Day 71: It’s hard to express how important books were to me as a kid. Yes, I woke up Sundays and donned dresses to attend Sunday school and church service, memorized “I Danced in the Morning” and a couple creeds, always took the grape juice at communion, and sang time-worn hymns with gusto. I coveted a children’s bible a friend brought each week. I had to have it. I got one but with the white, not forest green binding of my friend’s book. It wasn’t the same. Sure I was shallow; I was ten. I longed to be a sheep.
Once in a great while, usually on a sunny, green, ripe with hope kind of day, I’d think, “I get it. I feel it.” What I got or felt I can’t remember. I didn’t hear the voice of god, nor was I visited by a glowing omniscient being, arms outstretched to enfold me in love. Looking back, I think the pretty weather put me in a good mood.
And my sacred texts were written by sage women: Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, and the creator of Ramona Quimby (who turned her “Q” into a cat), Beverly Cleary. I read and re-read every book by these wonderful writers. Living with a “clueless with kids” single dad, not seeing my mom enough, these women filled in parental gaps, geniuses at “getting” kids my age. I still read their books when I need a guaranteed good read, an afternoon’s escape from adulthood (or whatever it is I am now).
I found this original edition of Ramona the Brave in the “withdrawal” (to be thrown out) bin at the library one day at work. Besides Ramona and Her Father, it’s my favorite Ramona story. I grabbed it–yep, the “scratchy” illustrations by Alan Tiegreen:
And look, a favorite scene: Ramona’s school nemesis, Susan–with the boing-boing curls (where my love of the boing sound was born)–copies Ramona’s owl design on her brown paper lunch bag (love of owls, too). First grade’s been unkind to Ramona lately and this artistic theft is the last straw. In a fit of rage she destroys snooty Susan’s copycat owl. And then…well, you’ll have to check it out of the library and find out what happens.
“When my father would yell at me, I told myself someday I’d use it in a book.” — Paula Danziger (The Pistachio Prescription, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit)