It's been one of those weeks that make me wish I could be a kid again. I'm not going in to details. I'm tired of details and I haven't even been the one dealing with the hardest parts.
Instead, I'm going to reminisce about being a kid. I learned to read when I was little, I think about the kindergarten or the first grade. I remember hating the reading assignment we took home one night. Something about a bear and a grasshopper. I don't know, but I remember hating having to do it.
I was blessed with parents who, while they probably didn't understand my love for the written word, loved me enough to keep books coming my way. They didn't read and for the most part still don't, so instead of handing me their own favorite novels they helped me go out and find my own.
To this day, I'm not a fan of school. Never have been and never will be. But I can remember three distinct books that I discovered at Sharon Elementary that I might not have found otherwise. The first is C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. A true classic that my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Carroll, read out loud to us. I won't ever forget her reading that. I've never even re-read it myself, much preferring to savor that experience instead.
The second of these novels was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Mrs. Carter read this to us at the end of the year way back in seventh grade and committed the cardinal sin of not finishing the book before school let out. Naturally, I had to finish it myself and answer the question of "whodunit?" It's a classic puzzle mystery that even won a Newbury Award.
Next up on the list is my first true sci-fi novel, also discovered in Mrs. Carter's class, 2010: Odyssey Two. Written by Arthur C. Clarke, the grandmaster of sci-fi, I was riveted to its pages even though it never left the solar system. The book was filled with so much mystery, so much wonder, that I can even remember reading it in the back seat of my parents' old van on the way to Grandma's house in a raging thunderstorm as we neared the exit.
While we're discussing school, I should mention one of the few bright spots of being trapped inside those walls: Scholastic Book Orders. I think these have probably gone the way of the dodo in today's high tech world, but back then before Amazon and eBay these were a great way to find great books for kids. They were filled with Newbury award winners and the type of literary fiction that should teach children to love to read. They were about four pages long and came out every few weeks. Somehow I always managed to talk Mom out of a book.
It was in the pages of one of these book orders that I first met Calvin & Hobbes. When Revenge of the Baby-Sat came to my attention, I immediately begged Mom for it. I can't remember what it was that made me want it, but it looked interesting. I was already a fan of Garfield. It didn't seem like a stretch for me to enjoy another comic strip.
Boy, was I right. Calvin & Hobbes became a staple of my reading from then on. Not a year goes by that I don't read at least half of the collection. I even get a strip in my e-mail each day. Calvin firmly lodged me in a world of enjoying newspaper comic strips and offered a little backhanded and unexpected food for thought.
It wasn't really until my senior year of high school and freshman year of college that I came to enjoy works of fantasy. My senior year was the year that Harry Potter gained national and Hollywood attention and The Lord of the Rings regained the notoriety it so richly deserves. The Harry Potter series was magical enough that I was hooked on the first read and spend the next few weeks chasing down copies of the books (ah, the days before Amazon became an option for my go-to book source). The Lord of the Rings was a bit confusing and deep for a fantasy newbie, but it didn't take long for me to appreciate the depth of Middle Earth and the beauty of Tolkien's creation.
It was Devan who finally came around with the book that would hook me into fantasy. When he came back from boot camp he went digging for a book he'd started reading there and didn't get to finish...Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. That novel is everything a fantasy novel should be, smartly written, multi-layered and full of high adventure and philosophical meandering. We spent the summer reading that series, The Sword of Truth. We'd make trips to Mountain Book Company and order them two at a time. When we picked up one order, we ordered the next and we were generally waiting to read them by the time they came in.
From there I moved on to the world of Dragonlance and Robert Jordan's impressive Wheel of Time series. I spent an entire summer reading the Dragonlance core novels and an entire semester, from January all the way to graduation, reading The Wheel of Time. These books heavily inspired our work on The Chaos Chronicles and are, to this day, the reason that I sometimes get in the mood to spend months reading an entire series in one go.
There are books and then there are Books. Books have scenes and characters in them that stick with you your entire life. I've touched on a few Books in this post. Next time I think I'll talk about them a little more.