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Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Childhood Readers & Favorite Books

Originally posted at YAAYNHO

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Childhood Readers and Favorite Books

My Childhood Readers and Favorite Books
Be prepared! There's a quiz at the end. What were your favorite books?

We were very poor when I was growing up. Because of this, I rarely received new books until I reached my early teens and began asking for them for my birthday.
I’m not claiming I was never given any books. One of my earliest was a tiny collection of fairy tales—each its own book, and once all housed in their own cardboard box. Published by Birn Brothers of London, each book was only about 3 by 3 inches, each cover a drawing of the story inside & colored mostly in royal blue, orange-red and yellow. Every other page within—they have about 80 pages each—was a rather intricate ink-drawn illustration of that part of the plot. I still have some of them: The Three Bears, Jack the Giant Killer, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Hop O’ My Thumb, & Beauty and the Beast.

I tried to find these on the web but the closest I could come was at:
They were my first introductions to fairy stories and fables. Once I knew them practically by heart, I always looked for more. But it would be many years before I had copies of Grimm, Andersen and Lang. When I was a preteen, I asked for someone to give me Grimm and Andersen for my birthday. I bought the Lang four volume set as an adult, along with the complete Grimm.
I love Winnie-the-Pooh! Disney, I guess, did a Winnie-the-Poo special a couple of times a year back in the day. Always something to anticipate!  Each show was a faithful retelling of a Pooh chapter. They even included the line which goes this?  "...all the way from the bottom of page 2 to the top of page 4..." Piglet is my favorite WtP character. Even though he's small and vulnerable he sticks it out in the most "dangerous" 100 Acre Wood situations! Okay, so there maybe a bit of calling for help involved but he doesn't go hide until it's over. 
I named my laptop before this laptop "Piglet" chiefly because it's so small compared to the laptop it replaced. Once upon a time, a Geek Squad tech had trouble with this. I don't remember why. Maybe he had spent the previous day with Eeyore? 
My parents gave me some Golden Books. Who here remembers those from their childhood? Most of these contained one story each: shortened versions of Little Women or Little Men or early spin-offs from TV shows like Rin-Tin-Tin or Spin & Marty from the late afternoon Disney show.

The Golden Book that I remember best was huge: both thick and composed of larger pages than most Golden Books. I remember riding home from someone’s house or the store--most likely it was my Aunt Josie Mae's house--flipping through it and just staring at all of the stories and the illustrations. Treasure! Once I had worked my way through from end to end, I had consumed: Heidi, Peter Pan, Hans Brinker (The Silver Skates) and a variety of fairy tales I had never read before. My favorite involved a young man tasked to find out where three princesses went at night. (I think they went dancing.) He followed them for three nights and brought back proof of their whereabouts: a silver leaf, a gold leaf, and a diamond leaf. Of course, he was rewarded by marrying the princess of his choice.

The Golden Book that I loved best was the one on horses. I was enamored of horses at that age and I thought every color illustration a work of art. I also set about memorizing various useless but fascinating facts. Did you know that Arabian horses have one less rib than other horses? So said my Golden Book. I also had a copy of Black Beauty.

Well, by now, I’d developed the reputation for being a bookworm, so it’s no surprise that my best friends gave me books for my birthday. That’s how I acquired “Donna Parker at Cherrydale” and “Polly French & the Surprising Stranger”. This pair were my first introductions to “teen romance”, to the extent that it was mentioned or described in those days. (1950’s)

The Family Cache of School Readers

Now, for a little “school reader” esoterica. You’ve been wondering when we would hit this section, right?
The core of my childhood reading collection for years were school readers which my parents had used in elementary or junior high school. Both sets of grandparents lived in the same city and parents were required to buy the readers their children used in school.
I still own my mom’s second grade reader, my dad’s 8th grade reader and the fourth grade readers of both my parents.
These are real treasures on more than one level. Obviously, there’s the connection to my parents. In addition, most of these books were filled with beautiful illustrations. The kind which required time, skill and patience to create.
The wealth of authors involved is truly astounding! So is the variety of styles and subjects in the stories and essays! Please excuse me while I don't get up on a soapbox--and fall off--but still manage to mourn for schoolchildren who will never receive the riches that were bestowed on us year after year. To be clear, the books we were lent each semester bore little resemblance to "new". I had a history text in sixth grade which was more mold than paper. I just don't understand what happened to early education in this country since the time when I was being, uh, early-educated.

Excuse me while I bore you with descriptions of these old books.

The Winston Companion Readers---Second Reader; Winston, 1923.
My favorites: Mr and Mrs Vinegar (my mom's favorite), The Wolf and the Fox, The Keg of Butter, How the Turtle Saved His Life, How the Sun the Moon and the Wind Went Out to Dinner, Tiny, Peeriefool; Ashiepattle and the King’s Hares.
Do you see a trend here? Fairy tales!
Here's a peek at the gorgeous cover at:
Many illustrations inside are nearly as intricate as the cover, especially the end papers.


My mom’s fourth grade reader was my second favorite book:
Good Reading: Fourth Reader; Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1927.

Favorite Stories:
The Turnip Children, The Elephant, Some Birds to Look for this Fall, Red-Riding Hood, Fables, Mice, Woodchuck Ways, David & the Giant, The Boyhood of Washington, Thor Among the Giants (loved this!); First Aid, Chip And Peep (memorized this), The Fly (memorized this), The Fairy Folk (memorized this & recited it at some kind of Brownies show for parents); A Letter from President Roosevelt, The Runaway Furniture (Intelligent and angry furniture, with a righteous cause! Very cool!).

Who are the authors? Do modern elementary school readers still try to introduce classic writers in fourth grade? Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Robert Louis Stevenson; William Shakespeare; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Walter de la Mare; The Younger Edda; Robert Browning; Teddy Roosevelt. (Wait til you see the authors in the 8th grade book.)


My dad’s fourth grade reader still amazes me because of the often serious subject matter and again for the illustrious authors.
Fact and Story Readers: Book Four; American Book Company, 1931.

Divided into the following sections:
Pt.1 Sailing the Seven Seas;
Pt.2 Boys & Girls Who Became Famous;
Pt.3 Out-of-Door Tales;
Pt.4 Doing the World’s Work;
Pt.5 In Story Land;
Pt.6 The Making of America.
Much of this was pretty stern stuff compared to my mom’s reader.
The publishers chose works from a variety of respected authors including the leaders in fairy tales: 
Thackeray’s The Bronze Door Knocker (extract from The Rose & the Ring—this story scared the bejeebers out of me!)); Charles Kingsley; Hans Christian Andersen; Emily Dickinson; Andrew Lang; Jonathan Swift; Walter de la Mare. 
You can find the cover of this one here:

What? No Shakespeare? Not in that collection or in my mom's but I did have my uncle's copy of Lamb's "Tales From Shakespeare". I didn't know what an apostrophe was so, for years, I thought the author called young readers "lambs".
And finally my dad’s eighth grade reader. Speaking of formidable books!

Divided into:
Pt.1 The World of Nature;
Pt.2 The World of Adventure (which includes: Masque of the Red Death; Noyes’ The Highwayman; A Christmas Carol; and the Lamb version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream;
Pt. 3 The Great American Experiment;
Pt.4 Literature and Life in the Homeland.
William Cullen Bryant; Wm Wordsworth; P B Shelley; Wm Shakespeare; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Robt Browning; Edgar Allan Poe; Sir Walter Scott; Henry Longfellow; Ch Dickens; Lord Byron; Joyce Kilmer; Daniel Webster; George Washington; Abraham Lincoln; Woodrow Wilson; Theodore Roosevelt; Robert Burns; Rudyard Kipling; Oliver Wendell Holmes; John G Whittier; Nathaniel Hawthorne; O Henry; Mark Twain.

The illustrations are few and tiny, and the cover isn’t impressive but you can find it here:

I don't know if this is clear--since I have the books and you don't--but there are very few women writers in any of these books. Principal characters in the fiction pieces also tend to be male. I never noticed this  back then, which is a blessing! I might have received a subliminal signal that “girls" don’t write.    ;-)


My paternal grandfather gave me three beautiful books a couple of years before his death--which would have been when I was about fifteen. These three are still much beloved:
“Robin Hood and His Merry Men” by Rosemary Kingston and illustrated by Alice Carsey.  So there were –some- women involved in writing and illustrating books. The exquisite illustrations were some of my favorites.

