Monday, October 26, 2009

my childhood passion

I'm fairly certain that Timmy Mouse by Miriam Clark Potter (illustrated by Tony Brice, published by Rand McNally) sparked my childhood passion for reading. We didn't have a lot of money when I was a child, and I only remember owning two books...this one and a Rand McNally publication of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. And these were probably given to me or one of my sisters as a gift. I remember having these when we lived on the family farm. When I was eight years old, we sold our farm to my brother (he is 20 years older than I) and moved into town.

The greatest discovery of my life was Briggs Public Library in Ironton, Ohio. I went with my friend whose dad took us. I was totally enthralled with the unbelievable notion that I could take as many books as I liked, without charge, and read to my heart's content. In two weeks, I could bring all of them back and start all over again! What a miracle that was to me! Another friend of mine who was a non-reader was a total enigma to me. Her aunt had bought her a whole set of Nancy Drew Mysteries and she never opened one of them! I asked to borrow them and she willingly let me take them home with me. It was supposed to be a permanent arrangement, but her mother found out and made me bring them back. I was devastated, but knowing I could borrow them whenever I pleased brought me consolation.

I went from Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys and then to Trixie Belden Mysteries. Trixie was like the younger Nancy only more down home. She wasn't cool and sophisticated like Nancy, and I could more easily identify with her character. She lived on Crabapple Farm and her best friend was Honey Wheeler (loved her name) and they belonged to the Bob-White Club.

We moved back to the country when I was starting 7th grade and I no longer had ready access to shelves of books. The county bookmobile became one of my best friends. I would check out twenty books at a time, barely able to carry them to the car.

When I was in eighth grade, my tastes started getting a little more grown-up. Wow! I'll say! I managed to get a copy of Valley of the Dolls by Jacquelin Susann. I got in trouble for showing all the risque passages to my friends at school. My principal "suggested" that it would be inappropriate to bring that particular book to class again. She didn't say anything about Peyton Place though! I had pretty eclectic taste in my reading material. I still read young teen books. I loved Lois Duncan and Ann Head (remember Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones?), Rosamond du Jardin, Betty Cavanna...I could go on, but I'll spare you.

In high school, I was totally obsessed with Gothic Romance novels. Of course Emily Bronte set the standard with Wuthering Heights and Charlotte with Jane Eyre, but at that time in my life I was into more recent authors. I wanted to be that governess in books by Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Phyllis Whitney, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart. Like most obsessed readers, once I found an author, I read everything by them until the supply was exhausted.

Also during high school, I read every best-seller I could get my hands on and I had a fixation on books about World War II, fiction and non-fiction alike.  I would read until 2:00 a.m on a school night. I think I read every single book in our small school library. In certain classes (with boring, repetitive teachers), I would make a little fortress of my textbooks and read a paperback behind them. Believe it or not, I never got caught and still managed to graduate with honors.

When I was a young mother, I felt tied down, overwhelmed, exhausted and just looking for a little escape from my humdrum I turned to Harlequin Romances. Yikes! I can't believe I'm admitting that, but, hey, don't knock them too much. They were short, easy to read, and they always, always had happy endings. Some of the authors were surprisingly good writers and a few (Barbara Delinsky, Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, etc.) went on to become mainstream romance writers. Yeah, most of it is formulaic dreck, but they filled a niche in my life and then I got over them.

I still tend to find an author and read everything they've written. Two recent ones have been James Lee Burke who writes the "Dave Robicheaux" mysteries (I got interested in them when we lived in Louisiana where they're set) and Carl Hiassen whose books about southern Florida make me laugh out loud. I couldn't possibly list all the books I've ever read, but I would most likely recognize them if I saw them listed. I don't read as much as I should these days, mainly because I'm on this darned computer too much, but I'm trying to strike a happy medium with less computer time and more reading time. I want to regain my childhood/adult passion.

P.S. My current read is The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian.

P.P.S. This Timmy Mouse isn't my original one. I found this one at Alibris. It's a great source for out-of-print books at reasonable prices.

P.P.P.S.  This is a duplicate post of the one on Lens.Us.Together


VioletSky said...

As much as I have always loved reading, I often forget the little details in a story (which is why I can re-read many books and it will still seem fresh!)

I found an incomplete set of Trixie Belden in the dumpster - how could anyone throw out 13 books of their childhood?

Susan said...

OMG! You saved them for me didn't you? lol I know, it was long before you knew me, but still...

I know what you mean about the's exactly like that with me too!

Ruth said...

Oh you are toooo cute.

I was not a reader. But I loved the library and how it smelled. Does that count? I remember reading Island of the Blue Dolphins in 4th grade and loving it.

You know you can find old sets of books on eBay. I've found Grandma Olive's encyclopedias several times over.

Now I'm reading short stories, and that seems just right!

I think romance novels sound great. As you say, they fill a niche.

This flowed so nicely, I loved reading about your reading habits.

Susan said...

Well, Ruthie, you've got one over on me...I've never read Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Oh yes, I've looked on eBay many times. If I had a bigger house with a dedicated library, I would be all over the internet with a fine-tooth comb looking for my favorites.

