Once again, the Internet’s lamentation over a celebrity death has me feeling like I might really be an alien. Actually, it happened twice in the last week, but this post is not about that musician guy from that band. You know the one.
It’s Maurice Sendak, beloved children’s author and illustrator who I can’t ever remember reading. Oh sure, I’m aware of Where the Wild Things Are; I was actually raised on this planet. But I don’t remember reading it as a child. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, it’s rare that I share any childhood literary experiences with the majority of Americans.
Sometimes, like now, this makes me feel out of place. But it also makes me wonder. I know that I was read to as a small child, and I developed early on into a voracious reader and re-reader, albeit primarily of garbage. But I have no idea what those first books were that must have hooked me. I can’t remember reading Dr. Seuss (not as a kid, anyway). I remember Shel Silverstein’s kids’ poetry, but mostly from being a bit older, or from being scarred by certain poems about eating whales. I’m really glad that these folks had such an impact on everyone else’s lives. But where was I?
I do remember reading the Bearenstain Bears, but all that remains of those memories is the vague sense that I was having moral lessens crammed into my young skull. The same goes, actually, for the one individual kids’ book I can remember, “Could Be Worse!” by James Stevenson. I liked that one a lot, even though it was clearly just telling me not to whine and complain.
I must confess: the first books I clearly remember reading are The Baby Sitters Club novels. I read and re-read them for so long that my mother asked my second-grade teacher what she should do about it. My teacher wisely responded that there was no problem–I was, after all, reading thousands of pages of words, even if they were literary junk food. After that I moved on to Christopher Pike’s YA horror novels, some of which I still consider good books. Those were a bridge to Anne Rice’s vampires, which somehow led me to science fiction writers like Michael Crichton and David Brin.
Which, perhaps, is why I suspect myself of being an alien. In the context of my favorite fiction, it makes perfect sense. And you know what? It could be worse.
What books do you remember–or not remember–from childhood? Tell me about them in comments, and teach me to be human.