The First Books I Fell in Love with (Penny Rader)

When I was in first grade Sister Mary Renee told us we were going to read. I must confess that my heart kind of stopped because I thought that meant they were going to give us big books and expect us to read them right then and there. Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly that scary. While I don’t remember the process of learning how to read, I do know that I haven’t been able to get enough of books since.

I used to ask for books for my birthday and Christmas (still do, actually!), but most people looked at me funny when I said that. Finally, when I was nine or so, someone gave me a book as a gift: Little Women by Laura May Alcott. My dad’s mom gave it to me for Christmas. I still have it.

As I was growing up we spent a great deal of time at the Westlink branch of the public library. I read most, if not all, of all the orange-bound biographies in the kids section, starting with the ones about women. Whenever I hear the names Virginia Dare and Amelia Earhart, I flash back to those orange books and remember scenes from them. I also enjoyed mysteries, such as the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew as well as stand alones.

One book I checked out more than once was the pioneer story Miss Charity Comes to Stay by Alberta Constant. Next time I visit the library I'll see if it's still there and if I still like it.

The Scholastic book orders available from school were a great source of inexpensive books, once I started to buy my own. One that sticks out for me is All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. I loved this story of five young sisters and Jewish traditions and how the mother used buttons to make doing chores more fun. While working on this post I discovered there were several more books about this family. Can’t wait to find them.

I wish I could remember more of the titles that I ordered from Scholastic. Most of the ones I read had romantic and/or mystery threads. Another fave was Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Spears, which was based on the true story of a family abducted by Indians in 1754. The dressmaking scene still pops into my head when I think of this book.

When I was in the 5th or 6th grade the school librarian handed me The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the book that I found out it was part of a series and toward the end of the series at that. I couldn’t wait to go back to the beginning of the Little House books and read them all. As my thirteenth birthday approached I told anyone and everyone I wanted the series. I was convinced I would get the boxed set for my birthday. Didn’t happen. I was crushed. It took me quite a while and a lot of babysitting to save up the money to buy it for myself. I still have the boxed set. Well, all except the very last book of the series. My baby sis loaned it to a friend and she never returned it.

Not too long after that I bought Where Are My Children by Mary Higgins Clark. I probably drove my mom crazy that day because I read it all in one sitting. She’d call me to do something and I’d say “Just a minute, Mom. I want to finish this chapter.” You know how it goes. Before you know it you’re sucked into the next chapter. I still love women-in-jeopardy stories. (My mom says my baby sis learned "Minute, Mama" from me.)

The summer between eighth and ninth grade I discovered Harlequin romance novels at J.C. Penney’s. I think I still have the first Harlequin I read, The Wilderness Hut by Mary Wibberly, somewhere. A lady from our church gave me a whole bag of Harlequins, which I happily devoured throughout the summer.

My freshman year a classmate loaned me Caroline by Cynthia Wright. This story about a heroine with amnesia took place just after the Revolutionary War. I was in heaven. Romance, history, and sex. Holy cow! What more could a teenage reader want? ;D Thus, began my years-long love affair with historical romance novels. For my sixteenth birthday my brother gave me another historical romance I’d been yammering about. I saw it mentioned in a magazine. The Proud Breed by Celeste de Blasis, a multi-generational sage of California. I had no idea my brother had been listening until I found the book under my pillow.

Thanks to the person who suggested that we blog on the books we read as kids. It's been a great trip down memory lane. I love giving books as gifts, even to non-readers. There’s something out there for just about everyone. My family pretty much knows that they’ll be getting books from me. Do you like to receive and/or give books as gifts? Do you have any childhood faves you'd like to revisit?


BDTharp said...

You've read some great books. I liked reading growing up, but I didn't really get hooked until I read "The Moonspinners" by Mary Stewart, in high school. Then there was no turning back and I began to consume books, one right after another. I've been a voracious reader ever since. There's something so special about visiting another world, time, and story and being a part of it - even if it's just as the fly on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Your list of favorites takes me back... The Little House Books were also my all time favorites. I still have them and passed them along to my daughters.

Jannine Gallant

eleanor sullo said...

Wow--you have great memory for titles and authors. I know I fell in love with almost every book I took out from the public library, including adult biographies and travel books I took out much against the wishes of the children's librarian. When I returned them, read the next day or so, she began to relent and be more accomodating.
My first and still favorite book is "The Secret Garden," then in high school, with rampaging hormones, I hid "Forever Amber" between my notebooks and read in study hall like a maniac!
When I discovered D. H. Lawrence in college, I thought there couldn't be anything better, especially "Sons and Lovers," which I must re-read again sometime soon. Of course, the favorites never stop coming. Right now I'm a Dick Francis mysteries fan, and am grieving that he died at 80 and will write no more, though I think his son will carry on the horseracing mysteries. I hope so.
Thanks for returning me to some very happy memories, Penny.

Mary Ricksen said...

I loved Laura Ingals books. And I loved the RV show too. Michael Landon ahhhh. So handsome.
And Nancy Drew. Loved her.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Bonnie! I haven't read The Moonspinners. Love the title! Looks like I have another author to add to my TBR list.

PS I just realized I missed your signing. Hope it well. Will you have another?

Penny Rader said...

Hi Jannine! Welcome to our blog. I'm so greatful the librarian turned me on the Little House books. My sister, Melissa, is a huge fan of anything related to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Ellie! When this topic was suggested I was at a loss at first. The Little House books did pop into my head first. Over the past few weeks titles have trickled their way through my mind. I had to go online to find some of the authors.

