It seems fitting that as I sit down to write Stasha’s list (on, er, Tuesday night), my kids are mewling please please just ten more minutes…but they’re not begging for more screen time (although they have been known to
hourly occasionally do that too). They’re begging to have the light left on for just a few more minutes of reading time. Liam is reading something called Divergent (thanks for the suggestion, Karen!) and Caleb…well, Caleb has discovered that Harry Potter is better in print than on the screen. He’s lost somewhere early in Book Six.
How to make a list of ten books? Books that I love to teach? Hate to teach? Books my kids love, books my kids loved but I hate (hellooo Thomas the goddamn Train), books I return to again and again? Books that “Everyone” loves but I hate (Franzen, Franzen, Franzen, let me count the ways). So many ways to make a list of books.
If I were going to make a list of books I loved as a kid…
1. Betsy-Tacy-Tib, by Maud Hart Lovelace. Set in the midwest in the early 1900s, these stories start when Betsy befriends Tacy, and they in turn befriend Tib. They have Big Adventures for little girls who are only six – they go over the Big Hill, they put on a show, glamorous relatives visit from the “big city” (aka Milwaukee), and Betsy, from the beginning of the series, wants to be a writer. The girls’ friendship remains the key through the entire series, which goes through to adulthood, marriage, and the beginnings of World War I. I loved that these characters grew up, unlike Nancy Drew, who I also loved but whose permanent high-school-hood eventually made me quite suspicious.
2. Maida’s Little Shop, Inez Haynes Irwin. Irwin was a radical character- a journalist who spent time at the turn of the 20th century reporting on revolutions in Europe – and who belonged to a feminist group called Heterodoxy, which met monthly in Greenwich Village to talk about suffrage (gasp!), birth control (horrors!), equal rights for African Americans (double gasp) – and, even more shockingly, to offer support for women who kept their own names after marriage. I know – can you imagine? But anyway. Maida is a sick little girl, finally recovered from a long illness, who is surprise surprise, also beautiful and the daughter of a bazillionaire, who sets her up in a little rickety storefront in Boston and tells her to make a go of it. So she does -and meets all kinds of kids from the working-class neighborhood she would never otherwise encounter. This book is the first in a series of Maida’s adventures (all funded by her father, “Buffalo” Westabrook), and all of them (especially the first few) are wonderful illustrations of Irwin’s progressive, radical-for-her-era politics.
If I were to make a list about books I loved when I was a little older than young – a “tween,” I guess you’d call it, although back when I was a tween they just called it “awkward:” Continue Reading →