A few of the classics...
It may come as no surprise (after all, I am an English major) that over my lifetime I've been influenced by many, many books. I remembered a couple of my favorite childhood stories today. So I thought I would take a second to recall a few of them (not all, don't worry).
The first "chapter book" I remember reading and finishing on my own is E.B. White's Stewart Little . I sat in my room and read all about the little mouse who dressed like a tiny man, carried a cane, made tin-foil nickels in order to ride the bus, and helped the family out by diving into the sink drain to retrieve his "mom's" ring. Following in that vein was The Littles. Itty bitty family, entirely human except for their dog-like tails, living in the walls of a house. Where did my imagination come from?
Beverly Cleary wrote many books, including the entire Ramona Quimby series that I loved so much! But my favorite of all her books was one called Mitch and Amy . Twins, brother and sister, make it through the fourth grade, taking on all the sweet, everyday adventures that happen often when one is ten years old.
And then there was Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. A beautiful story about a young boy in rural Oklahoma whose peaceful (or boring) life is interrupted when a troup of circus monkies escapes. He takes on the job of trapping them an returning them to the circus for a profit, of course. Along the way he learns a lot about life and what is truly important.
Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved is another twin tale, this time about twins who aren't as close. Divided by differences in health, interests and expectations, Louisa and Caroline can't seem to get along in wartime Maine. Louisa, the narrator, discovers herself by accident as she battles inferiority, bitterness and, well, being Esau.
I won't deny that I spent time with the Sweet Valley Twins, Boxcar Children... I worshipped Nancy Drew. But these few are the children's books that impacted me the most. They helped to mold me and my imagination. And here I am today.