all. As far as I could tell, I was the only one who knew this series even existed. When I went to Barnes & Noble for the one book in the series that the used bookstore didn’t have, they had to special-order it, and the clerk, seeing my excitement at the thought of finally finishing the series, assured me in a sing-song voice that I was going to be disappointed. (I wasn’t.) I don’t know what it was about these books – looking back on them now, they were nothing spectacular – but they held some kind of magic for me. I felt like I knew the characters as well as I knew my own friends, and sometimes better.

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

Sometimes a book will connect with something in you that you didn’t even know was there. These books were like that for me. They filled me with a longing so intense I couldn’t stay still, bouncing up and down as my dad read aloud until he threatened to stop. Those books were me, they were mine, and I wanted. I didn’t know what it was that I wanted, but I felt it like the ache of a missing limb. I can still call up that feeling when I think about those books now, but I haven’t reread them since I was a kid; I’m afraid the magic would be gone if I tried. (I did, however, try watching the movie version that came out a few years back. I made it about halfway through before giving up.)

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

This series exemplified the magic of books for me. There might have been other books I liked better, but none of them had the pure magic of Narnia. The stories felt almost like fairytales, and lodged themselves more deeply in my mind than any fairytale ever did. I was half in love with Aslan, and Narnia would often appear in my daydreams. But at the same time, it made me squirmy and uncomfortable to even think about these books too closely, let alone talk about them with other people. Their magic felt so deep and so personal that it was too embarrassing, somehow, to look at head-on.

The Ender Saga by Orson Scott Card

These were the first adult science fiction books I ever read. I liked the first one well enough, but the next three – Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind – were the ones that really grabbed me. Their combination of compelling storytelling and philosophical exploration are still my benchmark for what science fiction should be.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The Calvin and Hobbes comics were, my parents tell me, one of the first things I read on my own after I had mastered Dr. Seuss. My parents owned several Calvin and Hobbes collections, and I read all of them over and over until I knew pretty much every strip by heart. They’re still buried deep in my subconscious somewhere, and I’m pretty sure my odd sense of humor owes a lot to Calvin and Hobbes.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein

My dad read these to me when I was a kid, starting with The Hobbit and moving on to the trilogy. As a major science fiction and fantasy fan, he no doubt wanted to give me a grounding in the classics of the genre, and whenever I read a fantasy novel that has its roots in Tolkein I’m glad I was introduced to the original so early. These books were rich and vibrant and magical and epic, and I loved them so much I was embarrassed by it. I tried reading them on my own a few years back, but it just wasn’t the same. Maybe Tolkein’s dense writing is easier to get through when read aloud, or maybe I was just looking for a kind of magic that only comes when you experience a story before you know all the tropes and the cultural influences and how other people have interpreted the story – when all that exists is the story and how it speaks to you.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I’ve read fewer classics than I’d like to admit, but I loved this book. I reread it many times over the course of my childhood, each time choosing a different character as my favorite. At first it was Jo, then Beth, then Jo again; then I rebelled because Jo was clearly supposed to be the reader’s favorite, and vacillated between every other character while dismissing Jo as the obvious choice. If I sit down and try to remember the plot, I only come up with scattered bits and pieces, but every once in a while I’ll be going about my life and something will spark a memory of a scene.

The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Before a Nancy Drew book scared the pants off me and left me with a persistent aversion to the mystery genre, I used to love middle-grade mystery books, and this series was my favorite. But the one I liked best was the first book in the series, the only one that didn’t even involve a mystery. I cried when I finished it, heartbroken that it was over, and my mom, trying to reassure me, told me I could always reread it. It had never occurred to me before then that I could reread a book. I did a lot of rereading in the years after that, and came to know some books so well I could practically recite them.

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Genre – YA Dystopian

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