Circling like it’s 1996

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It would appear overnight: rows and rows of paperbacks, “chapter books” and illustrated classics. When the Scholastic Book Fair rolled into my middle school, setting up shop amidst the short stacks in the library, I didn’t even try to act cool. Who can act cool in the face of a veritable literary buffet?

Having some of my parents’ cash in my pocket and the autonomy to choose any book I wanted was intoxicating. I remember obsessing over the flyer sent home, tallying up the costs for stories I wanted to share with Mom and Dad (I always went overboard — imagine). I’d come home clutching a new purchase like Walk Two Moons, an all-time favorite. Then I’d collapse on my grandparents’ couch after school and get lost in another world until dinnertime.

My husband casually dropped the first Scholastic flyer sent home from the kids’ preschool on the kitchen counter with all the other mail and detritus, like it was just another piece of paper.

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I wasn’t ready for the buoyant whoosh of emotion that hit me when I saw it. I’m talking serious, legitimate excitement … I mean, as excited as a frazzled 34-year-old mom with a pinched nerve in her back can get, anyway. I sat down with this thing like it was a particularly juicy bit of gossip I wanted to absorb in great detail.

And absorb I did. I started circling books like it was 1996, y’all. Curious GeorgeLittle Owl’s SnowDinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes! Few stories were safe from my Sharpie.

Never mind that we have stacks and stacks of children’s books already — some I began collecting long before Oliver and Hadley were even born. But as my sister correctly pointed out, the collection we have now features baby-approved or extremely “young” stories. As we get closer to Ollie learning to read himself, I’m investigating the early readers and beyond.

I chose two new stories to add into the bedtime rotation, placing our order online (hello, 2019!). I’m definitely more excited than they could possibly be.

And now, the hardest part … the wait.

Creating a Bookprint — or choosing the reads that most defined me


Every reader has stories that defined them.

Whether it’s assigned reading from high school or a novel lovingly passed along by a parent or friend, we all have those books we reflect upon with reverence. Stories that changed our perceptions or inspired us. Novels that altered the way we viewed the world, or helped us through a difficult time.

Scholastic has just launched its “One Million Bookprints for One Million Books” Campaign — an initiative to donate one million books to needy children through Reach Out and Read. At You Are What You Read, we can make a Bookprint — a collection of the five books that made an everlasting impression on us. For every Bookprint created on the site, one book will be donated to charity. More than 21,000 have been donated so far.

Choosing five books for my own Bookprint was challenging and fun. The key was to find the five stories that changed or defined me — not just the five stories I liked best. They could be one in the same, sure, but that wasn’t inherently the case. Upon reflection, a few of my first picks didn’t really define so much as entertain me, so I scratched them from my roster.

So after much soul-searching, my selections are:

1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake has the distinction of being the first book to keep me up late into the night crying uncontrollably, contemplating life and all its complications. I’ve read many books before and after The Namesake, but it remains firmly ensconced as My Favorite Book of All Time. It has everything: love; family; death; grief; hope; salvation. It moved me so completely, it would be impossible to say how much.

2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Read the summer I turned 10, Walk Two Moons was my first experience with life, death and family dynamics. Though Walk Two Moons is considered middle-grade reading, I felt decidedly adult while reading it; its themes translated beyond my elementary years.

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. We all know of my rampant JSF love, and this book — his second novel — was another serious tearjerker. I bought it after finishing and loving Everything Is Illuminated, but I think Extremely Loud is actually my favorite. The first book I encountered to deal with Sept. 11, it was profoundly moving. I can still remember hunkering over the book while commuting to D.C. for an internship, hunched over in my seat with tears streaming down my face. And the movie trailer gets me all misty.

4. The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food. It’s impossible to overstate the important of the Berenstain Bears on my childhood — I mean, they were everywhere. I learned the meaning of the word “moral” from our bear friends and can clearly remember reading the stories aloud with my parents and little sister. We had many books in the collection, but Too Much Junk Food really stands out in my mind. It could be because the pictures were so darn appetizing to a chubby kid like me, but I like to think it’s because I recognized the value of healthy eating at a young age. (Sure — we’ll go with that.)

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The quintessential American novel, Gatsby has the distinction of being the only book I’ve read more than twice. Though many readers seem to be firmly in the pro-Gatsby or anti-Gatsby camp, I’m all for it — and can’t wait to see the remake with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby (swoooooon) next year.

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I’m not the only celebrity (ahem — joke!) creating a Bookprint; famous folks like Suzanne Collins, Jim Parsons, Scarlett Johansson and Daniel Radcliffe share theirs, too (and yes, Harry Potter appears on Daniel’s). Head over to make your own Bookprint now and help the next generation find their own influential reads.


Have you created a Bookprint?

What are some of the books

that most defined you?