Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 07/30/2009
The Books I’ll Never Forget
Over at Salon, they’re talking about Lizzie Skurnick’s new book “Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.” And it really got me thinking about the books I read as a kid (relatively speaking as I am 16) and how they really stick with you. I know Judy Blume is basically the goddess of my Mom’s generation and whenever her name comes up they all share a knowing smile. All I ever read was Blubber, which I personally kind of found upsetting, but apparently Judy Bloome introduced millions of girls to their period, which in a way is cute that millions of women have this shared experience.
I found out a much less fun way – a family friend gave me the American Girl book “The Care and Keeping of You.” for my 9th or 10th birthday. I read the section on “menstruation” and very distinctly remember sort of looking up at the heavens and whispering under my breath, “Oh, so this is how it’s going to be, hm? WELL I’M NOT HAVING IT.” Yeah. Fighting my body didn’t really go so well for me.
Anyway. I also read a lot of Paula Danziger. Not because she was relevant to my generation – she started writing in the 70’s. But because when I was in 3rd and 4th grade we had “library class” once a week, where we had to go to the library and pick out two books to check out. In 3rd and 4th grade most kids were into Junie B. Jones, but I was really over that, so I went for the teen section — which evidently as of 2002 hadn’t really been updated in a while. I read classics like The Cate Ate My Gymsuit, The Pistachio Prescription, and Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? like it was nobody’s business.
Jerry Spinelli was also the man – I found Maniac Magee delightful. Harriet the Spy, a classic, inspired me to start taking notes on people. I was an epic failure though – I wrote one observation about my then babysitter, which was something along the lines of, “She has brown hair and doesn’t look like she wants to be here.” Groundbreaking. Lois Lowry, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Madeline L’Engle, Sharon Creech, E.L. Konigsburg: all just some of the greats I read through lower and middle school.
They all had such great characters and stories that really meant something. It just makes me sad that girls are now growing up with books like “The Clique” and “Gossip Girl” and “The A-List.” It’s not even that they’re not written that well – it’s that they literally are devoid of meaning.
They don’t teach girls anything – if anything the spoiled brats who live without consequences these books portray are only doing harm. To some extent you expect T.V. to be a little trashy — but I never would have guessed that this is what books for kids would come to.
Of course there are still great books out there for younger girls, and girls can still always read the books of past generations. But these trashtastic books are sadly popular, and girls are sadly reading them. I know I work at an after-school care program for K-6 graders, and I’m always shoving one of these classics into their hands, trying to counter act whatever else is permeating their little worlds. I think the “coolness” of a teenager giving them a book counteracts the “coolness” of the trash they would be reading. I hope all the book lovers out there are doing the same and keeping the love alive!
This reminded me that Will Arnett ( of Arrested Development fame – the best show EVER) just read a little bit of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” on Light Night with Jimmy Fallon. He makes her sound a bit like a serial killer, but nevertheless. It’s relevant.
Read other posts about: Blubber, Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice, E.L. Konigsburg, Gossip Girl, Harriet the Spy, Jerry Spinelli, Judy Blume, Lizzie Skurnick, Lois Lowry, Madeline L'Engle, Maniac Magee, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Paula Danziger, Sharon Creech, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, The A-List, The Care and Keeping of You, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, The Clique, The Pistachio Prescription
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