And thank you!

Alaine said...

Our family couldn't afford to buy books either and I only had two or three. I wish we'd had a library close by but we'd have to take a bus, train and another bus to get there!

I, too, read the 'naughty' books borrowed when I was a teenager, those you mentioned, Valley of the Dolls, Peyton Place and even D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover!!

These days I love biographies and mysteries.

Tattered and Lost said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I forget if you are on Goodreads or not.. but it is a good way to remember what you have read. Of course, it takes up more computer time..!

I remember reading, and loving, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo and his brother Chan.
I loved the picture of the old man dreaming on the hill.

CottageGirl said...

Wow, Susan! You are a voracious reader with a terrific memory! You amaze me!
I remember being so sad when I had exhausted all of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books the library had. I don't remember too many of the books I read as an adolescent, except for my weird fascination with Guy de Maupassant and Edgar Allen Poe.
One of my favorite books of all time is Anne of Green Gables ... I still read it every summer to help me remember to literally smell the roses while they bloom.

The Bumbles said...

I remember Trixie Belden - sounds so familiar - but none of the details. Was she a part of the Bobbsey Twins series? I don't think so - I must have read them all around the same phase. The Five Little Peppers is another one - I looked hopefully for my grandmother's copy while on vacation visiting her without success. Now I need to get that from the library.

Getting my first library card as a little girl was my first experience with independence. I used my allowance to buy myself a wallet to put it in and everything.

I too loved Tikki Tikki Tembo like Natashya - I bought a copy of it for our nephews for X-Mas last year.

I am re-reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn right now - Francie sounds like she could be your soul mate ;0)

Deborah said...

The bookmobile!!!! I had totally forgotten about it. We lived in the city but our school was too small to have its own library. I loved it, and the public library where my mother convinced the librarian that I should be allowed to take books from the adult section even though I wasn't 12 yet! Hard to imagine there being rules like that today.

Your ruse of hiding a book behind your textbooks reminded me of putting a book up on the music stand of the piano and reading while practicing. Lucky for me I could memorize very fast, so didn't need the music in front of me. I'm not sure if my mother ever noticed the substandard quality of my playing...

You do have an amazing memory and it was a treat to read this.

Char said...

love the books - we have a lot of the same taste

ds said...

Such wonderful fun! I do remember Mr and Mrs Bo Jo Jones,but I devoured Nancy Drew, the Five Little Peppers, and a series called The Happy Hollisters(the Bobbsey Twins plus one). Then I discovered real mysteries--egged on by the BFF--and it was all over. Like Ruth, I remember the smell of our (county)library. It was housed in a former garage. For years, I thought that all good books retained the smell of motor oil ;)

You would have liked my SkyBluePink friend. She really enjoyed romance novels--especially anything with Fabio on the cover!

This is a wonderfully woven post. Thank you.

Susan said...

Alaine, oh weren't those books just so naughty! lol They pale in comparison to today's writing. I started sneaking my older sister's True Story and Modern Romance magazines into the bathroom when I was 9 or 10. I was ahead of the curve a bit!

Susan said...

Tattered, I bet you would have been a great Harlequin writer! You could have added an element of humor to yours! :)

Susan said...

Natashya, I haven't read that book! I didn't stay in the children's book section for long.

I'll have to look at Goodreads...just what I need, another time-consuming website! :)

Susan said...

CG, I wish I were as voracious a reader as I was as a teenager. Of course, I would never get anything done. I always had my nose in a book. I started reading a lot less when I was going through menopause and lost the ability to concentrate well. Now I think the internet has made me ADD! LOL

I read a lot of the classic children's books as an adult like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.

Susan said...

Molly, I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a long, long time ago and I just recently bought a copy at Goodwill to reread. Have you seen the movie? I loved it, too. Maybe Francie IS my soulmate!

Susan said...

Deborah, they must not have cared at our library that I was reading far above my age level. They were probably just glad that kids were reading period! Although, I do seem to recall having borrowed Valley of the Dolls from someone's mother, so maybe that one would have been off limits to me.

That's funny that you read while you were practicing your scales! Do you still play?

Susan said...

Char, it must be the southern influence!

Susan said...

Thank you, ds! Ahhhh, the smell of's one of the first things I do when I open I'll forever be looking for the scent of motor oil! :)

i brake 4 dreams said...

funny you should mention old childhood reads....i just posted one of my favs at my blog;

here's to Timmy The Mouse!!! lol

love + luck + bliss,
missysue xox

Oliag said...

This is going to be my Childhood Passion too when I get around to posting on LUT...and we have very similar loves...I adored and wanted to be Trixie Belden when I was young...I never could interest my children in those books though...and I too secretly read those "naughty" books my mother told me I was too young to Gone With the Wind, Lady Chatterly's Lover, and Peyton Place...and I too escaped with an occasional romance novel when my children were favorite was Kathleen Woodiwiss...

This post brings back so many memories!

