The Rice Daddies blog recently held a writing contest that asked parents to reflect upon a favorite book from their childhood or one they have read to their child(ren). I missed the contest but it got me thinking about my favorite books from childhood.
Actually, I don’t remember the title or the author of the book that had the greatest impact on me. It was the first book I read by myself. It was about a boy who was made fun of or felt awkward because of his big hands. The story ends with the boy using his big hands to play football, where his hands help him become an excellent receiver. He no longer felt awkward about his hands, now that his large hands served a purpose.
This book had a big impact on me because up until then I was choosing books that were beyond my reading level and only “pretending” to read them. I don’t know why I did that. I guess, I thought it would make me look smart.
The second most important book from my childhood would have to be Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I remember my elementary school teacher reading it to my class. I read it myself recently and realized that my teacher had skipped some of the more perceivably controversial sections of the book (or at least I don’t remember her reading those parts of the book). What I remember most about the book was that it was “contemporary,” set in then modern times in the same city I was growing up in. I think I felt a “connection.” It was a story about a boy a little older than me, growing up in the same city as me.
Up until then reading had consisted of fairy tales, furry animals in human clothes, and SRA cards (SRAs were the bain of my existance in elementary school. Basically, it was an hour of silence where you completed reading comprehension activities printed on little color-coded cards).
Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing is set in New York City’s upper West side (or East side, I don’t remember) near Central Park. The narrator, Peter, lives in a small apartment in Manhattan with his mother, father, and baby brother, Fudge (who antagonizes Peter and his parents with his seemingly innocent antics). It is because of Fudge that their father has lost an important account and is on the verge of losing another. It is because of Fudge that their mother is so frazzled all the time. And it is because of Fudge that Peter feels so much like a “nothing.” The story climaxes when Fudge swallows Peter’s turtle (which is funny because I didn’t realize that those little Chinatown turtles were available back then). I am sure that you have already guessed the ending. Everything turns out well. Fudge lives and Peter for a brief period in time sees the positives of having a little brother. Peter gets a new puppy (something too large for Fudge to swallow) and it seems his parents have set stricter boundaries for Fudge.