Thursday, February 25, 2021

#ReadingMagic 30-day challenge, week 4

Whooooops. Totally mean to have this out sooner, but I kinda got hit by the freight train of life, and it's taken this long for me to finally get around to lower-priority things.

However, I finally (finally) have a day when I am not running around like crazy trying to do all the things, which means I can do all the other things!

(In plain English: now that I've gotten Earthkeepers out and the Thunder Girl audiobook sent to ACX quality control, I now have two extremely big projects off of my plate and my time has freed up considerably. So I'm now able to get around to the smaller, lower-priority items that have been backbuilding over the past few months.)

Anyway. Here are the rest of my questions and answers about childhood reading memories and such!


"What was your favorite genre of books you read as a child? Is it still your favorite?"

My favorite genres have never changed. I've always been a huge fantasy and science fiction fan. 
I think it's because, well, as a kid I thought everyday life was pretty boring. Not enough dragons or aliens or robots. Or at least, when I was in in the mood for a fictional story, I didn't usually enjoy reading about something that could actually happen, because I felt like at that point I might as well just go up to a real human being and ask them how their day was going and it wouldn't be much different. At the library or the bookstore, I always made a beeline for fantasy/sci-fi and completely ignored realistic fiction.

When I read fiction, I wanted to be transported to a whole new place full of fascinating ideas that stretched my mind. I wanted to explore the "what ifs", the endless possibilities of the imagination. I wanted to escape from my somewhat mundane everyday life and go on a fantastical adventure. I also just really liked dragons and aliens and robots.

That being said, there were a few realistic fiction books that I did enjoy. I loved Beverly Cleary's books, especially about Beatrice "Beezus" Quimby and her younger sister Ramona. I'm the oldest of four girls, so I very much identified with the serious, well-behaved Beezus and her trials and travails dealing with a rambunctious, rebellious little sister. At the same time, I also admired Ramona for her childlike exuberance and spontaneity--she had the ability to always make life interesting, and I think that was what Beezus secretly liked about her too.

Plus, most of Cleary's books are set in mid-20th-century America, so by the time I came around, they were really more historical fiction for me, and there was something comfortingly nostalgic about the 1950's suburban setting. She was also very good at giving her characters realistic emotional depth and development that made them feel like real, relatable people to me, not just childish caricatures dumbed down for a juvenile audience.

I also oddly enough really liked the Baby-Sitters Club books. Which is kind of weird because in real life, I hated babysitting and was terrible at it. But I remember I wasn't interested so much in the babysitting elements as in the character development. To me, the whole babysitting club thing was just a plot thread that tied together the friendships of the club members as they experienced life together and helped each other through their unique individual challenges. 

Each club member was very different - they had different personalities, ethnicities, family situations, and even health issues - and yet they supported each other in those differences and used their unique strengths to create a successful preteen entrepreneurial machine. I think I liked these novels because they showed great examples of friendship and teamwork that were just heartwarming and encouraging to read about, especially for someone who grew up introverted and who struggled socially.

Plus, the books mostly take place in Connecticut, which is about as far removed a place as possible from California, so sometimes it really was like reading about a fantasy world. 🙂 (I was like, people have attics?! What's snow?!)

"As a kid, did you ever dream of going on adventures with your favorite book characters? What role would you have liked to play in those adventures?"

Yes, yes, and yes. All the time. I can't tell you how often I daydreamed that characters from my favorite books would show up at my front door (or at school) and be like, "Hey! We need your help going on this epic quest!" and I'd be like "COUNT ME IN, MAN" and then I'd probably either get a sword or a giant robot.

As for the role I would have liked to play, I think I would have liked to be in a supporting role working closely alongside the leader. I wasn't too confident in my actual leadership skills, but I did like the idea of directly supporting the person in charge. 

"When you were a kid, what kind of book characters did you relate to or identify with?"

This one's gonna get a little introspective. Hope you don't mind.

This one caused me a lot of pondering. Growing up, I didn't actually relate to very many fictional characters. Sure the stories were interesting, but it was rare that I found a character that actually reminded me of myself.

See, growing up, I felt very different from most people, including fictional people. It wasn't until adulthood that I found out why: I'm gifted. And giftedness isn't just about being super smart, but about having a brain that's wired differently than the norm. It comes with a lot of challenges along with the advantages. One of those challenges is being keenly aware of just how unlike others you are.

