By Nichole Jarnagin
I think every writer remembers books from their childhood that were life altering; books that made us love reading, long before we ever became writers. Let me start by saying I’m probably the odd-ball here. As a child, I didn’t immediately love reading. I was active (probably hyperactive) and I had far better things to do than to SIT STILL and read a book. Yet somehow, a handful of books made it past my limited attention span and pickiness in general. In particular, three books changed my life. They had such a profound influence on me as a reader that I’ve never forgotten them. I still love them. In fact, I bought used copies off of Amazon with the exact same covers—just like the ones I used to have.
I NEEDED to eat cinnamon toast every time I read The Trouble with Miss Switch by Barbara Wallace Brooks. I yearned to scientifically prove that my teacher was secretly a witch. I was enthralled and maybe even jealous of Rupert P. Brown’s science experiments, his eggshell collection, his methodical deductions and his talking guinea pigs.
Like Lorna and Jamie, I too dreamed of living in a farmhouse called Windy Hill (The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla) with its six bedrooms, a springhouse and a tower for spying. I wanted to toss coins to Bruno who begged on the side of the road and I was afraid of his mean father. I loved being scared—just enough—wondering who or what the ghost might be.
Whenever I’d read The Boy Who Saw Bigfoot (Marian T. Place) I’d wish for my own Bigfoot sighting. I’d get lost in the Washington woods, hiking and fishing with a woman named Sara Brown who wore flannel shirts and loved her foster kid, Joey.
While these books are somewhat obscure and pretty darn old (and more than likely came from a garage sale) they are part of me. As a writer, I think I revert to those things that originally intrigued me as a reader—mystery, humor, adventure, believing good would prevail. And even though it’s silly, every once in a while when I crave that time in my life when things were simpler, I reread one of my favorites and remember how good it felt to be nine.
What books from your childhood have left an imprint on you? How have they impacted you as a writer?