books that stilled you and thrilled you

I’m curious: can you name one book (or even a few books) that influenced you as a new, independent reader? Is your child sucked into a book at the moment that makes them stay up way past their bedtime with a flashlight under their blanket? What was a book that was so good when you were small, that you had to stay awake all night just to finish it?

Tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine. Here is a hint:

I am happy today. Tomorrow is my tenth wedding anniversary, and I realized that a decade ago this morning Gary and I were driving down to Tennessee from Ohio in my old Dodge Stratus to get married in a little log cabin. Peaceful. Our wedding wasn’t fancy a tick, but it was very peaceful. My Grandma Masters gave me a handkerchief that was my Great-grandmother’s, and held my hands in hers. My mother looked beautiful, my father strong. When Gary and I spoke our vows, the sun poured through the cabin’s stained glass windows. I could barely see his face because the sun was shining so brightly on it, but I remember we were both shaking as we exchanged the small, modest rings we had chosen for one another. The minister was ancient and spoke in a soft mountain accent that could lull you to sleep. I remember feeling just tucked away in the mountains, in the day, and in love (I know, gag, gag).

I love the accents here in East Tennessee. When we returned here from Alaska almost two years ago, listening to the voices around us felt like being wrapped in a soft, worn quilt. We were so thirsty for home.

I have been struggling the past couple of days with my old wanderlust. A year in one place and my toes just start tapping. But really, how could I leave here again? If anything I need to travel deeper into this area more often. I need more days spent by the mountain streams, I need more bouquets of trillium and mountain laurel in my hands.

I would like to one day move closer to the national park. We’re an hour away, now. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be a librarian, school or public, in a little mountain town? I’d walk to work and Xander would be off to school by bicycle, and even on hazy days the shade of 10 million trees would shelter the sun from burning our skin. Gary could run off to the woods any time he could with his camera, and when we all sat down at the end of the day, we’d share the beautiful things we all saw, read, wrote, and made. There’s a fire in the fireplace, and white candles burning on the mantle.

In the Smokies, there’s a place called Elkmont, where the air is ten degrees cooler in the summer than it is here in town. It’s the place that the fireflies gather in June, and where Knoxvillians eighty years ago used to escape to by train. I keep having this image of a girl in a white dress, her hair falling out of her bun, climbing barefoot on the boulders in the Little Pigeon River. The water is icy, the moss on the boulders are slippery, and the sun cuts in the canopy of trees and lights her face up all golden.



19 thoughts on “books that stilled you and thrilled you

  1. I loved the secret garden too πŸ™‚ Also To Kill a Mockingbird. And my grandmother had these beautifully illustrated volumes of flower fairies with tissue paper to protect the pages between. I used to sit on her lap and she would read it to me. We would look at the beautiful pictures together and talk about them. I loved the sweet anticipation of each page as she turned the tissue paper carefully (I was never allowed to touch). I treasured those moments… it was probably the only time we really connected…. when she died they went to my cousin, unfortunately I would love to have them now to read to my daughter. I also loved Judy Blume, Enid Blighton and Roald Dahl, espeically Matilda and the BFG, and another book called Charlotte’s Web though I forget the author.

  2. E.B. White! He also wrote Stuart Little. All of your favorites were my favorites, too! I’ve never read Enid Blighton, will have to put that on my list of children’s literature to read. And oh…Roald Dahl – be still my heart! My son is reading James and the Giant Peach at the moment in school (in 1st grade!), and I wish I could crawl back into those moments of new discovery with him. I guess, as his mother, I can in some way. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Also, I think To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most perfect book of all time. I need to read it again…it’s been years and years. I love the backstory behind it almost as much as the novel. Little Truman Capote/Dill!


  3. The Dark is Rising books by Susan Cooper thrilled me when I was younger; they converted an interest in reading to a passion for it.

    I’ve been feeling a bit of wanderlust, too. We’re talking about a trip to NorCal for the summer, but I don’t think that will be enough. I want to visit New York again. And Hawaii for the first time! There’s too much to see to spend so much time seeing only what’s here.

  4. I can totally see you being influenced and loving those books so much, Deb! I remember reading those in the library in school. Another good memory un-covered!

    I think you NEED to be in the PacNW. I dunno…I just get this feeling!

  5. Ooh, I’d like to read Oddkins! Another one on the list.

    All the Narnia books, and of course Neverending Story! I think I read The Magician’s Nephew at least thirty times, not counting how many times I’ve read it as an adult! xoxo

  6. i’m afraid nothing really pulled me in. there was a series with talking animals which made quite an impression but i don’t recall which series. what i do recall is going by myself to the library on my bike and very alone pulling upon the spines of the books and finding a spot on the soft chairs to read. it was a small town, not quaint like the one you’re imagining, but small and children could do these things. we live in a small town now that is even smaller, all of the children in and out of houses after school, off to the park or the local store for candy. we’re moving soon. all i can do is hope that we find something in indiana akin to the freedom here.

    when i was 16 or so i found leonard cohen’s poetry. i nicked his book the energy of slaves from the library. (sorry librarian.) it was a beginning, not of nicking but of poetry.


  7. I loved The Secret Garden, Half Magic, The Little Princess, The Hobbit, the Lois Lenski books — I could never name one but would sit and type here, book after book after book. I can still smell them.

    Happy Anniversary. Your description of the place where you were married sounds like a little brown church on Signal Mountain in TN.

  8. Thanks, Kathy! Jane Eyre is still one of my very favorites. I try to read it once a year, because it completely takes me away from the world into Jane’s. xo

  9. I lived in a little Ohio town like that, which abutted against a larger town. Almost every day after school throughout junior high and high school I would walk to the library, pile books on a table, finish my homework, and read. The smell and the quiet was wonderful. Indiana has a lot of quiet places…what part are you moving to? Bloomington is rad, as is Indianapolis. There are also many tiny towns near the Ohio border that I know and remember fondly. xo

  10. Elizabeth, I too loved those little Lois Lenski books. I can’t tell you what it felt like to hold one in my hand again after forgetting all about them. The sweet, tiny little worlds she created! My son loved the Little Train, and would have me read every page twice.

    You’re not too far off as for our wedding location! It was a little log church in Cosby, TN.

  11. Why am I the most cheesy? I loved R L Stine – Goosebumps!! Yay!!! And I adored a book called Polymer. There was another one I read which was also a sci fi type novel about a girl with special powers.. I can’t remember the name, damnit. It was so great.. And another one about a girl who was adopted in by a group of native americans. i loved that one.. I was also hopelessly obsessed with Sweet Valley High and all of Katherine Applegate’s books.
    Meanwhile.. take me with you to the smokies please..

  12. Oh, you’re not the only cheesy one. I think I read all of the SWH and the Babysitter’s Club Books and more than once, too. Also read a ton of Christopher Pike & RL Stine.

    One of my favorites was also The Girl with the Silver Eyes. She was a quiet, bookish girl with special powers and well, silver eyes.


  13. Enid Blighton is very British so perhaps not many people know her outside of the UK. Still she wrote a lot: The famous five series, Mallory Towers, The Enchanted Forest. The Magic Faraway tree was my favourite. Not very literary, perhaps but great stories. Wow impressed your son can read James and the Giant Peach (1st grade is that the same as our year 1 so age 6?). I read it to my kids a while back and they loved it. Those characters he creates are just so memorable aren’t they? My kids laugh and joke about Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge all the time! I want to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird too it’s on my list. I re-read The secret Garden recently which was such a pleasure.

  14. Yes, Xander is in your equivalent of grade one; he’s seven. πŸ™‚ His reading has really taken off this year, and what I love is that he reads for pleasure more than anything. I guess the behavior/past times of his parents have rubbed off in a good way.

    I used to work at a children’s library with a lady from Wales. She introduced us to the magic of Phillipa Pearce – love the English kids lit authors!!

  15. Animorph?! What are they?! Am I missing out on something important here? Can I express how much I was into WondLa!!! I love young, fun, adventure stories πŸ™‚

  16. Katherine Applegate wrote a series of books called Animorphs, where a special group of human kids can morph into any animal they touch. They were super popular in the library I worked in.

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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