This week we’re revisiting childhood reading. What’s it like to read a favorite childhood author as an adult? Or even to re-read a favorite book from childhood?
I recently read Judy Blume’s new novel for adults, In the Unlikely Event. Like almost everyone who read her growing up, I loved her so was really looking forward to this novel. It was very disappointing. It felt like she was still writing from the 70s and for an audience of pre-teens. Actually, I’m not sure today’s YA audience would have liked it. It was one-note with flat characters and a lot of loose ends. Just ugh.
I considered jumping in on the Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret readalong but ended up chickening out because I’m afraid I’ll hate it now. I’m a huge chicken! And really, that fear only seems to apply to books written for those early teen years. I think I got burned rereading a couple Sweet Valley books and realizing how silly a lot of them were (but you know, I devoured those books and they certainly kept my enthusiasm for reading high!).
I did jump in on the readalong of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and I loved every minute of re-reading that book. That book meant more to me than I realized at the time. Re-reading it as an adult made me feel nostalgic for the little girl who first read it. It felt like visiting an incredibly important part of my childhood.
With that said, I have no interest in reading her current work. I know my reading experience would be colored by the 11 year old Jennifer peeking in. I plan on re-reading Blubber instead.
I re-read a few of The Baby-Sitters Club books last summer and was worried before I picked them up. It ended up quite justified, since they didn’t hold up as I hoped they might. Reading Judy Blume was new to me, but I was surprised by how fresh Are You There God? felt.
That’s exactly why I didn’t jump in on The Babysitter’s Club readalong last summer, because I knew that they were ultimately twaddle and wouldn’t hold up. I don’t have any strong memories of Are You There God?, though I must have read it. Judy Blume to me was a gateway drug, her Fudge series was so tattered because I read them so many times. In fact Superfudge may have been the first book I begged my parents to buy me in hardback because I had to read it right. away.
On the other hand, I’ve been reading books like Charlotte’s Web and The BFG to C and wow, these have been absolutely glorious rereading them as an adult.
It’s true! I just finished reading Matilda to The Girl (age appropriateness be damned) and I had so much fun with it. I have great confidence that all of my favorite works by Dahl will hold up. Charlotte’s Web… we read that one too and it definitely stands the test of time but (as Jen would say) Holy cats! I really just wanted someone to get poor Wilbur a Xanax for most of the book.
One of my favorite parts of being a parent is revisiting books like those by reading them to my kids. Beware the possible devastation. You don’t know pain until your youngest child declares that Little House on the Prairie is boring. (Yes, we took her out of the will.)
I loved The Little House books as a kid, but when I re-read Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie to The Girl I was the one bored out of my skull. I was like “Jeeze Laura, show some sass. Do something! I don’t care about your maple candy!” I wrote a whole horrific blog post on it and offended lots of people. Well, maybe that’s just my natural tone. I’m kidding! (But not about The Little House books being as boring as poo.)
Did any of you read well above your grade level/age? I read Stephen King really young and now I look back and think, “Where in the world were my parents?!”
I always think the same thing. My parents were more casual readers, so I think they were just excited to see me reading so much that they didn’t pay as much attention to what it actually was. I sometimes want to go back to books like She’s Come Undone and read them now, because I know I definitely didn’t get everything I was supposed to.
Wow, I haven’t thought of that one in ages, but I own a copy and you’re right, I’m sure I missed tons of stuff.
I read King much too early as well. But I’m so glad that I did. Getting my hands on those first grown-up books changed me, changed my reading style, and led me to where I am now. Should I have been reading about murderous clowns when I was 12? Probably not. Did it end up being a great thing? Yep.
Blasphemy! There’s no such thing as reading Stephen King ‘too soon’! My first was Cujo at eleven and was also the first ‘adult’ novel that I’d read. I agree with you completely that it completely changed my reading style and made me the reader that I am today. I LOVE YOU STEPHEN KING!!!! Okay. Hand my fangirl self the smelling salts.
I read a lot of stuff above my level because my mother was such a strong influence on me as a reader. She loved books and instilled that in all of us. She paid attention to what I was reading but never censored me and even told the school librarian to back off when I chose Go Ask Alice which was all about drugs. After I read it both my parents did and then we talked about it.
My parents didn’t really influence the type of reading that I did, but my mother did definitely influence me to read. Growing up I almost never saw her without a book.
I can’t talk about childhood reading without telling the tale that I always tell. I grew up in a tiny town without a library. Once I passed the age of digging Little Golden Books the only books available in my house were either romances by Jackie Collins (You better believe that a book titled The Bitch was very tempting to preteen me!) or leftovers from my mom’s childhood. (Thank you forever Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. You were the best.) My undying and everlasting gratitude goes out to my grandfather for taking me to the Bookmobile. That first trip was probably the single most important day in my reading journey and I’ll never forget it.
What’s your relationship with your childhood reading? Have you been brave enough to give anything a re-read? What seems to hold up best?