Karen_1

Last week we were talking a little about early influences — how we got started storytelling, what influenced us, listing books we loved, and the dolls and teddies and whatnot – so fun! – with the occasional Barbie and Cabbage Patch and fairy tale image tossed in there. And I was thinking about some of the books I loved as a kid, because these early reads are not only important in the shaping of ourselves as people, but as writers too, very much so. Some of the ones I loved are pretty familiar choices, Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and Little Women, Heidi, The Silver Skates, The Velveteen Rabbit… the list goes on and on, and you know the books on it already, because chances are you read a lot of those stories too.

I sobbed my eyes out over Heidi, Pollyanna, The Five Little Peppers, and Little Women (though, unlike Joey on "Friends," I didn’t have to hide it in the freezer because of the scary parts!), and I laughed over others, like Otis Spofford and Ellen Tebbits… I was fascinated by A Wrinkle in Time, and some of them – sorry to say – didn’t appeal (Anne of G.G. for some reason annoyed the heck out of me). Most of them I read not only once, but again and again. I lived in their homes, thought their thoughts, learned, grew, loved it. There’s really too many to count when you’re a crazy-mad reading kid like I was.

But I started thinking the other day about what single book, or single character, appealed to me the most, bar none. Who did I want to be, who helped me, who endeared herself to me more than anyone else?

Pippi! Pippi Longstocking was my girl. I read those books (Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes on Board, Pippi in the South Seas, all by Astrid Lindgren) until they were in tatters, got new ones, tattered those. I adored Pippi… she fascinated me, and made me laugh every time over her silliness and her bold goofy heart. She made me cheer, made me want to be her, funny and unique, brave and independent, and very, very kind. She was way more interesting to me than Pollyanna or Anne of Green Gables, and she didn’t make my heart break like Beth in Little Women.

Running a close second was Beverly Cleary’s Ellen Tebbits – but I didn’t have to aspire to be Ellen. I was Ellen. Her world was similar to mine, and everything that went wrong for her had gone wrong for me in some similar way. I could have been pulling a beet out of someone’s garden in the rain, or wearing itchy long underwear. I totally identifed with Ellen, and read those books over and over.

Ah, but Pippi. I couldn’t be her. Couldn’t come even close. She had spitfire down to an art. I didn’t have a lick of it as a timid little kid. She could do what she wanted, live alone, no parents to complicate things (mother was an angel, father was a sea captain, always on his way home to fetch her) – and she had her own house, her own horse, her own monkey, and pirate gold. She was stronger and braver and brassier (I could use another word but hey, I won’t!) than anyone. Pippi said what she wanted, stood up to anyone, threw robbers out and rescued kids from fire, and didn’t have to go to school (even though I wanted to go to school, and loved learning, I appreciated the sentiment!). And I, stuck in my Ellen-Tebbitsian world, longed for that sort of freedom and fire.

…said the teacher, "And now I will tell you that seven and five are twelve."

See that!" said Pippi. "You knew it yourself. Why are you asking then?"

She had the same color hair as my mother, which I loved (though my mother’s bright red-orange hair didn’t stick out in pigtails, it was thick, wavy, and quite the beacon in a crowd–she was once asked if she dyed it, to which her reply was, "Why would I dye my hair this color?!"). I used to imagine slinging a rope from my bedroom window over to the neighbors and zipping over there, but the kids who lived there were not as cooperative and pleasant as Tommy and Annika, and I’d probably fall anyway. Astrid Lindgren was brilliant– because Pippi was a kid’s delight, all the freedom and chutzpah a kid could ever want, and Tommy and Annika were EveryKid, the placeholders for the readers.

Pippi was a fantasy, sometimes way too silly and over-the-top, and not someone who fit into my world, but why did she appeal to me so much?  She could do what she wanted–I could not, always. She had the red hair that my mom had, but I didn’t get (really, it was cool). AND she opened a door for me on imagination and creativity, opened it wider in some ways than some of the other books. She taught me that you have to let go, let loose, let it fly to get that creativity up and off the ground. And I still benefit from that to this day.

There’s a little bit of Pippi in me still, and a little Pippi in some of the heroines I write, particularly when it comes to humor, sass, and fiesty moments. Now that I’m using my imagination for a full-time occupation and living, I do owe some of that to Pippi.

After all, she did teach me some very useful stuff:

"Can you dance the schottische?" asked Pippi, looking him gravely in the eye. "I can."

So how about you all? What was your favorite book as a kid, and your favorite character? Who did you identify with, or wish you could be — and what character made a difference in your life?

