It’s Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate what you love – and one of the things the CLiF team loves most is books! These beloved favorites will definitely outlast the chocolate we’re munching on today.
A book that my family loves is Lost in Barrens by renowned Canadian writer Farley Mowat. The YA novel recounts the adventures of two young teenagers, Jamie and Awasin, who get lost in the barrens of northern Canada in the 1960s and are forced to spend a frigid winter surviving on their wits. Jamie is the son of a local trapper, and Awasin is the son of the chief of the local Cree band. The boys become best friends. One day they push the envelope a little too far on one of their jaunts and find themselves lost and needing every ounce of their guile and strength if they are to survive the relentless northern winter.
My wife Belle, son Jesse, and I have read this book together four times over the years and it has never lost its appeal. Jesse is now a senior in high school and waiting to hear from colleges. Over the last month, as Vermont temperatures have plummeted below zero, we have gathered around the wood stove, reading aloud to each other, and undertaken our latest adventure with our old friends Jamie and Awasin.
As you can see, this book has not sat untouched on the shelf
When I was a kid, I loved Roald Dahl. It bordered on obsession. I read and reread Matilda, The Witches, and The BFG more times than I can remember. I know a book is important to me when I can remember exactly where I was when I read it. I can picture myself in the hammock at my great-grandfather’s house in Rhode Island reading Boy and on the couch at my grandparents’ house in Vermont reading The BFG. I’d gotten it for Christmas and by the time dinner rolled around, I was deep into it. I remember reading the part about how the giants steal little kiddies from their homes to eat them, and the Big Friendly Giant (who only eats snozzcumbers) told young Sophie that she does the same thing with little piggies. When I was called to the dinner table and the pot roast was placed in front of me, I declared I was a vegetarian now. Twenty-one years later, I still am (thanks, BFG).We even had Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes cookbook, which I recently gave away to neighbors so they too can enjoy Frobscottle and Willy Wonka’s confections. I cherished my Roald Dahl Treasury, which now sits on my bookshelf at home, waiting for young visitors.
As I grew older, I discovered Roald Dahl’s delightfully creepy short stories for adults in his collected work, The Best of Roald Dahl. In college, whenever I was stressed out, I would pick up the book, read a story, and get lost in Dahl’s dark imagination. As a short story writer myself, I revisit his brilliant – and at times, disturbing – tales when I need inspiration.
Currently, my whole family is enjoying Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. My husband and I are enjoying sharing our favorite childhood poems from this book with our five–year-old. The silliness is fun for everyone and some of these poems are actually quite profound and touch on love, friendship, dreams, and magic.
Perhaps it is a logning for warmer days, but the books I love most remind me of long summer days. From my childhood, I remember so distinctly a hot afternoon in Ogunquit, Maine, laughing out loud, as my mom read The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White to me and my brother. As a teenager, I remember passing a copy of the epic family drama The Shellseekers by Rosamunde Pilcher back and forth with my best summer friend. Soon enough we will be reading outside in the warm sun!
I have shelves full of books I love and keep for different reasons – the characters, the tone, the people who recommended them… These days at our house we’re reading children’s books more than any others. Our (almost) five-year-old and I especially love “The Princess in Black” series. She chose her first “Princess in Black” book last Spring at a CLiF event her preschool was awarded. My daughter is always listening for the monster alarm, ready to act. I appreciate that Princess Magnolia is more than pretty and frilly and perfect. We both keep our glitter stone rings polished.
Happy Valentine’s Day from the CLiF team! What are some of the books you love most?