So I’m 24 years old. I spend the majority of my time with — ahem — adults, and I love them dearly . . . but let’s be frank: if I tell you I was born on a sultry July day in 1985 and you groan loudly, laughing and rolling your eyes, I’m just reminded — yet again — that I’m not yet admitted to the Married Parent Club but too old to saunter around the mall with tweens in Zac Efron tees and Ed Hardy shirts (um, do kids still wear Ed Hardy? And who is Ed Hardy?).
Me, the Happy Reader (and Pretend Napper), circa 2003
Yes, I’m in my twenties — and single in my twenties. While friends are getting engaged and starting their families, I’m still up late gabbing with my sister, shopping to my heart’s content and generally causing independent, self-reliant mayhem. I’m happy with my life, don’t get me wrong — and this isn’t a post about how desperately I’m ready to “move on to the next phase.” It’s just that I’ve been giving some thought to, of all things, my future children
— and how I don’t want them to live in a world bereft of Disney classics like “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty & The Beast” and “Aladdin.” Seriously, kids these days? I mean, what with their cell phones and iPods and laptops and digitized everything? It just makes me wonder about what’s to become of Mini Meg — and what sort of entertainment will exist for her
. ‘Cause Lord knows no six-year-old of mine will be texting at the dinner table!
Which brings me to books. (Are you with me? Stop snickering — I needed to give you some background, all right?) When I’m browsing at a bookstore, running my fingers along the spines of children’s and young adult paperbacks, I’m frequently reminded of all the books I loved as a kid — and have started making mental note of all the books I want my children to read someday. When they’ll arrive and become literate is a giant Meg Mystery, but I’m hopeful that when they first open their little adorable eyes, it’ll be to a very well-stocked library!
I haven’t yet purchased any of these, so don’t freak out. I’m just beginning to cull them all in one place so when The Day finally arrives, I’ll know I’m bringing up some cute little book nerds . . . just like yours truly. (Emphasis on the cute, let’s be honest.)
And if they don’t like my selections? I’ll whip out a tactic my mom and dad used when I was, um, reluctant to practice piano as a kid — I’ll set a cooking timer. Thirty minutes of practicing — or reading — before I could get up and go about my general business of pestering my sister, watching TV or obsessing over the Weather Channel (yes, the Weather Channel, friends). “Think you’re getting up without finishing that chapter, little Johnny? What does Mommy’s clock say? Hmm, right — I thought not.”
Clearly, I’m already in the running for Future Parent Of The Year. I’ll let you know where you can cast your vote as soon as I find a contest I can enter!
Some Books Meg’s Kids Will Read
(Or They’ll Be In Time Out For-ev-er)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
OK, so I don’t really imagine Mini Meg putting up a fight about reading this one . . . because what’s not to like? Carle’s classic tale of “science and gluttony” (nicely said, Amazon) has sold more than 12 million copies since its publication decades ago. I remember loving the colorful illustrations as a kid, and the transformation from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly was a fun, powerful thing to behold as a child.
Tiggy and the Babysitter by Happy Endings Books
I’m not going to lie — I got a little verklempt when the cover of this one appeared on Amazon! I read (and loved) this story of why babysitters aren’t scary — not that I should have ever been scared of babysitters, anyway (mine were always my lovely grandparents!). A little part of my soul died when I realized Tiggy is out of print, but I’m happy to report I still have my (battered) hardcover, straight out of 1987, tucked away on a dusty bookshelf somewhere. Now nobody touch it!
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
What do you mean, this book was published more than 40 years ago? Silverstein’s tale of the friendship between a boy and a tree is timeless and touching — and one of the first times I got a realistic portrayal of unselfish love as a kid. I remember unwrapping the copy given to me by my grandmother and running my fingers carefully over the green cover, even poking that little red apple! I still have my hardcover, so thankfully Mini Meg will get to peruse my very copy! I’ll add it to the stack with Tiggy.
Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
by Deborah & James Howe
So when I was growing up, the “vampire” we were all obsessed with reading about didn’t have the initials E.C. — and ours was considerably smaller. And fuzzier! The Bunnicula books were beloved in our school library; we all took turns reading about the misadventures of Harold the dog and Chester the cat, who are forced to welcome a new bunny into their home after the Monroe family discovers him at a showing of “Dracula.” Harold seems to be the only one to realize the rabbit’s evil tendencies, and I remember the books being both hilarious and creepy.
The Berenstain Bears book series
by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Some of my fondest bookish memories as a kid involve The Berenstain Bears, that loveable family of Mama, Papa, Sister & Brother and their many, many adventures. My parents loved sharing them with Kate and me because every story had a “moral,” teaching us a lesson about sharing, family, love or health. Trick Or Treat is awesome, joining the elite ranks of The Truth and Learn About Strangers as several of my favorites. The Berenstain series is alive and well, so I’m not too worried about stockpiling the paperbacks right now. Still, I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t have Mama and Papa to help me teach my kids about junk food, another of my favorites. So maybe I better grab it when I see it!
Superfudge by Judy Blume
It’s pretty much impossible to read about Farley Drexel Hatcher — a.k.a. Fudge — without falling at least a little in love with this adorable, meddlesome and Dennis the Menace-esque brother of Peter! Blume’s books were another huge hit at our elementary school, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of them at least twice. It took me a little while to find the orange cover I recognized, pictured at left — but I knew I had a winner when I spotted Fudge covering the baby with stamps! Classic!
Blume spoke at this year’s National Book Festival and, when asked by a member of the audience, explained that Fudge was based, in part, on her own son’s childhood. I thought that was adorable! And when someone asked her what Fudge would be like as an adult, the author recoiled; Fudge is, to her, perpetually small! It would be impossible to imagine him as a teen, or with a family of his own. I agree! Long live Fudge! I just hope Mini Meg doesn’t adopt any of his antics . . .
Julie Of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
George’s novel of Miyax/Julie, a 13-year-old Eskimo orphan, made a huge impression on me when I first read it in fifth grade. Julie Of The Wolves was one of the books I read over vacation, sprawled out on the couch under a fan, and it took no time for me to leap from the heat of another blazing Maryland summer to the cold, desolate Alaskan wilderness. A coming-of-age story of friendship, acceptance and survival, Mini Meg will probably have to hit middle school before I’ll share this one with her — because I remember the whole lonely, no-parents thing being a bit disturbing?
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Unlike my sister, I was never into the Little House books; MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall was my first (and only) introduction to pioneer life as a kid, if you don’t count playing “Oregon Trail” on my dad’s old computer for hours!
The story of Sarah, who arrives from Maine to become the wife of widowed farmer Jacob, is sparse but moving and served, for me, as another great introduction to unconditional love. Caleb and Anna, Jacob’s children, could have served as stand-ins for any one of the other youngsters who read the book in my fourth grade class. I remember our unanimous stamp of approval!