~Susan Sarah

p.s. The drawing is of my sister reading, by me, Susan King, from years ago….

42 thoughts on “”

  1. Hmm, well, I think for me it was probably Jo Bettany from The Chalet School series, by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. She had all sorts of adventures and grew up to be a famous writer with 13 children. Well, I didn’t want THAT many kids *g*, but what I loved about her was her take-charge attitude AND the fact that she also made lots of mistakes. Not sure how many other people have read these books, but I LOVE them and still have my collections (in storage right now).

    Reply
  2. Hmm, well, I think for me it was probably Jo Bettany from The Chalet School series, by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. She had all sorts of adventures and grew up to be a famous writer with 13 children. Well, I didn’t want THAT many kids *g*, but what I loved about her was her take-charge attitude AND the fact that she also made lots of mistakes. Not sure how many other people have read these books, but I LOVE them and still have my collections (in storage right now).

    Reply
  3. Hmm, well, I think for me it was probably Jo Bettany from The Chalet School series, by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. She had all sorts of adventures and grew up to be a famous writer with 13 children. Well, I didn’t want THAT many kids *g*, but what I loved about her was her take-charge attitude AND the fact that she also made lots of mistakes. Not sure how many other people have read these books, but I LOVE them and still have my collections (in storage right now).

    Reply
  4. Favorite character? Honestly, it was probably Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. I had no trouble identifying with boys because they got to do the fun stuff.
    Actually, I was even more attached to Roger, the prickly, bad boy ship’s astrogator in the crew of three. In the 8th book in the series, Roger was transferred out and some jerk took his place. The shock was terrible, and I went back to rereading the first seven books. TROUBLE ON TITAN. Ah, those were the days….
    Mary Jo, who probably picked up some hero material with Tom Corbett, just as Susan Sarah picked up heroine traits with Pippi.

    Reply
  5. Favorite character? Honestly, it was probably Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. I had no trouble identifying with boys because they got to do the fun stuff.
    Actually, I was even more attached to Roger, the prickly, bad boy ship’s astrogator in the crew of three. In the 8th book in the series, Roger was transferred out and some jerk took his place. The shock was terrible, and I went back to rereading the first seven books. TROUBLE ON TITAN. Ah, those were the days….
    Mary Jo, who probably picked up some hero material with Tom Corbett, just as Susan Sarah picked up heroine traits with Pippi.

    Reply
  6. Favorite character? Honestly, it was probably Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. I had no trouble identifying with boys because they got to do the fun stuff.
    Actually, I was even more attached to Roger, the prickly, bad boy ship’s astrogator in the crew of three. In the 8th book in the series, Roger was transferred out and some jerk took his place. The shock was terrible, and I went back to rereading the first seven books. TROUBLE ON TITAN. Ah, those were the days….
    Mary Jo, who probably picked up some hero material with Tom Corbett, just as Susan Sarah picked up heroine traits with Pippi.

    Reply
  7. I wanted to be a girl version of Alec Ramsey from Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and have my very own extra-special racehorse to ride. I also adored and repeatedly re-read Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind (responding subconsciously, I’m sure, to the beauty of the writing as well as the equine subject matter), though I didn’t dream of being Agba, since he had such a hard and lonely life.
    Oddly enough, I haven’t stayed especially interested in horses, given how obsessed I was with them as a child.

    Reply
  8. I wanted to be a girl version of Alec Ramsey from Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and have my very own extra-special racehorse to ride. I also adored and repeatedly re-read Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind (responding subconsciously, I’m sure, to the beauty of the writing as well as the equine subject matter), though I didn’t dream of being Agba, since he had such a hard and lonely life.
    Oddly enough, I haven’t stayed especially interested in horses, given how obsessed I was with them as a child.

    Reply
  9. I wanted to be a girl version of Alec Ramsey from Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and have my very own extra-special racehorse to ride. I also adored and repeatedly re-read Marguerite Henry’s King of the Wind (responding subconsciously, I’m sure, to the beauty of the writing as well as the equine subject matter), though I didn’t dream of being Agba, since he had such a hard and lonely life.
    Oddly enough, I haven’t stayed especially interested in horses, given how obsessed I was with them as a child.

