|Cover of first edition, 1900|
Like Michael Patrick Hearn (and Leslie Murphy, who designs our catalogs), my most memorable book as a kid was The Wizard of Oz. Hearn, who edited the annotated edition, tells why it enticed him: "The violent upheaval of the Kansas cyclone introduced me to the unforgettable power of literature.... Baum was so convincing to me that he was not telling a story. He was relating history."
I also adored the Freddy the Pig books, which bestowed the pleasures of a quality series to devour. As their author Walter Brooks commented, "Children are people; they're just smaller and less experienced. They are not taken in by the smug playfulness of those who write or talk down to them as if they were dull-witted and slightly deaf." "Essentially, they evoke the most subversive politics of all" writes author and Freddy fan Adam Hochschild: "a child's instinctive desire for fair play."
Children's and YA writer Judy Blume hid her library copy of Madeline because she loved it so much and sincerely thought it was the only one in existence.
"There are no parents to demonstrate or remonstrate" says Maurice Sendak of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Author of The Polar Express Chris Van Allsburg agrees: "I loved the idea that I would be in control and create my own world." For Marc Brown, creator of Arthur the Aardvark, Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are gave him an ambition for his life.
For country singer Brad Paisley, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the be all and end all; so much so that he named his firstborn William Huckleberry Paisley!
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, novelist Julia Alvarez later found that the Arabian Nights modeled a means to rise above dictatorship, that stories possessed a power to save lives.
"At the American school where I was sent in hopes that it might turn me into a well-behaved young lady who spoke English, I was introduced to books: Dick and Jane and their tame little pets Spot and Puff. Just that morning we had trapped tarantulas in the yard and witnessed Iluminada receiving a spirit."
"I didn't want to live like a doll in a dollhouse" says actress Kathy Bates of her fondness for Rumer Godden's Impunity Jane. I enjoyed many of Godden's books in my younger days, but this is one I'll have to seek out!
Finally, both writer Bobbie Ann Mason and actress Julianne Moore singled out Little Women for its empowering portraits of young women as writers and as fully endowed beings able to choose their own destinies.