Memories of childhood: the books that mattered

Sarah Markiewicz, Asst. Opinion Editor

If you looked at my bookshelf, you would notice that I haven’t really matured much since middle school. Stuffed onto the shelves and collecting dust are the remnants of series that I used to love: “Goosebumps,” “Narnia,” and maybe even some “Junie B. Jones.”

I generally shunned mainstream novels. The ones that I came across were old books that my librarian mom brought home, or classics.

Even though I had to trudge through “Huckleberry Finn” while my elementary school classmates read “Percy Jackson,” my favorite childhood books gave me companionship during my loneliest days, and the stories of these books stay with me to this day.

“Through the Looking-Glass”: Perhaps Disney lovers will relate to my interest in “Alice in Wonderland.” Though charming, the movie cannot hold up to Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical but fiercely witty writing style. In this 1871 sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Alice travels through a mirror and finds that everything is in reverse. Inanimate objects become alive, and Alice competes with chess pieces to move across this strange world. It really is very peculiar, but very funny and fresh even for its age.

“The Tiger Rising”: This more modern novel comes from Kate DiCamillo, author of the popular novel “Because of Winn-Dixie.” Animals were my childhood obsession, but it’s the characters and themes featured within this story that drew me in. In a weepy rural Florida town, a melancholic and bullied young boy is woken up from his depression by a tiger he finds caged in the woods, and also by an even stranger interaction with Sistine, a new girl from the North who is outspoken and bold. This book stuck out in my mind because of the way it confronted themes such as the loss of a family member and the struggle of being an outcast in a cruel, but beautiful world.

“Peter Pan”: This book brings me back out of the real world, and into my number one fantasy. Those familiar with the story from what Disney had to tell will find that this is not a simple, cheerful fairytale. This tale of an impish boy who will never grow up is full of adventure, and the comparison between the dangers of Neverland and the dreariness of the reality of a bourgeois life lived by the Darling children is only one level of this book that covered the past tragedies in author J. M. Barrie’s life.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”: The first of a very long series by L. Frank Baum is another strange fantasy about a normal Kansas girl who is swept into a surreal country called Oz. Some of us know of the story from the film, but the Land of Oz doesn’t really come alive until reading the book. Recently I learned that the book symbolized the ideals that the American Progressive Party had in the early 1900s. It’s still one of my favorite books of all time, and I’d even recommend picking up the second book, “The Marvelous Land of Oz.”