Writers are always readers first. It's Children's Book Week, and I'd been thinking all about my girls and what they love to read before a post from my best library reminded me of my own favorites as a child.
I distinctly remember making a weekly visit to the library in my hometown (it was such a small place it was actually a home village) and checking out as many books as my mom would allow - and beginning to read them in the car despite her warning that if I finished them all before the week was up, I'd just have to wait until we could make it back to the library again. I was used to lingering in the early readers, repeatedly checking out In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories because my oldest daughter didn't get her Wednesday Addams tendencies from thin air.
I was in third or fourth grade when I decided I wanted a BIG book, and pushed a stool against the shelf of juvenile fiction and selected the largest tome I laid eyes on among the As. It was Avi's Bright Shadow, and in addition to being the longest book I'd ever attempted to read, it would be my first fantasy, too.
I remember the book feeling mysterious and dark and possible, the magic delicious and different, and I remember, too, the extreme satisfaction of finishing. Even just seeing the cover again gives me tingles. There'd be no going back to Cam Jansen, now. I'd seen what a character-driven narrative arc could do, and I wanted more.
Favorites in later years included Julie of the Wolves, A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Boxcar Children, Pippi Longstocking, Heidi, Little House in the Big Woods, The BFG, and so many more. As a child, I was not a particular reader - I would read anything. My mom and dad would pick up stacks of books for me at yard sales or flea markets and within fifteen seconds of thanking them I would be invisible behind the spine of one of my latest acquisitions. I enjoyed, and still do, books about uncanny girls and strange happenings and compelling, believable settings, whether historical or otherwise.
There's still something about that Avi, though. A young girl? A friendship? Struggling with how to spend the last five wishes in a whole kingdom? Feels to me like the beginning of just the sort of thing I'd spend the rest of my life hoping to write.