Most years, I experience Charlotte’s Web in bits of pieces, since I’m almost always volunteering in Mrs. P’s room just after lunch recess during literature time, and she always reads it to her third graders. Other books pop up again and again, sometimes because I’ve sought them out, sometimes because the kids at school or the library remind me how wonderful they are. It’s usually a good experience, since reading them again reconnects me with something from my youth when I first read them.
Because I recently re-read Counting by 7s (by Holly Goldberg Sloan) and The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (by the always wonderful Kathi Appelt), I’ve been thinking about other books that do the work of capturing moments in my life I want to revisit. And here they are…
- A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) – Whether it’s because of Meg Murry and Charles Wallace, or because it mentions tesseracts and led me into some great science fiction, re-reading this one is always powerful. There is loss – a lot of loss – and being an outsider and trying to figure out what the heck is going on and it all just seems like too much. It’s both your worst family trip and your best one. From there, I might head back into When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead or A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
- A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (E.L. Konigsburg) – This somewhat unlikely book for middle graders and teens is about Eleanor of Aquitaine. She’s in heaven, waiting to find out where her second husband, King Henry II of England, will be headed. How does this seem like something that would have fascinated me when I was young? It’s Eleanor. Well, Eleanor and the great writing, which made these long-dead historical figures seem real to me. Reading about her made me think more critically about women and power and history, which could conceivably have pushed me in several directions that affected real-life choices for me. After reading this one, I like to move on to biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt or other lesser-known rad women. (See this blog post for more.)
- The Dark is Rising sequence (Susan Cooper). This series actually starts with Over Sea, Under Stone, and I have to admit that I haven’t re-read it lately, so who knows what I’ll think of it now? (I know I’ll still love it.) However, it was fantasy in the time before Harry Potter, and brought together a bunch of kids into a fight between Dark and Light, complete with connections to Arthurian legends and other fun stuff. The Dark was really dark, and there were wizards, and that’s all you need to know if you haven’t read them. I remember dreaming myself into the stories when I was a kid, and then thinking about what my mind made them into while I was at school the next day. What an excellent use of “quiet work” time!
I’m sure there are more, many more. Some books hold up better than others over the years. Some characters remind you of who you used to be, and others connect with you in new ways. It’s all good.