When it snows, it pours. The precipitation started a few hours ago and we’re likely to get between 6 and 16 inches by the time the day is done. Although Lily and I had to cancel our plans to go out for ice cream (vegan ice cream at FoMu, my one true love (other than Lily)) there’s something extremely lovely about being in a warm house with orange spice tea, an aging Christmas tree, snuggly cats, and snow out the window.
A good day for cooking, watching old movies, and maybe some nostalgia. The beginning of a new year always seems like a time that nostalgia springs up, because thinking about newness and changes necessarily brings up memories of the past and the way things were.
And maybe I’m nearing the end of Swann’s Way right now, but it wasn’t too long ago that my reading tastes inclined more toward Captain Underpants.
A list of the book series I read around my elementary school years, specifically omitting obvious ones (i.e. Harry Potter, The Little House series, and The Lord of the Rings).
- Puppy Patrol by Jenny Dale: There were something like fifty of these and I think I read most (if not all) of them. The parents of the main characters own a shelter or something (I googled- it’s a kennel) so the kids are ALWAYS making friends with dogs (I was jealous then and I still am). Also appealing: each book came with a little trinket or charm type thing, which I never used but liked to admire. The titles were punny and for the most part I didn’t realize it because I was so young (and yes, kind of stupid).
- Pixie Tricks by Tracy West: Mom reminded me of this series- which I had completely forgotten- so now I’m adding it on. I remember reading them with Mom on the 111 bus into Boston while eating jelly munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts. I believe there are pixies running amok and a young girl and her pixie helper have to catch them? I There’s certainly one about hiccups and another about a pixie turning people into fish at a pet store.
- A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy: Real questions- did the idea for this Sue Grafton-esque alliterative series come from the author’s alliterative name, or was this a pen name chosen to compliment the series? Children’s literature is full of such enigmas. There were titles like The Runaway Racehorse, The Empty Envelope, and The Demoralizing Dysentery. I may have made that last one up (or maybe it came from A Series of Unfortunate Events (which young me found too upsetting to ever read). As expected with kiddy-mysteries, the plots were as far-fetched as they were solvable.
- The Bailey School Kids by Marcia Jones and Debbie Dadey: Speaking of kids mysteries and far-fetched premises… this series has over 80 books! And frankly I’m really not surprised at all because young me (Yes, I was an anxious bucket even then, thank you) despaired of ever being able to find and read them all. They’re kind of supernatural mystery-type things like if you made Buffy the Vampire Slayer into a children’s book series and didn’t kill the bad things. And then suddenly you have a school with teacher vampires and cupid cafeteria ladies and titles like Elves Don’t Wear Hard Hats, Frankenstein Doesn’t Plant Petunias (really they’re referring to The Monster), and Angels Don’t Know Karate.
- Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey: Yes, I’m ashamed. And did you hear there’s a movie coming out? No, I’m not seeing it. It would be funny if I were kidding to save face but I am so not. Captain Underpants were the dark days of my life. Silver lining: I was inspired by the comic book style to create one or two panels of a comic featuring my (sadly since departed) cat, Isabelle.
- Eek! Stories to Make you Shriek by Jane O’Connor: Maybe this is whereby love of horror films comes from? I remember finding these in my elementary school library (Twas a nice library) and Dragon Breath was the first one I read. Incredibly stupid short books that were ‘scarier’ than Bailey School Kids (like that one where a girl has turned her family into dolls) and with less humor. But if you really wanted to stay awake all night you read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. No question.
- Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda: No longer ashamed. This fantasy series was excellent and full of mind-bending puzzles and patterns. Recommended. Find the seven gems of Deltora to defeat the Shadow Lord.
- The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott: A terribly obvious rip off of chronicles of Narnia but that doesn’t change the fact that I loved it dearly and made my cousins help me look for a hidden rainbow staircase in the basement closets of my Pop Pop’s cabin. Book #7, The land of the Lost, was my favorite. Favorite characters/creatures may have been the purple pillow people who lived in the desert. Downfall: I caught up to where the series was while books were still being released and lost track of what was going on when I had to wait between publications.
- The Phantom Stallion by Terri Farley: Was pretty obsessed with these for a while. Horses are nice, riding is nice (even if it is Western 😛 ). Each book followed the same characters but focused on a different horse/adventure that they were encountering. So kind of like Puppy Patrol except now with ponies. I think #4 The Renegade (ha) was the first one I read. And I remember reading Desert Dancer on the plane to Chicago.
- The Clique by Lisi Harrison: I read these more in Middle School until I stopped liking them, realized they were toxic, and tore to pieces and set fire to the last one I bought (which was unfortunately after I had read essentially all of them). Live and learn.
- Animorphs by K.A. Applegate: A Group of kids discovers that a group of slug-like aliens (the Yeerks) are taking over Earth by mind-control accomplished by invasion of the brain via the ear canal. A more friendly alien race gives them the power to transform into animals to combat these dark forces. Completely weird series but also weirdly philosophical. Pleasantly focused on moral gray areas, which is the kind of thing I feel we need to inculcate in our young children. And then, spoiler alert, they kill off my favorite character. I remember crying. A lot.
That’s all! Except I read as much then as I do now so I’m sure I’m forgetting things. I dipped my toes in Narnia but never got very into it. And I remember good things about series I never got very involved in, like The Eddie Dickens Trilogy (A House Called Awful End, Dreadful Acts, and Terrible Times), Ghostville Elementary, and Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism (which was incredibly cool, as I remember).
And looking back on these, my micro-managing somewhat more adult self wishes I had chosen better. I wish I had chosen books with more artistic, educational, or historical merit. Spent less time with The Illustrated Classics and more time with classics (because Treasure Island DOESN’T NEED TO BE ANNOTATED- that said, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea completely does). These were just the books I stumbled on and picked up, and by virtue of that accident they’re now a part of my life and my being and nostalgia. As someone now who is very particular about what I read and watch (because life is too short to spend on something meh!) it’s.. bittersweet to look back on what I chose and experienced when I was a lot less selective about what I allowed into my life.