Susan said...

missysue, I had never heard of Karen Kepplewhite! It must be because I'm quite a bit older than you, and I missed that one with my daughter.

I think I loved the illustrations in Timmy Mouse more than anything.

Susan said...

Oliag, I knew we were really sisters! I also read Gone with the Wind and was soooo in love with the dashing Mr. Rhett Butler!

I forgot about Kathleen Woodiwiss! She was the original "bodice-ripper" author! My sister was so enamoured of her book Shanna that she named her daughter that.

JackeeG4glamorous said...

You scamp! Valley of the Dolls! I too read that in about 8th grade, tucked away in our basement, because I didn't want my mother to know. I also read, at about that age, "Coffee, Tea or Me" about stewardesses - while I babysat my weekly job.
That's how I received my "sex ed" back in the day.

I too was an avid reader, still am. Nothing takes the place of the atmosphere of the library to me. Free free, totally free.

Susan said...

Jackee, long time no see! I read Coffee, Tea or Me, too! It WAS quite the sex education wasn't it? I used to babysit for my older sister on the weekends and I used to find some "very interesting" reading material underneath her bed. I was quite the little snoop!

Yes, Mr. Andrew Carnegie had a wonderful idea, didn't he?

i brake 4 dreams said...

thank you so much for your visit! it really does make everything worthwhile to have such a beautiful soul as a son!

love + luck + bliss,
missysue xox

Cindy said...

I'm envisioning you as a little Matilda (are you familiar with the Roald Dahl story?) with your red wagon full of books walking home from the library. Although I was not a big reader as a child (I was too busy socializing), I have kept a few special books from my childhood. Throughout the years I've shared them with Isabel. Even though she developed different favorites, I think she enjoys imagining me as a little girl. Either that or she acted interested in them just to make me happy. I surprised myself by becoming an English major in college (later changed it to design), and since then have become a voracious reader. I've had a second chance to read books I missed out on in childhood alongside my daughter. Third grade: Narnia and Nancy Drew; Fourth grade: Island of the Blue Dolphins. They become even more memorable when you get to create dioramas about them!

Susan said...

missysue, it certainly does! :)

Susan said...

Well, Cindy, if I had owned a little red wagon, I'm sure I would have used it to carry my load of books! :) How fortunate that you had a lovely daughter to give you a second chance at discovering the joys of children's books! And what a great way to remember them...through dioramas!

steviewren said...

Yep, this was my childhood passion as well. Your list of mystery stories reads just like mine. I still have the books and plan to take a picture of them for my Len Us Together offering. One of my new fave authors is Stephen J. Cannell. I'm enjoying his Shane Scully series. I mostly listen to books on CD these days. Like you I spend too much time on the computer and in front of the TV unwinding from work. It is always wonderful to find a fellow bibliophile.

steviewren said...

Susan, I just read your comment about going though menopause and losing the ability to concentrate....the same thing happened to me. The only way I've continued to be a reader is through books on CD. I guess listening doesn't use the same mental capabilities as reading does. I am beginning to be able to actually read again. Thank goodness. Books were an old friend that I didn't want to lose.

California Girl said...

The illustation looks familiar and my husband remembers the "Timmy Mouse" book.

My father brought home "The Bobbsey Twins" which started my serial reading. After that it was "Nancy Drew", then the "Anne of Green Gables" series.

Books I loved when I was little were the Madeliene and Babar books as well as Dr. Seuss, "The Little House", "Good Night Moon" and so forth. We had to memorize and recite poetry including that by R.L. Stevenson from "A Child's Garden of Verses". I'm sure my love of reading and writing began then.

Thanks Dad!

Susan said...

stevie, it's nice being able to share my love of books with friends. I've done some listening to audio versions of books...mostly if I'm driving a few hours alone. It certainly helps pass the time. I usually have to pause when concentrating on traffic or directions becomes more important...can't concentrate on two things at once!

Listening is nice, but I still prefer the whole reading experience...the heft of the book, the feel of the paper, the's part of what made me fall in love with reading.

Susan said...

Oh, Cali Girl, I can't believe someone else actually remembers my book! That's great!

I loved the Little House books, too, and can't believe I forgot to include them in my post. My favorite is The Long Winter. After reading about Almanzo and his brother cooking the hotcakes and spreading them with brown sugar instead of syrup, I had to try wasn't very good and I was so disappointed!

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

What a great post about your love of books. I got at least 1 new Nancy Drew at Xmas & my brother would get a Hardy Boys; plus my best friend (who was an only child) would get 2-3 Nancy Drews. So, I was set up at least for the Xmas season -- then there'd be a slightly dry period. But our little elementary school had a small library.

Did you ever read the Robin Kane 3-book series? She was similar to Trixie but the setting was modern day (1960's) California & she had a ranch style house and a horse! Big stuff to a little Newfie girl!

Susan said...

Sandy, thank you! Nice to see you again.

If we had been friends back then, we could have shared our books! I don't think our elementary even had a library!

I've heard of Robin Kane, but never read any of them. I'll have to see if I can find any. I can imagine that lifestyle being totally foreign to a Newfie girl!