As I looked back on my childhood, I realized that I tended to identify the most with characters who were very smart and very misunderstood. 

Meg and Charles Wallace Murry are great examples of literary characters who I identified strongly with and who are most likely gifted. They're highly intelligent, but everyone thinks they're stupid because the Murry siblings don't play along with educational or societal convention. Their struggles with outer society and inner insecurity really hit home with me.

I also identified a lot with Hermione Granger, who is super bright and a bookworm workaholic, and gets made fun of and ostracized a lot for it. She didn't even hit it off with Harry and Ron right away until they finally bonded over the troll incident. I often hoped for friends like Harry and Ron who would just give me a chance and look past my differences.

And it always bothered me when those types of characters were either played for laughs, or worse, villainized. I sympathized a lot with misunderstood antagonists who seemed to be a threat to the heroes mainly because of how smart they were. I hate when intelligence is treated like something to fear and suppress. I think it says a lot about the minds of those who write those sorts of stories, as though they feel threatened by the idea of anyone being smarter than them. It certainly didn't make me feel like I had a kindred spirit in the author.

Anyway, I hope this hasn't been too depressing. I'm doing all right now. I'm different, and that's okay. It means I can bring new ideas to the table and contribute to the world in unique ways. It also means I can write books about characters who feel like oddballs, and portray them in a sympathetic and empowering light, for all the readers out there who need that.

Miette in Earthkeepers is gifted. She knows she's different from most other people, and she even feels very different from her fellow gifted co-workers at the Institute for Advanced Intellect. But she has neurotypical friends who love her for who she is and want her to do what makes her happy, and by the end of the book she learns that she is valuable as a person, not just as an intellectual asset.

"As a kid, did you enjoy reading aloud to other children? If so, what books did you like to read to them?"

As the oldest sibling, I learned to read before my sisters did, so before they learned to read, and as they were learning to read, I read everything for them. Books, instructions, even episode titles on TV shows. It must have been nice for them to have a live-in reader who could tell them what any word was.

I think they enjoyed when I read books to them... the problem was, I didn't necessarily enjoy it most of the time. I was super shy and disliked performing or even being the center of attention, so reading something aloud to an audience - even one made up of my own siblings - was usually out of my comfort zone. But I tried my hardest to accommodate when they wanted me to read to them, and I like to think I helped them love reading. (I also like to think it's part of the reason why my one sister ended up becoming an English teacher.)

That being said, I'm very grateful that Ben Fife, performer extraordinaire, is doing a way better job narrating Thunder Girl than I ever could! I can't even really do character voices or accents. It's shameful.

As for what books my sisters and I enjoyed together, we really liked reading Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona books. I liked having my next youngest sister narrate all of Ramona's lines (she reminded me a lot of Ramona), and I would often have her try to read the lines herself, which I think probably improved her reading skills.

"As a kid, was there a particular time of year when you enjoyed reading the most?"

I know a lot of people associate reading with autumn and winter, when the days are cold and you're less apt to spend time outside. There is something undeniably cozy about a good book on a chilly day (preferably with hot cocoa).

But my fondest reading memories are of summer reading. I grew up in southern California, where winters are... milder than most places, to put it lightly. (Let's just say it snows once about every decade or so.) So I'd still do a lot of running around outside in autumn and winter.

But summers were the best for reading because school was out! I remember how I looked forward to summer break every year because it meant virtually unlimited trips to the library, and virtually unlimited time to read! 

For me, there was something cozy about sitting in my nice air-conditioned house, beating the SoCal heat with severe reading binges and no school to get in the way.

"If you could choose any creature from a children’s or YA book to transform into, which one would you pick and why?"

As much as I love dragons, I think if I was given a choice of literary fantasy creature, I'd like to transform into a unicorn. Dragons are cool, but sometimes they can be rather selfish and vindictive and that just isn't like me at all. Unicorns tend to be more benevolent, plus they have healing powers! But, they're also fearsome opponents who do not shy away from fighting evil. Go Team Unicorn! (Also they are the national animal of my beloved Scotland.)

Well, this was a fun challenge! It was interesting to take a stroll down memory lane for a bit and dredge up some old memories about how I enjoyed reading as a kid.

What about you guys? Did you have a childhood love of reading? What are you doing to introduce the kids in your life to the magic of reading?

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