You’re probably figuring out by now that fourth grade was quite an eventful year for me. Full of hope and angst. Drama. Which is exactly why Judy Blume wrote that all-time classic, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
Tales of a Sixth Grade Nothing doesn’t quite work. Nor does Tales of a Third Grade Nothing. No, there is something timeless about fourth grade, and she so eloquently captures it in her book. Which is probably why my short list of favorite books include pretty much every title by Judy Blume: all the subsequent Fudge and Sheila the Great books, Freckle Juice, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, and so on.
Roald Dahl. His short stories, mostly, my favorite being The Boy Who Talked to Animals. But of course there’s the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oddly enough, I never read James and the Giant Peach.
Beverly Clearly. Love Beezus and Ramona. And every book they and Henry Huggins appeared in. My favorite line yet, “Jesus, Beezus!” I was both shocked and thrilled to read that in print. I’m surprised it hasn’t made the banned book list.
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective. The whole series. As in, why didn’t author Donald Sobol keep writing them? Encyclopedia is just so clever!
Childhood seemed to end when I got my hands on three books that left an imprint on my brain forever: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and Watership Down by Richard Adams. I was 11 or 12. Talk about an initiation into young adulthood. But it opened my eyes, too, to good writing, complex characters, and complex choices.
Which is probably why I read and re-read children’s books at the drop of a hat. It’s what made me want to be a writer, so reading my favorite children books, especially if I have writer’s block, helps me start fresh again. Innocent inspiration. Good, clean fun with only the traumatic backdrop of fourth grade gym to mar it …
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