In December, Estelle and I previewed our new joint feature: "You Make Feel So Young." We decided to team up and celebrate the books that turned us into readers. Each quarter, we'll be highlighting three books: one joint read that we both loved growing up and then we'll each pick a book for one another (something we loved that the other one hasn't read yet). Today, it's finally time to share the results of our first challenge!
Talking about the books with Estelle reminded me of being in elementary school and having bookish conversations with my friends. From class trips to the library to the much-anticipated book fair, it was a time in my life where I was surrounded by people reading (even if they only read in school). It's like I went from passing notes about books to texting and tweeting about them! I always forget how much fun it is to read a book with someone else. And honestly, I'm so glad Estelle suggested this project. Now, let me tell you why...
Joint Pick: HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh | First Published: 1964
More Than You Know: Prior to writing Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh was the illustrator for a 1961 children's book that was a parody of Eloise. In a letter to another editor at Harper, Fitzhugh's editor Ursula Nordstrom wrote, “Anyhow, if you hadn’t called my attention to that Fitzhugh unpublishable picture book we would never have drawn Harriet the Spy out of Louise.” Apparently that editor showed Nordstrom some sample pages from Fitzhugh, and the two editors persuaded Fitzhugh to expand it into what became the full-length book!*
Memories are Made of This: You know those books you're almost positive that you read as a kid but can't remember anything about them? That's Harriet the Spy for me. My strongest memory of it was just the knowledge that Harriet wrote about people in her notebook. I don't think I even owned a copy of this book! When I finished reading, I actually started questioning if I did actually read this growing up. Or was it just a book that it seemed like I would have read? It remains a mystery.
Second Time Around: While I can see why it's popularity has endured, it was an odd reading experience for me. This is one of those situations where I'm pretty sure I enjoyed the book more as a kid than I did as an adult. Harriet made me laugh several times, but ultimately I just felt sorry for her and disturbed by her behavior. I felt bad about the fact that almost all the adults in her life basically ignore her, but I was also horrified at her cruelty. She's selfish, nosy and mean! I kept waiting for there to be a redeeming moment where she learns a valuable lesson about compassion or apologizing when you've hurt someone, but nope. And while it made sense considering her family life, that didn't make it any less unpleasant to read.
You Can Take My Word for It, Baby: I feel bad saying this, but I don't see myself reading this to my future children. While I wouldn't necessarily prohibit them from reading it, it is a book that I'd want to discuss with them. Harriet's actions are the exact opposite of how I want my children to behave, and there's just really no character growth to counteract it. Honestly, it was a pretty depressing read!
Estelle's Pick for Me: TIGER EYES by Judy Blume | First Published: 1981
Do You Know Why? To say I was floored that Hannah hadn't read a Judy Blume book is an extreme understatement. I had to fix this and fast. Tiger Eyes is one of the most recent books I've read from Judy's backlist and there is a really beautiful movie to supplement the writing. In general, Judy has a way of expressing so much in a compact way. Hannah had to join the club! – from Estelle
Can't You Just See Yourself: There were a number of Judy Blume books that I wasn't allowed to read as a kid, but I somehow ended up never reading anything by her! While I wouldn't have picked this one up as a child because it's a little more mature, I think I would have enjoyed this one in high school. It's a simple story, but a great introduction to Blume's writing style.
I Give You My Word: Tiger Eyes definitely made me curious about reading more from Judy Blume! I loved how many things Blume packed into these few pages. While it deals with some pretty heavy topics (grief and alcoholism, for example), it never felt too heavy. It was a serious book, yes, but one that made me think and feel. Davey's grief and growth were enjoyable to read, and I even liked that the book has a bit of an open ending. I don't think I'd hand it to young children, but I could see my future kids reading it as teenagers.
Before the Music Ends: Although it's not Blume's most popular book, I'm glad I read Tiger Eyes first. If you haven't read anything by Blume yet, this isn't a bad introduction! And if you're a long-time Blume lover who has yet to pick this one up, give it a shot. Now, it's time for me to watch the movie...
Have you read either of these books? What do you remember?
Comment or join the conversation with #SoRatherBeYoung.
What's next? ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS!