Sunday, May 16, 2010

Books Make a Difference

Books have been a constant in my life, from my earliest memories. The sheer pleasure of rich, evocative illustrations, the ability to journey on the words, the skills and knowledge acquired tangentially have all combined to create how I think and what I do today, fifty five years on.

For children, books are crucial to developing confidence, validation and having plain old fun. I remember the jolt of astonishment, and then pride, I felt when I realized that being smart could actually be something that impressed others. Shallow, I know, but such a kick. My childhood friend Noel and I had gone to the library together. He didn’t know how to look things up in the card catalog and was dead awed that I did. It was hard not to gloat as I showed him how, but I was kind. We were ten and I knew in that instant I never would be one of those girls who played dumb or “girly”. I was smart and would flaunt it. And books were a fundamental part of maintaining that edge.

Kids who don’t have the joy of owning their own books are automatically at a disadvantage.

BlogHer, a site for women who blog, and are combining to provide free books to children who wouldn’t ordinarily have them. This program is organized through the non-profit organization, First Book. To donate a book, all you have to do is leave a comment after the post in this link that answers the question “What book has had the greatest impact on your life?”. That’s it. A few words from you=a book for him or her. How easy is that!?

And by my blog post, another book will be donated as well. I am so happy to be able to take part in this project, which will have impact for hundreds of children for years to come.

My answer to the question is this:

I worked my way through the biography section of the children's department in our library alphabetically. Those life stories had an incredible impact on me, as almost all of them were tales of success and triumph over adversity.

If I had to narrow it down, it would be "The Story of My Life" by Helen Keller. I lost an eye when I was four and was profoundly afraid of going completely blind. Her courage and confidence inspired me, eased my fear and gave me a sense of being able to accomplish anything that has lasted all these years.


Read more about it:

Helen Keller

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Where Was I?

Oh, right, I had just found two of my favorite, but elusive, childhood books.

I had them within days of finding them on Ebay. The pictures were so familiar, it was as though I had seen them yesterday, not over 45 years ago.

The picture of the little girl looking out the window in The Little Ballerina was especially memorable. I have no idea why. Maybe because I wanted a dog.

The story goes along about her weak legs (never mentioning polio) and how ballet could strengthen them.

Bosh, I wanted to tell her. You'll have more fun watching Howdy Doody.

But she triumphs at the end, as the Ice Princess. Blah, blah, blah. Unlike me who, as Dopey, brought the house down, to my eternal mortification.

Hmmmm. Why the heck did I like this book so much, anyway?

I think the pictures were engaging and she had several things I wanted: a dog, gracefulness, a dad who looked and acted like Ward Cleaver and that awesome picture window.

And it is a story of overcoming obstacles, which have always appealed to me.

A Doll for Marie was special because she had my name!! There were lots of Mary's, Margaret's, Susan's and Anne's in my school, but no Marie. So I was hooked.

The doll in question is a valuable antique that Marie looks at every day in the store window (I drew a circle around the doll in the window. On the photo in the computer, not in the actual book. Really, just to see if I could. It is quite a good circle.) It's the classic lonely doll/lonely girl/will they ever come together plot.

The doll eventually gets sold. A spoiled dog runs off with it and another dog wrestles him for her in the street.

When Marie finds her, she's a wreck.

But Marie carefully restores her and pampers her and presumably they live happily ever after.

This book is a library edition and hand written inside is 'retired 6/90'. I can never understand that. I know room has to made for new books all the time. But it seems like such a waste for a nice little story like this.

I loved it and I am glad I have them both back in my life.


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