Childish Reading

I was a nervous kid. I was scared of pretty much everything, when I think back on it, especially anything that involved dangerous behavior or breaking the rules. I was actually convinced, at one point, that my parents would go to jail for getting a parking ticket. I clearly didn't understand the gradients of rulebreaking and adventure-making; it was all terrifying to me. 

This fear stretched over into my reading life, where I made all kinds of rules about what I could and could not read. No books with thunderstorms. No books with swords on the cover. And so on.

Which, let me tell you, ruled out a lot of books--especially those my dad really wanted to read to me. He made it all of a paragraph into Treasure Island before I made him stop; that clunking peg-leg spoke of danger and I'd have none of it.

Looking back, I don't remember too much of what I read during that period, though one book stands out: the little-remembered but incredibly beautiful Baby, by Patricia MacLachlan. It was a simple story of a local family living on an island popular with vacationers; when the last ferry of the season left and took with it the screaming children and sunburned noses and folding chairs of summer, a child was left behind with a note asking the family to care for her. Sophia. 

Baby was--still is, I suppose, as it does not appear to be out of print--a story of elegance and beauty, a slow-paced but enthralling tale of family and the power of love and a lot of things that, in hindsight, were way over my eight-year-old head. 

Looking back, I'm convinced that this one book that stands out so vividly among so many others (I had a lot of reading rules but that never stopped me from reading--a lot) formed my adult reading self. Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, and its partner novel, Home, are similar to Baby in their simple beauty and their dealing with the grief and love and happiness of everyday things; they also happen to be among my favorite contemporary novels, heartbreaking and hopeful all wrapped into one. I can't help but think back on Baby as I work my way through The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (which I'm currently adoring).

I eventually learned to break my own reading rules (a habit I try to continue in my current reading adventures), but those early years never quite left me. I don't believe I'm reading childishly, but I do maintain that my childish reading has never truly left me.

Do you find that you are still drawn to the same types of books--if for a different age group--as you were as a kid? Or have you departed completely?


Baby | Patricia MacLachlan | Yearling | 1995 | 160 pages | Buy from an independent near you

1 comment

  1. I definitely find that I read the same sorts of books that appealed to me as a child:

    fantasy (sparked by the Prydain, Narnia, and Wrinkle in Time books as well as fairy tales and the children's fantasies of George MacDonald)

    mysteries (sparked by the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, etc.)

    books with romance in them (from reading classics like "Little Women", "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," and the Anne of Green Gables series, among others)

    and historical fiction (sparked by the last three books mentioned, plus "The Secret Garden," "A Little Princess," the ever-engaging Wolves of Willoughby Chase books [yes, I know it's alternate history, but as a child I didn't realize that!] and a lot more.)

    My main rule still holds, too: to this day, I avoid books that don't have happy endings.

    I have branched out a little; I didn't read much nonfiction as a child, except in school, and I've been making an effort to read at least some nonfiction in recent years -- outside the books I read for my job, of course!

    Lark of The Bookwyrm's Hoard


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