25 Years, 25+ Books: “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein

When I was little and still learning to read, my dad would read to me before I went to bed. One of my favorites was The Monster at the End of This Book, featuring Grover from Sesame Street. The other favorite was Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends.

We read from that book so often that the binding is broken. Now, when I open the book, the pages fall out in four sections. One of my favorites was “Hungry Mungry.” I loved the rhymes of “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me, Too.” I hated and avoided eating peanut butter because of “Peanut Butter Sandwich.” Then there was “The Unicorn,” which explained why unicorns didn’t exist anymore.

Today, I still enjoy all of those poems. But there are gems that didn’t stick with me then like they do now. There’s the leading poem, “Invitation.” I inscribed this in the front cover of one of my journals from a few years back. And “Forgotten Language,” which resonates more the older I get.

Forgotten Language poem

 

This poetry collection should’ve been on my “25 Years, 25 Books” list. It should be number one, before the Little House books. In the end, I kept it off the list because it was the only poetry collection, and I chose to focus on fiction books. I pull it off the shelf every few months and flip through the pages (or, rather, chunks of pages) reminiscing and laughing at the poems I love so much.

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25 Years, 25 Books: “Little House in the Big Woods”

25 Years, 25 Books: “Little House in the Big Woods”

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Little House in the Big Woods was the first book that ever stuck with me long after I had read the last page. It kicked off the first series that ever stuck with me as well. The Little House series was my world for so long, only taking the passenger seat when Harry Potter came not long after.

Before I could read, my dad would read to me before bed. My go-tos were Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, Monster at the End of This Book, and Another Monster at the End of the Book. I’m sure there were others that he read to me, but those three I kept going back to. I’m not sure who suggested it, but he read Little House in the Big Woods to me. What bothered me the most was that he constantly called Laura a “Cheesehead.” You know, because the book is set in Wisconsin. And it made me so mad. Imagine four-year-old Frannie, arguing with her dad about how Laura isn’t a Cheesehead because the Packers weren’t a thing back when Laura was little. My dad’s reply was that they wore wooden Cheeseheads, of course. I bet if I were to bring up Little House and Laura Ingalls Wilder to him, he’d probably call her a Cheesehead. And I would have to try not to get mad about it.

I’ve read the book a few times after my dad first read it to me; like the Harry Potter books, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read them. So opening the paperback version my mom mailed to me just for this challenge was like going home. I was back in the Little House world.

I had forgotten so many things about Big Woods. I forgotten about their cat, Black Susan. And about Laura’s corn cob doll. And how Ma slapped a bear, thinking it was their cow Sukey. And how Laura tried to collect all the pretty pebbles at the beach and the weight ripped the pocket out of her dress. And how evident her jealousy of Mary was this early on. I had forgotten all of this.

But not Pa’s twinkling blue eyes. Or how he would play the fiddle when they were falling asleep. Or the cousin who was naughty and got caught in a yellow jackets’ nest. Or that Laura always wore red and Mary wore blue. Or that Laura’s doll was named Charlotte. Or how Jack the bulldog would guard the log cabin.

Little House in the Big Woods was a trip down memory lane. I felt nostalgic reading each chapter and each description. In fact, the tone that this book was written in is very similar to that of Farmer Boy, which I read all the way through for the first time last fall (who wants to read about Almanzo when you want to read about Laura? I mean, c’mon). There were so many food descriptions, and descriptions of Laura and Mary’s trees, and of collecting maple syrup. I found myself wishing I still had the Little House Cookbook so I could recreate some of the foods (most of which I probably can’t eat because meat) myself. I remembered thinking the same things when I was reading The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.

There were also some questionable lines, ones that I don’t think I ever stopped to think about before. Most of them were in the lyrics of Pa’s songs; one used the word Injun and another used the word darkey. Certainly terms that were “okay” in the 1800s, and when Big Woods was first published. It reminded me that these terms were in use not that long ago, and that Laura’s generation is only three or so back from me. America is not that old, and there are moments where that age becomes clear. I will catch this many more times throughout the series, particularly when they move further west.

Little House in the Big Woods will always hold a special place in my heart because it introduced a love of reading. Sure, that was already in place, but it expanded my world. It was my first history lesson, my first book series. It made history come alive, and it still does, eighty-five years later.

25 Years and 25 Books

25 Years and 25 Books

Last week, I turned twenty-five with little fanfare—of my own choosing. When it comes to birthdays, I’m basically Ron Swanson.

So, as per usual, I kept quiet that my birthday was coming up. But turning twenty-five is, I suppose, a milestone birthday. Yay, I can rent cars now. I tried to think of what I could do to make my twenty-fifth year special. Then I realized an obvious solution: I would reread twenty-five books that affected me in some way or another.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been wanting to reread a lot of books. Specifically reread some of my favorite series. Like Harry Potter, Little House, Among the Hidden, etc. But with my Goodreads challenges, I wasn’t counting rereads. And neither was Goodreads (until this year!).

Once I decided that I wanted to reread some of my favorites, I took that into account when setting up my Goodreads Challenge; hence only saying thirty new books instead of seventy like I originally planned. Then I sat down and wrote a list of books that stood above the other books I’ve read in my twenty-plus years of reading. It was tough to narrow down the list to twenty-five, considering Harry Potter and Little House took up fifteen spots.

But I did it. So for the next year (February 2017 to February 2018), I will revisiting twenty-five books from my years of reading and writing up a short (most likely long) reaction piece for each book.

Bring on the nostalgia.

25 Years and 25 Books

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  1. Little House in the Big Woods
  2. Little House on the Prairie
  3. On the Banks of Plum Creek
  4. By the Shores of Silver Lake
  5. The Long Winter
  6. Little Town on the Prairie
  7. These Happy Golden Years
  8. The First Four Years
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
  1. Alanna: the First Adventure
  2. In the Hand of the Goddess
  3. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
  4. Lioness Rampant
  1. Fever 1793 by Louise Halse Anderson
  2. Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, England 1544 by Kathryn Lasky
  3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  4. A Novel Idea by Aimee Friedman
  5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  6. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut