Friday, September 30, 2011
Journal 66 Book(s) that made me a Reader
Penguin UK threw down the challenge on Twitter this week, basing the question on what one book you (one) read as a child that converted you to reading. Lots of Brit-based answers, oddly, though, I had read them all, the Enid Blytons, the mysteries, the Americans, the Judy Blumes.
My entry was Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and then, the book I didn't enter, that I read after, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle. Both books were dog-eared from my childhood hand, holding them, reading them, over and over again.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I read at age 7, and had read to me in my grade 2 class, by an animated, elderly, truly lovely gentleman, who was killing time reading us a children's book that is, let's face it, not really for kids.
The image above is the same as my actual childhood copy, which I still own, pointilist drawings scattered here and there inside its pages, still intact.
I hear the reference banded about "golden ticket" and I think it a well-thought-out, high-literary nod to this magical book. I remember how funny my father thought it was that one of the grandparents, out of the pairs Joe and Josephine and George and Georgina, worked in a toothpaste factory screwing caps onto tubes of toothpaste. He really laughed at that.
It didn't bother me--when I opened the book, I was trapped in that magic world. Maybe I've never really left it, as every time I open a book that I start to love, one I know is going to change the person I am, add something to her that she didn't have before, it is magic. It never leaves me.
I read a Wrinkle in Time a couple of years after the Dahl classic. A Wrinkle in Time, again, a children's book not really for children, was more complex, darker, and had a scientific, specific approach to solving the world's problems--love and faith were only revealed at the end of the book, a reward to the child who could slog through the dark universe L'Engle created. I read her New Yorker profile, completed in 2004, shortly before her death, and heard mention of one school-yard score card, where girls silently created an 'other' for themselves--they had divided themselves into two camps: those who had read A Wrinkle in Time, and those who hadn't.
Ouch. Reading about L'Engle's (and Dahl's, for that matter) perseverance in life and what they endured while honing a craft most of us will only be able to stare into the window of...nothing short of greatness.
I was glad Penguin, with its' many publications of classic novels, numerous on my library shelves as a bibliophile adult, inspired these memories of early reading for me.