Books for a Saturday afternoon

For EC - 20061106

Syllabus … Shakespeare. Syllabus … Spanish essay. Syllabus … Starbucks menu. Once upon a time, you read for fun. As in, you actually picked out a book specifically for the purpose of reading it because you wanted to! Ever feel like your reading habits are getting a bit, well, old? If you’re finding yourself in a required reading rut, it may be time to curl up with your inner child for a relaxed afternoon of fun reading.

One of my favorite ways to unwind and relieve stress is to visit the children’s book section of my local library or bookstore. With mocha in hand, I plop down in a brightly colored chair, and read myself back to a time when the biggest worry I had was whether my mom would let the neighbor kid come over after school. Occasionally, I’ll even get a well-meaning salesperson who asks if I’m browsing for my child or perhaps a niece or nephew. Not so much. Just restoring perspective. You might enjoy it as much as I do.

One of my favorite lines in the movie You’ve Got Mail comes from the owner of a children’s bookstore. She (Meg Ryan) passionately declares that “when you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” We spent hours and hours with our books, such dear friends, as we were growing up, and we should not be expected to stop now purely because we’ve moved on to bigger and supposedly better words. Perhaps it’s time to get reacquainted with some of your favorite “friends.”

The simple things

Sometimes the best stories in life are the most simple. Picture books taught us how to count, how to share, and how to rhyme even the silliest of words. Dr. Seuss showed us it’s okay to experience new and strange things, like a Fox in Socks or The Cat in the Hat. Today, The Very Hungry Caterpillar serves as a great reminder of the stomachache you’ll get by eating too many Green Eggs and Ham in the campus cafeteria.

A few more of my favorite picture books:

  • The Monster at the End of This Book
  • Goodnight Moon
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • It Looked Like Spilt Milk

Read me a story!

Has it been one of those days? Maybe one of those weeks, or, ugh, semesters? You’ll no doubt identify with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. In the mood for a wild rumpus? Go Where the Wild Things Are! Feeling a bit creative? Color outside the lines with Harold and the Purple Crayon. Why not get with some friends and share these together?

More must-haves for story time (others’ recommendations in parentheses):

  • Miss Nelson is Missing
  • A Pocket for Corduroy
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • The Borrowers
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (JoJo)
  • A Light in the Attic (Jeff)
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School (Jeff)
  • The Gashlycrumb Tinies (Ryan)
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (Olivia)
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Jessica)

The wonder years

Finally, if you have time, check out some of the longer books that will bring you back to the awkward years of adolescence (but without the trauma). Affirm your independence and capability with a trip to the Island of the Blue Dolphins. The energetic adventures of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Superfudge may leave you ready for a nap, or they may just inspire you to create your very own superhero outfit.

Other stories sure to bring you back to those wonder years:

  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • The Little House on the Prairie series
  • Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mysteries
  • The Boxcar Children
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Gone-Away Lake (Jeff)
  • Anne of Green Gables (Rebecca)
  • The Twenty-One Balloons (Rebecca)
  • Hatchet (Nick)
  • Homer Price (Tim)
  • Encyclopedia Brown (Rebecca)

With the holiday break coming up, you may want to revisit your own bookshelves at home and dust off a few of your favorite childhood stories. As finals approach and deadlines loom, remember that time spent reading with your inner child can refresh your mind and refuel your soul, all for the cost of a latte.

— Contributed by Christi Micks (with special thanks to others who added their faves)