    Reply
  10. When I was a kid, most of the time I wanted to be the male character too. Mostly because they were the ones in charge. The two exceptions were Wonder Woman and She-Ra. Though I didn’t realize why I’d would never be caught dead in those outfits back when I was 5 years old. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  11. When I was a kid, most of the time I wanted to be the male character too. Mostly because they were the ones in charge. The two exceptions were Wonder Woman and She-Ra. Though I didn’t realize why I’d would never be caught dead in those outfits back when I was 5 years old. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  12. When I was a kid, most of the time I wanted to be the male character too. Mostly because they were the ones in charge. The two exceptions were Wonder Woman and She-Ra. Though I didn’t realize why I’d would never be caught dead in those outfits back when I was 5 years old. LOL 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  13. I wanted to be the boys, too, because they always seemed braver and cooler and didn’t whine the way the girls did in books. And then I read The Great Gilly Hopkins and loved Gilly because she was so rebellious. I couldn’t stand Bridge to Terabithia, however, mostly because Leslie died at the end. As for Little Women, it was all about Jo for me.

    Reply
  14. I wanted to be the boys, too, because they always seemed braver and cooler and didn’t whine the way the girls did in books. And then I read The Great Gilly Hopkins and loved Gilly because she was so rebellious. I couldn’t stand Bridge to Terabithia, however, mostly because Leslie died at the end. As for Little Women, it was all about Jo for me.

    Reply
  15. I wanted to be the boys, too, because they always seemed braver and cooler and didn’t whine the way the girls did in books. And then I read The Great Gilly Hopkins and loved Gilly because she was so rebellious. I couldn’t stand Bridge to Terabithia, however, mostly because Leslie died at the end. As for Little Women, it was all about Jo for me.

    Reply
  16. You guys make me feel old. I never read most of those as a kid–I did read Anne of Green Gables, the various Alcott books, and the Black Stallion books, though.
    I wanted to be Mowgli. Wolves would only have been an improvement on my parents, and I adored Akela and Bagheera. Failing that, of course, I wanted to be Mole in WIND IN THE WILLOWS (I’ll bet you’d never have guessed!), or Mary in THE SECRET GARDEN. That would never have worked out, as I have a black thumb: my plastic flowers die.
    I wonder what it says about me (nothing good, I presume) that I mostly wanted to be characters that weren’t human?

    Reply
  17. You guys make me feel old. I never read most of those as a kid–I did read Anne of Green Gables, the various Alcott books, and the Black Stallion books, though.
    I wanted to be Mowgli. Wolves would only have been an improvement on my parents, and I adored Akela and Bagheera. Failing that, of course, I wanted to be Mole in WIND IN THE WILLOWS (I’ll bet you’d never have guessed!), or Mary in THE SECRET GARDEN. That would never have worked out, as I have a black thumb: my plastic flowers die.
    I wonder what it says about me (nothing good, I presume) that I mostly wanted to be characters that weren’t human?

    Reply
  18. You guys make me feel old. I never read most of those as a kid–I did read Anne of Green Gables, the various Alcott books, and the Black Stallion books, though.
    I wanted to be Mowgli. Wolves would only have been an improvement on my parents, and I adored Akela and Bagheera. Failing that, of course, I wanted to be Mole in WIND IN THE WILLOWS (I’ll bet you’d never have guessed!), or Mary in THE SECRET GARDEN. That would never have worked out, as I have a black thumb: my plastic flowers die.
    I wonder what it says about me (nothing good, I presume) that I mostly wanted to be characters that weren’t human?

