My sister Abby is a children’s librarian who knows more about the field of children’s literature than anyone else I know. She’s been reading the blog of Julius Lester, a favorite children’s lit author for both of us. Recently, Lester asked his readers of his blog to send him a paragraph on “Books That Changed Your Life.” So Abby wrote to him about a book that she and I both love deeply, and today Lester published Abby’s paragraph on his blog:
There are so many books that have deeply affected me, but the book that first sprang to mind is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. My brother is eight years older than me…. The first time I felt myself to be more than a little sister to him, the first time that I felt somewhat on his intellectual plane, was after reading The Phantom Tollbooth. Dan and I had many long discussions about the book, most especially its subtle humor and twists of language, and thus began a life-long habit of sitting and talking together about literature and philosophy. There are two messages in the book that have helped to form how I approach my life: that the impossible can be achieved, and that it’s far better to appreciate the here and now than to waste time and life wishing you were somewhere else [link].
The Phantom Tollbooth is a book that changed my life, too, so here’s my own paragraph on how it changed my life (though I’m not so eloquent as Abby):
When I was in fourth grade, I got transferred to a new public elementary school. Structured on the “open classroom” ideas then current, the school was one huge open carpeted room with a library in the middle and groups of children around the periphery. I loved having the library so close at hand, and one day I discovered in that library a book called The Phantom Tollbooth. I remember the moment when my nine-year-old self understood that the whole book was an allegory about opening your mind to the wonders of the world around you. I read and re-read that book innumerable times, its characters and world became a part of me, and yes that book opened my mind. So of course I had to tell my beloved younger sister, Abby, that she should read it. She read it, and fortunately she also loved it; and over the years the book seemed to feed into shared realms of fantasy and puppetry and thinking and conversation. A few years ago, I understood that the book was also about how to cultivate a life of the mind to get you through the bleak times in life. And to do that, you need friends and companions to share that life of the mind with you — along with free and open access to a library full of good books.
So what books have changed your life? I’d especially love to hear about books that you read when you were somehwere between 8-12 years old — but talk about any book that changed your life.