I remember falling in love with reading.
I’ve been reading a lot of middle grade books the past year, because that’s what I want to write. I want to write books like the kind I read from fifth to eighth grade, the kind I re-read and re-re-read. They were the books that really stuck with me as I grew older and looked for new books to read. I loved the books, I loved the writers, I loved reading.
I have trouble remembering authors and titles sometimes, but I can remember how my books looked in my room. I didn’t have a traditional bookshelf in my room, but I had shelves in my closet and I can still picture the books stacked in there. I even remember keeping some books in the open shelf on my night stand.
I remember reading Dreams of Victory, A Dog Called Kitty, Sasha, My Friend, and Six Months to Live. And of course all of the Little House books. And a book series from the grocery store called Grandma’s Attic.
But I have forgotten the titles of other books I loved reading. I could only remember snippets. I remembered I read about a woman who gets a young puppy as a companion for her older dog and the older dog dies on an adventure. Or something like that. And I remembered reading a book about a girl who’s mother went vegan in an attempt to be happier.The mom had recently gotten divorced. The daughter hated the new diet and tried to sabotage her mom. The two big scenes I remember reading involved the daughter drinking mustard and milk and finding mice eating the junk food she had hidden in her drawer. The mom and daughter finally come to a truce and a healthy balance of good food.
(I think that book may have influenced my current eating habits more than I realized.)
I wanted to find these books. I searched all over the internet using as many descriptive words as I could. I searched websites like BookFinder for out of print and old books, I searched Amazon for keywords. I searched Goodreads.
Goodreads was useful because users create lists like “kids books that were popular in the 80s” and that’s just what I was looking for.
On Goodreads, I was delighted to find some covers of one of my favorites!
Six Months to Live was my first exposure to childhood disease. The main character has leukemia. Funny, maybe this book influenced me more than I realized, too, because I worked for the American Cancer Society for eight years before I moved to writing full time.
On a Goodreads list I also found a book that I know I read, but had forgotten. This was like discovering buried treasure.
But I still couldn’t find the book about the mom going on a health food kick, or the young puppy and old dog. I let my search fade while the rest of life took over, but I didn’t forget about it. Every once in awhile when I visited the library or an old bookstore, I’d poke around and see if a title or cover jogged my memory.
Then I got involved in cleaning out our basement. I wanted to get rid of our excess belongings for several reasons. I abhor hoarding. The thought of it gives me anxiety. Also, I wanted to move our workout equipment into our larger storage room so I could get more done. My cleanup was ruthless. If I had kept something in the basement so long I didn’t go looking for it, I didn’t need it. As a means of farewell, I did do a sweep through all the papers before I recycled them, and that’s when I found my real buried treasure. My Pig Out award.
Pig Out on Reading
In fifth grade, I wrote 86 book reports to help my class win a reading prize. While it was wonderful to win the prize thirty years ago, it was even better finding these book reports today. I was so, so grateful to my mom (and then me) for saving them until just this moment. (This is not a reason to horde things. Only keep stuff related to your passionate dream.)
I found the titles of those missing, beloved books. Here are some of my favorites:
Behind the Attic Wall
A Wrinkle in Time
A Swiftly Tilting Planet
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
I wrote reports on tons of Nancy Drew books and way too many Sweet Valley High books. Remember, I was going for quantity.
The Bunnicula series is in here, lots of Beverly Cleary books, some Choose Your Own Adventure and a book that gives me an unsettled feeling called The Twits, by Roald Dahl.
But the one about the mom and daughter and health food? It’s called Fifth Grade Secrets. Did you ever read it? I’ve got to find it.
I didn’t find the new dog/old dog book, but that might have been a story in my classroom SRA box. Did you have one of those?