There are very few things in this world that I hold sacred. They include: my cat Neptune, who was a spritely newborn when I adopted him in the second grade and is now an elderly retiree; the El Dorado Nature Center, where my parents took me on nature walks before I could walk; and the books I loved growing up.
The common thread here seems to be childhood, which is, in and of itself, sacred; I will defend to the death everyone’s right to a joyous, carefree childhood. I was lucky enough to have the most blissful, loving one possible (shoutout to you, Mom and Dad).
But the older I get, the more sentimental I get about my elementary school days, and the rosier my glasses are when I look back on those years. And for God’s sake, I’m only 19. By the time I’m middle-aged my memories will all be saturated with a fuchsia hue.
Yes, I know, I already wrote about a children’s book for my last column. But that was just one of many that I love. Plus, children’s books have broad appeal, enjoyed by young and old alike. I mean, is anyone actually interested in witnessing my attempts to make sense of the absurdity that is Trout Fishing in America/The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster/In Watermelon Sugar? Yeah, didn’t think so.
So, without further ado, here were (and are) some of my favorite books growing up:
Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss
Sure, Green Eggs and Ham is great, but of Dr. Seuss’ extensive oeuvre, Happy Birthday to You! takes the cake. If you weren’t delivered massive bouquets by 50 Hippo-Heimers, pulled through the air by Funicular Goats and serenaded by Dr. Derring’s Singing Herrings, was it even your birthday?
Stella & Sam series by Marie-Louise Gay
Stella is Star, Queen, Fairy and Princess of, respectively, the sea, the snow, the forest and the sky. Such a slew of roles and responsibilities may seem daunting to anyone else, but Stella and her little brother Sam take their duties in stride, and waste no time exploring every inch of their kingdom.
Too Many Pumpkins! by Linda White
I love pumpkin: as a pie, a decorative gourd and a spiced latte, and I firmly believe my affinity stems from reading this book. Rebecca Estelle lives a quiet life with her calico cat Esmeralda in a little cottage, until some pesky pumpkins invade her neat and tidy garden. But these unwelcome intruders may just turn out to be a blessing in disguise…
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
The world is divided into two types of people: those who read Calvin and Hobbes as a kid and those who didn’t.
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Pooh and his friends like to play a game called Poohsticks. The rules are: Everyone picks up a small twig or leaf, stands atop a bridge and simultaneously drops it into the stream below. Then they rush to the other side and see whose will emerge first. This is a game I play with my parents at the Nature Center to this day.
Moomins by Tove and Lars Jansson
I thought I was the only one who followed the wonderfully whimsical, hippopotamus-shaped creatures in this Finnish comic strip — until eighth grade, when I wrote an article for the lifestyle section about them for my school newspaper and the librarian sent me a lovely note expressing his own enthusiasm for the Moominworld and encouraging me to stop by. I hovered outside the library doors for a solid 10 minutes, but was too painfully shy to go in. Mr. Kovac, if the offer is still on the table, I’d love to take you up on it!
As this is my last column of the semester, I didn’t want to nominate yet another pretentious venture undertaken by some White Male Intellectual. It would be easy to retreat behind postmodernist blasé, impersonal and impenetrable in its lofty abstruseness. Writing about something sacred to me is harder, because I can’t quite put my finger on where poignant ends and saccharine begins. I strive desperately for the former; I am deathly afraid of the latter. It is a line I have not yet learned to walk.
It’s not enough to say that these books hold a special place in my heart. They are the tangible embodiment of an ephemeral time, the happiest time of my life, that exists only in the memory of a select few. When my cat finally kicks the bucket, and eventually my parents too, there will be no one left to remember me at 5 years old, lying on my stomach perilously close to the bridge’s edge, straining to catch a glimpse; at 7, flipping back and forth between designs trying to decide which one to carve into my Jack-O-Lantern; at 9, hauling my entire Calvin and Hobbes collection aboard the airplane to keep me occupied during a 13-hour flight to China. No one except me — and my books.
Kitty Guo is a sophomore majoring in journalism and computational linguistics. She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Kitty Corner,” ran every other Wednesday.