Not bad for a fat girl


Five Favorite Books From My Childhood

I was lucky, my parents read to me. It was mostly my mother, but my father did too, occasionally.

I grew up in a house full of books, and trips to the library were a regular part of my childhood. The Scholastic book order was another cherished source of books, and my mom was generous with my orders.

My love of books hasn’t diminished. My home library is bursting, and my classroom library is full of terrific titles. I still get excited about the Scholastic book order, only now I’m the teacher.

Here are a few titles from my childhood that stand out, in no particular order.

Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff

A dapper elephant King and his Royal court captivated me as a little girl.


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

I so wished I had a magical crayon like Harold!


If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss

I really wanted to visit the Circus McGurkus. This was the first Dr. Seuss book I knew.


Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Maybe this was the start of my aversion to monkeys?


Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky

This is such a sweet and gentle tale with fabulous illustrations.


There are so many more, but these stand out in my mind right now. What are some of your favorites?


Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Love This Book

I recently read a book that really spoke to me. Actually, that’s not strong enough. I fell in love with it. I hated to leave it when I had to, and I kept thinking about picking it back up in my free moments. It was beautiful.91VE2fSH9iL._SL1500_

That book took me places I had never been, yet it made those places familiar and comfortable. As I read, the book transported my heart too, and I felt as though I were living someone else’s life, at least for a little while.

It sounds magical, doesn’t it? It was. In fact it was an almost spiritual experience. I read and read and read and didn’t want the story to end. Sadly, though, like all books, it eventually came to a close. A lovely, satisfying close, but a close all the same. How unfortunate.

So why would anyone tell me that I couldn’t love this book?

Well, there are a few reasons that come to mind. First off, it’s technically not a story for adults.  It’s not my story. It’s not my life. It’s not my history or my culture or my race or my religion. But does that matter?

As a writer, I hope that my readers can find some connection to the stories I tell. I hope that something on the page resonates with them. As I writer I don’t care that your history and mine are different. I want you to immerse yourself in mine, and see if any of it feels familiar. If it does, great, we may share some sort of connection. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. We compare our experiences and make note of their similarities and differences.

I was a young girl growing up during the same era as the author. I chewed Bubble Yum. I listened to the O’Jays on the radio. I remember hearing about babies suffering the damaging effects of eating lead paint. I wondered why a baby would eat paint. I loved my grandparents and I made friends in school. My life was not so different in so many ways, but our paths were light-years apart. I thank her for showing me her world, and doing it so beautifully.

Don’t tell me I can’t love this book. I already do.


The book, of course, is Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, and it is stunning.


Bedtime Stories from Hell

I am a child of immigrant parents. German Jews whose own parents took them away to safety before they had any concept of the danger they were in, just by virtue of their birth. They were brought to America, enrolled in school, taught English, and given high expectations for achievement. After all, they were fortunate, they were spared when so many others were not. They were in the land of opportunity, and by gosh they had better take advantage of those opportunities.

When I was small my mother read me bedtime stories every night. There were lots of normal ones, like like The Little Red Hen and If I Ran the Circus, but there were bizarre German ones too. Struwwelpeter_1First there were the Brothers Grimm. It has been observed many times before how aptly named they were, as their fairy tales involved the darkest side of human nature, and often involved evil and death. And then there were Max und Moritz and Struwwelpeter. Oh. My. God.

These were really the stuff of nightmares. A stubborn boy starved himself to death. A  tailor cut off the thumbs of a boy who sucked them. A girl who played with matches burned to death. Mom?  Did you read these?  Were you aware of how disturbing these stories are? This is what you put me to bed with! Didn’t you like me?

imagesThese are not the stories I shared with my own son. We read The Very Busy Spider and  The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He delighted to Jan Brett’s illustrations and Dr. Seuss’s rhymes. The loving families in Patricia Polacco’s books, and the familiarity of Big Red Barn and Good Night Moon sent him off to sleep in a world that was safe and comfortable.

To this day I have many unjustified fears. I think that perhaps my parents’ choice of bedtime literature fostered some of those. I hope that my son lives in a world where he feels safe and secure. A world where a young child can count on stories ending happily ever after, and nobody will cut off your thumbs.