Why You Should Reread Books From Your Childhood
On a recent visit to the Little Free Library in my neighborhood, I discovered this gem:
I can’t say I’ve thought about this book in my adult life, yet the second I spotted this cover it was as if I’d been reunited with a long lost sibling (I’m an only child, so I don’t know what that would be like, and when I was a kid books were my friends so I’m only making a guess…)
When I got home from my walk, I promptly plopped down on the love seat in my office and read the book cover to cover. My heart sang! The story is short, funny, and sweet, featuring cooperation between the usual nemeses, and the illustrations are so freaking cute.
I was flooded with the joy I experienced when looking at this images as a small girl.
This weekend I listened to the audio book of The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, first published in 1980. This was one of my all time favorite books as a kid. There’s so much magic. Plus, my mother’s family history has Native American roots, which probably made this extra fascinating to young me.
Yes, the cowboys and Indians stuff is quite dated and embraces negative stereotypes. There were a few instances that made me squirm. But most of the happy feelings were still there for me. It’s still a story about magic and friendship. I’m glad I experienced it again as an adult.
One of the first reading challenges I did in 2015 called for the rereading of a favorite book from my childhood, and until then it hadn’t occurred to me to do such a thing! The View From the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts was one of the first titles that came to mind because I recall it being utterly fascinating and a little scary. I was curious to see if what I remembered was accurate and how it held up over the decades.
First of all, this is not the cover I remember and I can’t seem to find an image of what I do remember, which was much simpler. So maybe my brain tuned it out because this is so freaking creepy! It’s also important to note this book was first published in 1975. The basic premise is simple: Rob is an 11 year old boy who likes to hang out in the cherry tree in his yard. One day he’s up there and witnesses the crochet old lady neighbor get pushed out her window and she dies. Of course no one believes Rob because he’s a kid and he becomes obsessed with solving the crime.
Okay, that’s a reasonable plot. The details are what are the most disturbing. Rob is hanging out in that dang tree all the time because his older sister is getting married and with all the preparation going on in the house he’s “always in the way” and his family is basically like get out of here because you’re a pain in the ass. Then, after it he’s on to the murderer, he gets shot at in his back yard and his cat gets hit instead (the cat’s name is S.O.B.) Last but not least, (SPOILER ALERT) it is revealed that the neighbor lady’s nephew had hid heroin under her porch and he pushed her out the window during an argument about it. Did you catch that? Heroin under the porch.
I was 9 or 10 when I read this, so I’m assuming it was in our elementary school library. I looked it up on Common Sense Media and sure enough, the age recommendation is 10 and up. The review makes me laugh: “Parents need to know that all the adults in this story are depicted as insensitive, uncaring, and self-centered. The child is no better, and this is never resolved. Also, the main character, a young boy, sees a woman die by hanging.” No mention of the heroin, although it does have a 3/5 rating on their Drinking, Drugs & Smoking scale:” A criminal sells drugs. Smoking, beer drinking.”
Rereading this book was an eye opening experience, and it has encouraged me to read more of the books I recall being prominent in my childhood.
I understand we all have To Be Read Lists that are miles long. There are so many great books out there waiting to be discovered. Rereading sometimes feels like a “waste” of precious reading time, right?
Why You Should Reread Books From Your Childhood
So why is it important to go back and read these books from our youth when they may not live up to our memories?
- Nostalgia A book might not live up to your memories, but it might. Either way, it’s going to remind you of the positive times you associate with the book, and everyone could use some of that from time to time!
2. Perspective The last two books I mentioned reminded me exactly how far things have come in society, in what we consider acceptable (behavior, speech, etc) and what we don’t, what has changed, and why.
3. Reflection The books I read as a young person shaped me into who I am today. Anyone who knows me now would be 0% surprised to see me gushing over the cartoon images of cats having a party. I also still enjoy the possibility of real magic existing in the world. It makes me consider all the aspects of self and what contributes to them as we grow, and how they change (or don’t) as we experience the world.
4. Entertainment Reading out loud to my husband from The View From the Cherry Tree was hilarious. He had never heard of the book and found it quite funny to imagine a 10 year old me reading it!
What have your experiences been when rereading childhood favorites? Do you choose not to reread?
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!