This post was inspired by the Valentine’s Day lovefest at YA Highway. Hop over there if you want to see more Valentines to authors, books, characters, and more.
We all have those books that we read in our youth and never forget. Some haven’t go out of style (see this year’s highly publicized 50th Anniversary of Madeline L’Engle’s classic Newbury winner A Wrinkle in Time), while others become dog-eared footnotes in publishing history.
Today I’m going to give a little Valentine’s love to two books I read and reread in my youth. Both books are – I think – relatively unknown nowadays, and both have cropped up in conversation within the last week or so.
The first is a middle grade (children’s?) book called Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy. For some reason, I brought up this book at Book Club the other night, and no one there had read it. My copy, recently liberated from my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. Behind the Attic Wall is about finding friendship and acceptance, even if you are, by all accounts, unloveable.
Oh yeah, and there are talking dolls.
But I promise it’s not creepy! It’s quite charming, actually, with two mean old great-aunts, a completely adorable uncle named Morris, and a big, creepy house. Perfect setup for a story about a mad-at-the-world orphan, and twelve-year-old protagonist Maggie will infuriate you before worming directly into the center of your heart.
My mom got Emily by Candice Ransom at a garage sale or thrift store and gave it to my sister, who is two years older than me. I stole it from her bookshelves (much like I did with many other books) and never gave it back. Sorry, Lisa. I had read everything else we had already.
It’s a short read, but this young adult novel about a debutante gaining a social conscience (and a hot doctor) at the turn of the 20th century has stuck with me ever since. I loved the story, and I distinctly remember looking up what a Gibson Girl looked like, in the days before computers and Google and stuff, and trying to recreate that iconic hairdo in my bedroom mirror. I wanted to dash around New York City in a carriage and be torn between going to balls or helping the poor. I totally would have made the right choice, y’all. I mean, after I went to the ball and stuff.
I haven’t read Emily in at least 10 or 15 years, probably since college. I hope it’s still stashed away at my parents’ house somewhere, because I’d love to reread it.
(Side note: my parents are moving for the first time in 32 years. I still have a fully-functioning bedroom at home, though I have lived in a different state for 10 years. I am not looking forward to cleaning it out be in the next few months, except for finding old books and such. Oh, and for the godawful relics of my childhood that I’m sure to find. Like mixtapes created by holding up a cassette recorder to the TV during “Friday Night Videos.” Or the U2 collage I made in high school. For that matter, the Broadway collage I made in junior high. I was SO COOL, you guys.)
I highly recommend both of these novels. They’re still available online through resellers (or perhaps at your local used bookstore!).
What books from your childhood are you still carrying with you? Any hidden gems I should check out?