The Children's Book That Changed My Life
Some of you may have been following the series on Julius Lester's blog A Commonplace Book that asked what book changed your life. The answers include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Charlotte's Web, The Phantom Tollbooth, etc. Today I gave the notion a little thought. Books that "change your life"? Not a concept I'm certain affects me in any way. I like books. Books are friendly. They amuse me when I'm sifting through my day, but do they tend to "change my life"? Hardly.
There was one book, though. The kind of book I can't really submit to Mr. Lester because he is... Julius Lester. A guy who can give a blog post the title Taking Responsibility for the Past and mean it.
The book that changed my life? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. No lie. It's 1998 and I'm living in London. I've been sent to pick up this book from a Waterstone's so as to send it back to America, pronto. Fair's fair, and I walk into the store asking the saleslady if she has any books, "by a Harry Potter?" A quick jerk of the head and I find myself in the children's section, which is confusing. Until this moment in time I've not really spent much time in the kid section of bookstores. But there's the book and before I send it stateside I decide to peruse it on my own. I am instantly a fan. Rowling sets her little hooks into me and refuses to let go. The chain of events spirals thusly:
- Because I read Harry Potter (and continued to do so as they came out) I come across an article in The Oregonian years later discussing His Dark Materials and how it kicks the butt of HP clear across the room.
- Because I read all three books of His Dark Materials in Powell's week after week in their coffee shop, beneath the strewn, starched corpses of once-wild women's aprons, I begin to spend more time in the children's section of Powell's.
- Because I spend more time in the children's section of Powell's, I begin to read more and more children's literature.
- Because I read more children's literature I discover, when I eventually take courses for my MLIS degree in Minnesota, that I really like it. The kidlit course I eventually take is so much fun that I suddenly find myself considering a career not in preservation and/or conservation, but as a children's librarian instead.
- I follow that yen, move to New York, and we are where we are today.