Toot toot, here comes the book nostalgia train 7

Sunil was talking about his childhood love of the Babysitters Club books on Twitter earlier and that me thinking. I wasn’t actually a fan of BSC despite being in its perfect target demographic. I think I remember even knowing other girls my age that loved those books, but I… didn’t get in to them. Possibly because I found the concept of babysitting so incredibly uninteresting.

I was, however, super in to the Saddle Club book series. (And I’ve been surprised how many of my friends in various corners of the internet were also really in to those books.) Looking at the publishing dates on this series as opposed to BSC, I’d be willing to bet that they were a blatant ripoff of the basic concept, except instead of babysitting, the middle school girls rode horses. Which if you asked both pre-ten and current me, is about a zillion times more awesome.

So this just got me thinking about other middle grade/intermediate books that I really loved.  You’ll note that there’s a distinct presence of horses in a lot of it. I was pretty horse crazy as a kid, and I couldn’t even tell you why, only that it seems like a thing that happens to a lot of girls. During my childhood I can only remember one time I saw and interacted with a horse. The horse in question belonged to my best friend on the street, and her dad let me sit on it and then walked it in circles on a lunge line. I left with the conviction that I absolutely had to get a horse.

(Spoiler: I did not get a horse.)

But I think something else a lot of the books I loved had in common–other than horses–was women. Solving problems. Being friends. Going on all kinds of adventures. Having more important things to talk about than boys. Most of the books I read at that point were written by women, too. It’s a weird thing that, as an adult, until recently the ratio of characters and authors inverted. Also, I’d love to think boys would have enjoyed those books just as much as I did. At least if they were horse crazy boys.

Anyway, other books that I remembered after I got on the nostalgia train today:

  • Pretty much anything ever by Marguerite Henry, but particularly the books related to Misty of Chincoteague
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede – one thing that still sticks with me about these books is that the king of the dragons, Kazul, is female. Because king isn’t a gendered title to dragons.
  • The Secret of the Unicorn Queen by Gwen Hanson – Regular teenaged girl gets whisked away to a fantasy world where an Amazonian troop of women rides around on freakin’ unicorns and are super badass. What is there to not love about this? It’s like Gwen Hanson sat down one day and thought, “What I really want is to write the perfect wish fulfillment story for Rachael Acks, because that girl is going to go absolutely mental.”
  • The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley – holy crap, books with boys in them! (I thought Alec should be a girl. Sorry.)
  • Anne of Green Gables and sequels by Lucy Maud Montgomery – books without prominent horses or dragons, but Ann is intelligent and witty and very likable. She should have totally had a dragon.
  • The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce – okay, this is definitely YA and not MG, but I have to mention these books any time I talk about something important to my childhood. I actually have copies of these still and reread them every couple of years because they’re that important to me. Fierce woman pretends to be a boy so she can become a knight, and then travels openly as a female knight, her country’s first? Yes, please, a thousand times.

Obviously, not a complete list of everything I read when I was little. These are just the ones that stuck in my head the most. What books give you some serious nostalgia?

7 thoughts on “Toot toot, here comes the book nostalgia train

  1. Reply jamercer Mar 27,2015 12:29

    I went through just about everything that Marguerite Henry or Farley wrote. I had no problem with the male narrator, but both authors started to lose it when they were trying to describe how the great grand niece/nephew of some horse was ALSO the most special horse in the world, but in quite a different way.

    However, Marguerite Henry in White Stallion of Lipizza wrote one of the best descriptions of the longing to master any subject. She describes a boy looking at a picture of a man riding a Lippizaner stallion and the man looks like he is a part of the horse. The boy is driven to become one of the Lippizan riders to know this feeling, but once he reaches that point, he has so immersed himself in what he is doing that he cannot consciously feel it.

    I have often experienced this odd paradox, but at the very least, this feeling of dissolution lets me know when I am getting close.

  2. Reply codenameminali Mar 27,2015 12:53

    Oh my God, The Mermaid’s Three Wisdoms by Jane Yolen and The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes give me serious childhood nostalgia. I checked out the former over and over as a kid, and then when I had a paying job, I found a used copy on Amazon and snapped it up QUICK.

    The Witch Family is apparently still in print! I just got it yesterday.

  3. Reply Daz Mar 27,2015 20:24

    Looking back on it, my reading at that stage was very old-fashioned. The Swallows and Amazons series and Biggles formed a huge part of it, Also, a couple of Marryat’s novels stand out in my memory; Mr Midshipman Easy and Children Of The New Forest.

    Oh and Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword; god I loved that book.

    Oh and… No, I’d better stop.

  4. Reply Janiece Mar 27,2015 21:15

    For it has to be The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I loved those books, and love them still.

    And of course, Judy Bloom.

  5. Reply Andrew Barton (@ActsofAndrewB) Mar 27,2015 23:31

    Star Trek tie-in novels, mostly. My mom had a bookshelf full of them.

  6. Reply decayingorbits Mar 28,2015 07:42

    Encyclopedia Brown books — Hardy Boys (I’m way old school). Those put me in the Wayback Machine.

    Did you ever read any Nancy Drew? I thought it was pretty good stuff at the time although it seems a little corny now.

  7. Reply JohnD Mar 28,2015 23:25

    Encyclopedia Brown was great, as were the “Great Brain” stories. I also dove into Heinlein’s juveniles and never surfaced. Narnia was a place I visited often as it was one of two things I could read in church. And lots more of cheesy bad scifi. One of the things I miss most about those days was having almost enough time to read.

    Strangely, I didn’t read Anne of Green Gables or Tom Sawyer or just about any other “childhood classic” as a kid; I had to wait until I was an adult to discover them. (I just finished reading Pollyanna – treacly glurge of the first water.)

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