Long Time No Tenner
Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid
This topic reminds me a little of the nursery rhyme that begins . . .
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If watches were turnips, I'd wear one by my side . . .
It's a bit of folk poetry I've been carrying around with me since childhood, when a cousin sent me a huge collection of nursery rhymes. So huge, in fact, that I became wonderfully familiar with more than the usual Humpty Dumpty or Little Bo Peep fare. Which would help me argue--should I choose to do so--that some texts in the "Children's Canon" really should be read when one is a child.
Then again, I've always been a big believer in reading the right book at the right time--and sometimes childhood isn't the right time for one to read a children's classic. I can think of a couple of novels that didn't land on my shelves until much later in life, but were all the more loved for it. (Perhaps I could come up with another Tenner someday!)
Yet there are also a few books that make me feel as if I'm just catching up--that, indeed, I might not catch up at all. To quote some more sophisticated literature now . . .
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune . . .
There are tides in the affairs of readers, too--and there are about ten I don't think I took when I should have.
Books I Wish I Had Read in Childhood
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
I wish I had read this early enough to have let Cooper have a fair shot at the place Madeleine L'Engle has been holding in my heart.
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
I wish I had read this when I was still enthralled by L'Engle and learned that this was her favourite novel in the world. (And well, I might have changed since then, but I haven't read this yet, so the wish still stands.)
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
I wish I had read this back in the sixth grade, when a friend offered to lend me her yellowing, well-loved copy--and not in college, when virtually the only copies available had Elijah Wood's face on them.
Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
I wish I had read this (and all the Baby-sitters Club books, really) when I was still the same age as the characters and already missing the 80s--and not now that I have to worry about "updated" versions.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
I wish this book had already been written when I was a child, because I just know it would have been my Harry Potter. (Impossible wishes are allowed, right?)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
I wish I had read this when I first started my collection of Newbery Award winning novels. (To this day, I can't understand why I waited so long. Where was I all its life?!?!?!)
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
I wish I had known there was an actual source novel before I saw any of the movies based on it, because then I would have read it first.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster
I wish I knew this book, if you take my meaning . . . I wish I knew it the way I know all the songs in The Sound of Music and all the dialogue in Aliens . . . I wish I had been made wise and witty by it when I was made of more impressionable clay than I am now.
Redwall by Brian Jacques
I wish I had read this book and started collecting the entire series when my mother was still footing the bill for my bibliomania.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I wish I had read this before I fell so deeply in love with Sara of A Little Princess that I couldn't give other Burnett characters a fair shake until much, much later.
And if wishes were books, I'd be the best-read person on the planet. ;-)
Image Sources: a) The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, b) Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien