Deb Rachel Takes Comfort in Nostalgia

I could probably write this entire post in one word.


If the definition of comfort food is a fairly traditional treat that has sentimental or nostalgic appeal (thanks Wikipedia!) then children’s books are my literary Mr. Potato Head.

The Giving Tree. 

A Light in the Attic.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School. 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. 

The Babysitters Club.

Little Women. 

The Face on the Milk Carton.

The covers of these books bring me back to my childhood faster than the best batch of mashed potatoes (or “mashed poes” as I called them back in the day) ever could.

When I was young, while other girls were probably sneaking in Dear Diary sessions or phone calls to boys and BFFs, I was pulling a book out from under my pillow and leaning over the end of my bed to try and read by the light of the hallway. It was known in my house as “sneak reading” and I was always guilty.

Writing is a job, and there are days when it feels like real work. And that’s to be expected. But if a day comes when I question why I wanted to write in the first place or I forget the pure fun of being transported into a story, I go back to these staples.They give me the warm and fuzzies. Not because the writing is so great (even though it might be) or because the lessons are so profound (though sometimes they are) but because these days it’s hard to find a book that makes me want to stay up and read in secret when I know I should be sleeping. I want to remember the 8-year-old girl who declared that she was going to be an author-dancer-singer-actor when she grew up, and tell her that 25% of her dream came true! Not so bad, if you ask me.

What traditional literary treat has sentimental and nostalgic appeal for you? And it doesn’t have to be a kids book, of course. I feel similarly about The Things They Carried, and that’s about war. You know. Giving trees, combat zones. Potato, potahto.

16 Replies to “Deb Rachel Takes Comfort in Nostalgia”

  1. Oh, I love children’s books! Old favorites, for sure, but new ones too. A few years ago, my daughter gave me a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Blueberry Girl for Mother’s Day. It’s lovely–beautiful and lyrical. Reading it, staring at those illustrations, was a little piece of bliss. Comfort indeed. 🙂

  2. What a fun week we’re having! Oh, I have always held on to my favorite children’s books–my mother has always been wonderful about collecting them, even as I grew, and now I have this incredible collection to share with my children. I can’t tell you how much comfort I get from reading the same books to them that my mother read to me–seeing those illustrations, and I swear the paper still smells the same!

    It is that ageless sense of being transported by a story that at its core is why we write, to go there and to take our readers there. And we learn that from a very young age, and it never goes away.

    1. It’s funny, too, because I took this long break from kids books when I decided I was “too old” for them — back when I was in high school, I guess –but now there’s nothing that makes me happier or gives me more comfort. I guess that’s how it is with so many things though. Silly teenagers.

  3. I’m thankful for another day that’s easy on my diet! I am embarassed to say I haven’t read any of the books on your list, but I am totally nostalgic for Anne of Green Gables and The Chronicles of Narnia. I picked up The Giving Tree as an adult recently, but was so frightened by the author photo, that I put it back down again.

    p.s. this is an interesting window into that photo and Shel Silverstein:

    1. Whoa! What a fascinating bit of insight…I’m with you on that picture. I remember as I kid finding it hard to reconcile the two, but then, even as kids we were probably a lot more insightful to the “edginess” of those poems than we realized.

    2. Oh my gosh! Joanne! The Giving Tree is so lovely (though I know it can be divisive). And Little Women! And Roll of Thunder! Oh, Joanne, so much goodness awaits you.

  4. I taught Roll of Thunder in middle school, and had so much fun with it. It’s a great book! My 7th graders were reading Roll & my 8th graders were reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and I wished I could figure out a way for both classes to read both books, because they offered different POVs on the same time period.

    Don’t get me started on BSC, Rachel!

          1. Oh, now you’re going to discriminate against me because I’m from Wisconsin? 🙂

            FINE, I’ll be the girl who only wears red, black, and white.

    1. True! If you threw an M-bomb, we wouldn’t be friends anymore.

      Also, this is reminding me of Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, where they’re fighting about who gets to be the Mary.

      1. OMG you had me at Romy. I practice the Time After Time dance. Like, often. And I once got called out by a wedding singer for doing it on the dance floor. In public.

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