Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bookgasm: The Kiddie Book Edition

By Amanda Addison

When I thought up the term “bookgasm” I was envisioning consensual reading between adult bookworm and a book not in the juvenile section of the library. Now it is July and the theme of Estella this month is “young at heart” and I find myself writing about kiddie books that make me bookgasm. Ew. I feel like I’m a creep in a trench coat and dark glasses at the Barnes and Noble kid’s section fondling young, unsuspecting volumes of The Magic Tree House Series.

However, all jest aside, when I remember the age of eleven being a magical summer of discovery. I had strayed from my usual fiction delights (Anne of Green Gables and Little Women for example) for non-fiction or historical fiction books. I devoured them at a rabid pace and paired with my readings were many hours of reenactment. My poor younger siblings were forced to play “Mary Queen of Scots beheading,” “oh-no-the-Indians-are-scalping” and “shhh… we are hiding in the Secret Annex” so much that my mother had to intervene. Younger sister and baby brother were having horrific historical nightmares.

I decided that this month I shall look back fondly on the history books I read as a lass, not all of which were gruesome, that piqued my imagination and had me yearning to time travel into the past.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham: The book begins with the boy Nathaniel Bowditch believing that on the morrow his father will tell him that he can go to school. Instead, he discovers that he is to be an indentured servant. Latham follows Bowditch through his life as a servant through his adulthood. Of particular interest to me as a young autodidact was Bowditch’s desire for knowledge; he taught himself several languages including Latin and French.

Drake: The Man they Called a Pirate by Jean Lee Latham: If it was swashbuckling and in the Tudor era, I ate it up. I distinctly remember reading this book at least a half-dozen times. The book details the life of Sir Francis Drake, the Vice Admiral who helped vanquish the Spanish Armada. Dear to Queen Elizabeth and hated by Spain, Drake was a tempestuous man and I had more than a little bit of a crush on him.

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs: As a tomboyish bookworm whose golden haired younger sister had a penchant for sketching, I really identified with Little Women. After reading Alcott’s novels in rapid succession I thirsted for knowledge about my favorite author. Meigs biography succeeds in illustrating the vibrancy with which Alcott lived.

Ishi by Theodora Kroeber: Written in 1961 this is the story of Ishi, the sole survivor of a Californian-area Native American tribe. Eventually, Ishi is befriended by some curious anthropologists and, subsequently, spends his days as a living museum exhibition. Particularly powerful are the descriptions of Ishi’s reverential hunting of deer and his perplexity in attempting to define the railroad train that can be viewed from the top of a mountain.

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