A Magic Carpet of Books by J Vincent

Treasure, Magic , Mystery! Do you remember books from your childhood—from 5th through 10th grade? Do you remember what they inspired?

Books were a rare treat as a child. I went to a four room school which had no library. I don’t recall books for reading entertainment being available until about 6th grade when Sr. Agedia (my apologies for not recalling her last name but she was a fixture in Wichita with a variety of programs) became principal and each month brought 30 books from the Wichita Public Library. My world expanded exponentially. I leapt from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to Black Stallion and Island Stallion by Walter Farley, Black Beauty Anna Sewell, King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Horse crazy you might say—I even had a collection of ceramic horses—still have a couple of them. But I also devoured Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red, Irish Red, Son of Big Red, Outlaw Red.

Anne of Green Gablesby Lucy Maud Montgomery told me it was okay to be a tomboy. Who didn’t read Treasure Island and then spend countless happy hours drawing treasure maps and going on treasure hunts? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis said “dream of other worlds, of magic.” Around 8th grade I began to purloin my Dad’s Zane Grey books: Riders of the Purple Sage, Desert Gold, The Light of the Western Stars were but a few. They whispered that you only had to be strong, tough, and never give up and then good would prevail. In the mix was Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. By time I was a freshman (and thought I’d died and went to heaven to have a library available all the time) I had read Gone with the Wind, one of only a few romances I encountered until I met Georgette Heyer and regencies in my twenties.

My reading in the middle school and high school years was broadened and leavened by Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. They introduced me to Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth and the mysteries of China. That led me to her China Sky a love story of sorts set during the Japanese invasion during WW II. I eagerly awaited delivery of the four volumes a year and gulped them down cover to cover as soon as they arrived. I'm listing the books in two volumes: Summer Reader’s Digest 1960 when I was a highschool freshman: The Lovely Ambition - Mary Ellen Chase, Trustee from the Toolroom - Nevil Shute, The Leopard - Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Village of Stars - Paul Stanton, To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee. The second volume is from 1961: The Winter of Our Discontent - John Steinbeck, The Agony and the Ecstasy - Irving Stone, The Making of the President, 1960 - Theodore H. White, "A Lodging for the Emperor" (Japanese Inn) - Oliver Statler, Goodbye, Mr. Chips - James Hilton. Many of therse stories led me to read the origninal work or other works by the same author. Without them I would never have been introduced to such a broad stroke of writing styles and stories.

Perhaps I was just lucky that we didn’t get a television until I was in high school, or was it that my Dad valued reading so highly, or perhaps I was just blessed with an avid curiosity. I was certainly blest to have learned that in books you could be anyone, go anywhere, do anything. What were your favorite authors or titles? Where did they take you? What did they inspire you to do?


Becky A said...

Joan, I have always loved to read too. You named several of my favorites. Kim Kjelgaard, Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley, and Lucy M.Montgomery wrote books I would read over and over. When I got into high school I was introduced to Phyllis A. Whitney, Andre Norton, Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels; which still bring back many fond memories.
We didn't watch a lot of TV when I was young but we did read. TV leaves little room for the imagination. Books throw the door wide open.
Thanks for a great post.

Roxann Delaney said...

5th thru 10th grade? Wow, that's a span! The Trixie Belden series, which probably was the beginning of liking series books, there was a book of nonsense poetry titled A Rocket in My Pocket and I can still recite two of the poems. Beverly Cleary's Fifteen, but that's the only one of hers I remember reading, and a book I checked and rechecked out of the library, over and over, that I still can't remember the title.

High school brought Catcher in the Rye, Peyton Place (my dad said it was okay to read), and Mrs. Mike. I was probably in 10th or 11th grade when I started reading Georgette Heyer. Those are the highlights I remember most. 11th grade was Valley of the Dolls. LOL I remember how it was passed around school, with page numbers whispered and dog-eared.

My best friend from 7th grade on and I were both big readers. My dad was a reader, but my mom wasn't until later in life, although she did have many of the Arthur Hailey books, so I read quite a few of those. Whatever was handy.

Joan Vincent said...

Becky, I found Phyllis Whitney in my twenties and Elizabeth Peters much later. I have all of her Amanda Peabody books which I discovered through audio books. I too think tv leaves too little to the imagination!

Joan Vincent said...

Rox I had the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. My daughters collected the Trixie Belden books. I had to double think some of my choices since I taught 6th grade and a lot of the books I used in reading units weren't around when I was that age! Valley of the Dolls was college days--shows how much older I am!

Roxann Delaney said...

Joan, ha ha on Valley! It was hot, hot, hot to us. We weren't accustomed to that, but it really wasn't that bad. And don't feel too old. One of the elementary schools I attended (3 total, and we never moved!) is now a museum.

My neighbor, who's 6 years older and often baby-sat me, had the first three Trixie Beldens. When I was old enough, I asked to read them. That started me on the series. I think she had Hardy Boys, too, but I wasn't into "boy" stories. :)

I can't remember what year in high school I read Hawaii and Exodus, but the latter is still among my favorites. After so many years, it's hard to remember when books were read and sometimes even what books.

Joan Vincent said...

Rox " it's hard to remember when books were read and sometimes even what books" double ditto to that! I loved Exodus too but don't know at what age I read it. Then there are books like Don Quixote -- tragic and heroic at the same time.

Pat Davids said...

I discovered the world of books in the third grade at the Navarre Grade School with a book of Fairy Tales. From there it was every book in our little school. I even read the encyclopedias cover to cover by the time I got to the 8th grade. At home, reading wasn’t looked on as important. If I had time to read I could be working. I actually had hideouts around the farm where I kept books and could read without getting in trouble. The hayloft, the old threshing machine, a little cart behind the tractor shed and the best place was the back of my closet. My mom learned to look there first.

I loved westerns, Trixie Belden, The Black Stallion, too, but in high school I fell in love with Ivanhoe.

The knights held sway for several years and then like many of you I found Phyllis Whitney and Elizabeth Peters later on. Romance books took over when I read The Wolf and the Dove in my early twenties. After that, it was love all the way.

Joan Vincent said...

Ivanhoe and the Middle Ages. Yes, Pat! And what memories you brought back about hiding places on the farm While reading was important to Dad is came second to getting work done so I too had places to read. My kids introduced me to science fictin -- have you ever read the Kathryn Kurtz Deryni series or Robert Jordans?

Pat Davids said...

I haven't read the sci-fi authors you mentioned but I did read Andre Norton and Anne McCaffery. Doesn't every woman want a dragon to ride?

I also enjoyed the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. Loved his sense of humor. Shopping for shoes would be easier if all you had to do was go to the garden and pick a pair from the ladyslipper plant.

Starla Kaye said...

This was a nice look back at my early reading days. I read most of those books, too. But I mainly grew up reading a mixture of books about young girls and their horses or science fiction (thanks to my dad).

Penny Rader said...

I loved the Little House series. The librarian at the little Catholic school I attended handed me The Long Winter. I didn't realize it was part of a series (toward the end of the series, at that!) till I finished it. That seems to be a theme with me--start a series' fifth or thirteenth book, then go back to beginning and get caught up.

Nina Sipes said...

In fourth grade the school had to bring a teacher out of retirement to attend to us. She couldn't teach her way out of a paper bag, but she taught ME a couple of things. One: she read to us every day out of the Little House on the Prairie series and she read long enough each day we made it through the SERIES! So, I learned about tough times for other people. I can still see in my mind's eye the snakes on top of the sheet ceiling in the dugout! Two: Ms. Mitchum spoke to a student's parents about the warts that covered his hands. They did nothing. I remember how tight-mouthed this sweet woman was. A couple of weeks into the year, right before reading time, when the rest of us were settling down after lunch break, she would dab medicine on his warts. It took her most of the year, but by the end of it, his warts were gone. We continued on through school and Ms. Mitchum disappeared from our lives. The student never, in my sight, developed more warts, and the rest of us learned that sometimes you take matters into your own hands to help others. Two very important lessons learned and blended that year. Books have vital useful information in them--use it.