Memory's a funny thing. One of the scenes from All-of-a-Kind Family that stuck in my head was a scene where the mom sometimes hid (what I remembered as) pennies for the children to find while doing their chores. While researching the author's name, I saw a review that mentioned buttons, not pennies. I'll have to find a copy and re-read it.

Penny Rader said...
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Penny Rader said...

Hi Mary! I loved the Little House tv series and was heartbroken when Michael Landon passed away. Every time I see a show with Melissa Gilbert in it I feel like I "know" her. I always wished I had Laura's spunk, but in reality I was more like Mary.

Penny Rader said...

I hit the 'publish' button too soon, Ellie. I don't think I ever read Secret Garden, but I did love her Little Princess.

And I never had the pleasure of reading Forever Amber, D.H. Lawrence, or Dick Francis. One of my daughters loves horses. I'll have to ask her if she's read Dick Francis.

Mimi Barbour said...

Hi Penny,
You mentioned some of my very favourite childhood books, one being the Boxcar Children. I had fantasies for a long time after I finished it with me being the heroine, of course. Then Nancy Drew swept me away into many adventures, and I started trying to write stories of my own. Terrible spelling, poor penmanship battled with enthusiasm and a vivid imagination. I went directly from Nancy to Harlequins, and that started my love for romance. I guess it naturally followed that I would write what I love.
Great blog!

Penny Rader said...

Welcome, Mimi! That's one of the things I love about books--being able to put myself in the heroine's shoes. Especially because I often lack the courage to do and say the brave stuff heroines do and say. :D

Kathy said...

Penny I read Nancy Drew when I was around 8 or 9 loved all of them. The Hardy Boys as well. Then I read Trixie Belden books. I received a Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales book from my step mom. My step mom was the best at giving me books. I don't remember what all I read growing up except by junior high I left the bookmobile on Saturdays loaded with stacks of books. I read them voraciously Agatha Christie's books, I remember that by the time I got to high school I looked at the list and went I read those already two or three years ago got anything with more grit? I didn't know what I wanted but I wanted meatier books. I've even read my husband's men's adventure series and loved them Mack Bolan. I am blessed to have a wonderful man that enjoys reading. We read a lot of the same things, Keri Arthur, Nora Roberts, JD Robb,and Allison Brennan along with others. Anne McCafferey drew me in with her Dragons of Pern books I was in my mid twenties when I read these by the time i was thirty I was reading Johanna Lindsey novels and my eyes to the romance novel were opened lol.

Lisa said...

Ahhh! I remember reading the LIttle House books. I need to buy a set for my girls. My mother gave mine away when I moved out. Boo!

Debra St. John said...

I still do love my Nancy Drews. And after a visit to Laura Ingalls Wilder's home in Mansfield, Missouri, I reread the entire series of Little House books.

They bring back such wonderful memories.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Kathy! I love fairy tales, too. I used to check out tons of books about fairy tales and myths. I'm also a huge J.D. Robb fan. I resisted reading the series for years because I thought I wouldn't understand it. I was so wrong and now I wait impatiently for each new In Death book.

Penny Rader said...

Oh, Lisa! I'm so sad your mom gave away your Little House books. It took me forever to save up enough money to buy the series. When I worked at a bookstore I was stunned to see that the price had tripled. Then again, quite a few years had passed. ;D

Penny Rader said...

Ooh, Debra, how lucky for to visit Laura Ingall's home. I'm going to dig out my Little House books and re-read. Can't wait till my granddaughters are old enough to enjoy them, too.

Penny Rader said...
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Nina Sipes said...

You're a powerhouse reader. No wonder you surrounded yourself with writers and encourage the lot of us.
And I don't like anyone to buy me books. They never get it right. However, I'm not adverse to the stray gift card. My daughters both have Kindles and love them. They're leading very active lives and love that they can carry so many books in such a tiny place. Me, I like the quiet heft of a good big book.
Yesterday, a friend of mine was talking about her daughter who wanted her boyfriend to make stilts for her bed so that she could get more under it at college. I suggested books. They're quicker to get into place, you can always read them, and if they don't work out, someone else can use them. I love books.

Maryanne said...

I was introduced to "This Rough Magic" by Mary Stewart in high school and from then on bought everything she wrote. I still have them. I recently re-read "My Brother Michael". I also loved the Little House books, as well as Trixie Beldon (both are also still on my keeper shelf). My first grown up romance was Joanna Lindsey, "Captive Bride", which I read on the sneak when no one was home.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Nina! I love gift cards, too. When I worked at the bookstore, I'd have a stack of books I wanted in the backroom that my family could look through if they chose to do so. And sometimes they so chose. :D

If someone asks me what I want for my b-day, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc, I usually include a few book titles. I also use the 'wish list' on to keep track of some of the books I want to read.

Penny Rader said...

Welcome, Maryanne! I really am going to have to read some Mary Stewart. You're the second person to mention her here. Love the title My Brother Michael.

And I hear you about reading on the sneak. I used to feel so guilty about reading. If someone came into my room, I'd put the book down, jump up, and do something choresy. I've pretty much gotten over feeling guilty about reading. ;D

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Golly, you have a good memory! I honestly couldn't tell you all the titles of the first books I fell in love with. Anne of Green Gables is certainly in there along with Black Beauty, Old Yeller, the Yearling, Tom Sawyer and The Coral Island. Courtesy of the lending library in my mother's little bookstore I read lots of Mills and Boon romances (the old hard covers), Jack London, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer and Catherine Cookson. As a teenager I loved 'When the Lion Feeds' by Wilbur Smith and have read that often since. Reading what other people have enjoyed is making me want to go back and read some of those titles all over again!