    Reply
  19. Hi Sarah!
    Love the drawing. It is excellent!
    Growing up, I was in love with the Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny (Julie Campbell). Trixie and Honey went everywhere together. Solving mysteries, getting into trouble, finding Honey’s long lost brother Jim (who I adored). And they did most of it from horseback. Oh, how I wanted to learn to ride a horse. But being the first of nine children didn’t leave much room in the budget for such things. So, I road with Trixie, Honey and the Bobwhite gang and promised myself that someday, I would ride for real. At the age of 34, I finally did. After learning to ride, I obtained an instructor certification and began teaching children and training horses. And it was all I imagined it to be and more.
    I’ve also just learned something new. Your post inspired me to dig up a few copies of these books. I have both my childhood collection and a number of hardback editions. I cracked the spline on a few of them and discovered something. The cadence with which I write is so like those books. I had no idea.
    Thank you, Sarah for this wonderful walk down memory lane.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  20. Hi Sarah!
    Love the drawing. It is excellent!
    Growing up, I was in love with the Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny (Julie Campbell). Trixie and Honey went everywhere together. Solving mysteries, getting into trouble, finding Honey’s long lost brother Jim (who I adored). And they did most of it from horseback. Oh, how I wanted to learn to ride a horse. But being the first of nine children didn’t leave much room in the budget for such things. So, I road with Trixie, Honey and the Bobwhite gang and promised myself that someday, I would ride for real. At the age of 34, I finally did. After learning to ride, I obtained an instructor certification and began teaching children and training horses. And it was all I imagined it to be and more.
    I’ve also just learned something new. Your post inspired me to dig up a few copies of these books. I have both my childhood collection and a number of hardback editions. I cracked the spline on a few of them and discovered something. The cadence with which I write is so like those books. I had no idea.
    Thank you, Sarah for this wonderful walk down memory lane.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  21. Hi Sarah!
    Love the drawing. It is excellent!
    Growing up, I was in love with the Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny (Julie Campbell). Trixie and Honey went everywhere together. Solving mysteries, getting into trouble, finding Honey’s long lost brother Jim (who I adored). And they did most of it from horseback. Oh, how I wanted to learn to ride a horse. But being the first of nine children didn’t leave much room in the budget for such things. So, I road with Trixie, Honey and the Bobwhite gang and promised myself that someday, I would ride for real. At the age of 34, I finally did. After learning to ride, I obtained an instructor certification and began teaching children and training horses. And it was all I imagined it to be and more.
    I’ve also just learned something new. Your post inspired me to dig up a few copies of these books. I have both my childhood collection and a number of hardback editions. I cracked the spline on a few of them and discovered something. The cadence with which I write is so like those books. I had no idea.
    Thank you, Sarah for this wonderful walk down memory lane.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  22. Ok, so I’m very predictable. I wanted to be Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett. I liked reading Nancy Drew, but could never identify with her (too upper class).My reading as a child was very eclectic– whatever was around. So it wasn’t necessarily age appropriate. I remember reading Bleak House when I was somewhere between 10 and 12 because it was in the children’s section of the library and I wasn’t old enough to take things out of the adult section. At the time there wasn’t the abundance of books for children and teens that exist now. My impression of some of the other romance readers I’ve met is that there are a number of precocious readers.
    Merry

    Reply
  23. Ok, so I’m very predictable. I wanted to be Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett. I liked reading Nancy Drew, but could never identify with her (too upper class).My reading as a child was very eclectic– whatever was around. So it wasn’t necessarily age appropriate. I remember reading Bleak House when I was somewhere between 10 and 12 because it was in the children’s section of the library and I wasn’t old enough to take things out of the adult section. At the time there wasn’t the abundance of books for children and teens that exist now. My impression of some of the other romance readers I’ve met is that there are a number of precocious readers.
    Merry

    Reply
  24. Ok, so I’m very predictable. I wanted to be Jo March and Elizabeth Bennett. I liked reading Nancy Drew, but could never identify with her (too upper class).My reading as a child was very eclectic– whatever was around. So it wasn’t necessarily age appropriate. I remember reading Bleak House when I was somewhere between 10 and 12 because it was in the children’s section of the library and I wasn’t old enough to take things out of the adult section. At the time there wasn’t the abundance of books for children and teens that exist now. My impression of some of the other romance readers I’ve met is that there are a number of precocious readers.
    Merry

    Reply
  25. Excellent drawing, Susan. I’m trying to get my drawing skills back, and I remember being able to do that.
    Characters.I played Robin Hood, and didn’t mind whether I was Robin or Marian, or a Merry Man or Maid. Also played comboy/girl, princess, pirate, everything. I don’t remember really identifying with a fictional character, though.
    I wonder if it was becaus we were a library house. Tremendous readers, but owning few books. That was the English way, around our area, at least.
    Jo

    Reply
  26. Excellent drawing, Susan. I’m trying to get my drawing skills back, and I remember being able to do that.
    Characters.I played Robin Hood, and didn’t mind whether I was Robin or Marian, or a Merry Man or Maid. Also played comboy/girl, princess, pirate, everything. I don’t remember really identifying with a fictional character, though.
    I wonder if it was becaus we were a library house. Tremendous readers, but owning few books. That was the English way, around our area, at least.
    Jo

    Reply
  27. Excellent drawing, Susan. I’m trying to get my drawing skills back, and I remember being able to do that.
    Characters.I played Robin Hood, and didn’t mind whether I was Robin or Marian, or a Merry Man or Maid. Also played comboy/girl, princess, pirate, everything. I don’t remember really identifying with a fictional character, though.
    I wonder if it was becaus we were a library house. Tremendous readers, but owning few books. That was the English way, around our area, at least.
    Jo

    Reply
  28. How could I have forgotten Pippi Longstockings? I utterly adored her and wore out those books. A neighbor gave me her old Pollyanna books, but how could one adore a stupidly optimistic do-gooder when Pippi was around?!
    I never particularly wanted to be any of the characters in books, but I wouldn’t have minded being Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and have horses and a jeep called Nelly. But I was pretty young at the time and anything was better than having a baby brother!

    Reply
  29. How could I have forgotten Pippi Longstockings? I utterly adored her and wore out those books. A neighbor gave me her old Pollyanna books, but how could one adore a stupidly optimistic do-gooder when Pippi was around?!
    I never particularly wanted to be any of the characters in books, but I wouldn’t have minded being Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and have horses and a jeep called Nelly. But I was pretty young at the time and anything was better than having a baby brother!

    Reply
  30. How could I have forgotten Pippi Longstockings? I utterly adored her and wore out those books. A neighbor gave me her old Pollyanna books, but how could one adore a stupidly optimistic do-gooder when Pippi was around?!
    I never particularly wanted to be any of the characters in books, but I wouldn’t have minded being Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and have horses and a jeep called Nelly. But I was pretty young at the time and anything was better than having a baby brother!

    Reply
  31. When I was very young (and I was, I promise) everyone in my family read. Because I was the youngest, I read everything they read. And they never threw a book away.
    My favs?
    My sister used to read me Alice In Wonderland and Uncle Wiggley; my brother read me great comics.
    I went on to read about that Pepper family, everything by Lousia May Alcott, Felix Salton, (Go Bambi’s Children!) Albert Payson Terhune, Black Beauty, Lassie, Heidi, every color from pink to blue to purple Fairy Tale book, and everything in the bookcase my parents had stocked with a special deal they got on faux leather bound Classics.
    LOVED O’ Henry. Hated Tolstoy.
    (still do)
    Who I wanted to be?
    Anyone in a good book I was reading.
    Fun topic!

    Reply
  32. When I was very young (and I was, I promise) everyone in my family read. Because I was the youngest, I read everything they read. And they never threw a book away.
    My favs?
    My sister used to read me Alice In Wonderland and Uncle Wiggley; my brother read me great comics.
    I went on to read about that Pepper family, everything by Lousia May Alcott, Felix Salton, (Go Bambi’s Children!) Albert Payson Terhune, Black Beauty, Lassie, Heidi, every color from pink to blue to purple Fairy Tale book, and everything in the bookcase my parents had stocked with a special deal they got on faux leather bound Classics.
    LOVED O’ Henry. Hated Tolstoy.
    (still do)
    Who I wanted to be?
    Anyone in a good book I was reading.
    Fun topic!

    Reply
  33. When I was very young (and I was, I promise) everyone in my family read. Because I was the youngest, I read everything they read. And they never threw a book away.
    My favs?
    My sister used to read me Alice In Wonderland and Uncle Wiggley; my brother read me great comics.
    I went on to read about that Pepper family, everything by Lousia May Alcott, Felix Salton, (Go Bambi’s Children!) Albert Payson Terhune, Black Beauty, Lassie, Heidi, every color from pink to blue to purple Fairy Tale book, and everything in the bookcase my parents had stocked with a special deal they got on faux leather bound Classics.
    LOVED O’ Henry. Hated Tolstoy.
    (still do)
    Who I wanted to be?
    Anyone in a good book I was reading.
    Fun topic!

    Reply
  34. I adored Nancy Drew and I just loved hearing about what book would be next at the end. (The start of my love of series, no doubt.)
    And then, there was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just thought it was fascinating, especially all the ones at the beginning of the series (series, again!) where she talked about the hardships of life on the prarie.
    Heidi was another favorite. I thought she was so good, and kind.

    Reply
  35. I adored Nancy Drew and I just loved hearing about what book would be next at the end. (The start of my love of series, no doubt.)
    And then, there was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just thought it was fascinating, especially all the ones at the beginning of the series (series, again!) where she talked about the hardships of life on the prarie.
    Heidi was another favorite. I thought she was so good, and kind.

    Reply
  36. I adored Nancy Drew and I just loved hearing about what book would be next at the end. (The start of my love of series, no doubt.)
    And then, there was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just thought it was fascinating, especially all the ones at the beginning of the series (series, again!) where she talked about the hardships of life on the prarie.
    Heidi was another favorite. I thought she was so good, and kind.

    Reply

Leave a Comment