A collection of Rudyard Kipling’s "Stories and Poetry", featuring a richly-colored cover of two men on horseback chasing each other across a rugged terrain. This is the illustration for the poem “East is East, and West is West”. Which I like--except for the end. But, hey, it's Kipling.

I was enthralled before I opened the book. Wow, did I have trouble with the dialectical writing, though!


"The Complete Sherlock Holmes" This volume may have been published before authors began creating non-canonical stories. Does anyone know when the first Sherlock Holmes pastiche was written?
Six publishers had each printed multiple editions of Sherlock Holmes collections beginning in 1892. The volume my granddad gave me is copyright 1930, by Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Are you up for a Sherlock Holmes story challenge?

Doyle created these illustrations for five different stories. In which story can each be found?


And that’s about it. I’m sure I had other books—well, like the complete run of Donald Duck comics (for the mysteries, I’ll have you know).
But these are the books that I treasured as a child and that I still treasure today. God bless all those who wrote them and who gave them to me.

What books are your treasures from your childhood or teen years? Please tell us about them!
Sherry Thompson

How's that Sherlock Holmes quiz coming along?

Marooned (Narenta Tumult 1.5). 
Read Chapter 1, here! It really is going to be published. Soon. I promise!
The Narenta Tumults: SEABIRD
EARTHBOW    Vol.1     Vol.2   (oop)

Friday, January 6, 2017


Monday, January 17, 2011


This article appeared on the "Young Adult Authors You've Never Heard Of" blog back in January 17, 2011.

Many blog readers wrote great comments--which I've chosen to retain and place in their original positions. If you wrote a YAAYNHO blog comment back in 2011 for this entry, but don't want it reprinted, please contact me at   with "Confessions" as the subject. Thanks!

Please offer new writing-related confessions in the Comments! Again, Thank you.


Monday, January 17, 2011; revised Friday, January 6, 2017

"Currently, I am assembling files for a first draft manuscript that I began in the early-mid-1980s. Tentatively titled, “The Gryphon and the Basilisk”, it’s a huge Young Adult fantasy series, and large parts of it haven’t been touched since I originally wrote them out in longhand between 1979 & 1983."
 The longhand portions were joined by typewritten scenes and character sketches, 'notes to self' and whole chapters keyed in using WORD for the first time. 
"As I’ve been slogging through this preliminary work preparatory to my second revision, I’ve been struck repeatedly by lame brain errors that I used to make decades ago when I began to write. Some involve placing commas in the wrong places or just plain using too many of them. I’ve improved my punctuation. Really.
I'm still guilty of plotting, characterization and setting slip-ups today that I confessed back in 2011. And by now I should know better.

So here are my Writing Confessions of 2011, in lieu of a New Year’s Resolution.
What? You thought that I would end this 'Confession' with a pledge to move forward and resolve to never make these errors again? 
I know myself too well to pledge something like that.
Don't you?

I just hope I catch most of my errors in "Marooned", and in subsequent revisions of G&B and future books like, 'The Peace Bride" or the partially written "Da Boid, da Tree-Rat, n da Loser" before they are published (if ever).

Returning to 'Confessions 2011'

1. To begin, we need look no further than the first paragraph of this blog entry. Look at it there—an adverb and beginning the sentence to boot, as if in defiance of editorial protocol everywhere. Frankly, I’ve never understood why we have adverbs if we’re not supposed to use them. But, I guess that’s just me, being logical. I used to use adverbs all over the place, but I am trying to get better. “I’m Sherry Thompson, and I’ve been off adverbs for /f/i/v/e one minutes.” (See the ‘Frankly” above?)

2. Using versions of “to be” like “was” and “were” instead of strong verbs. Poor “to be”—it’s evidently weak. Maybe that’s because no writer is allowed to exercise it. It’s so weak that even when I write about its weakness, I use “is” to describe its situation—cleverly hidden in the “it’s” above. (Oops! More adverbs.)

When I found out that “is”, “was”, “were”, etc were no-no’s, I began searching for them in my documents. I instructed WORD’s software to replace each “is” for example with “IS”. This can be problematic when you have a recurring character named AlphesIS.

I/n/s/p/i/t/e In spite of the inherent difficulties in attacking manuscript revision with all of those errors hanging out on each page, I eventually expanded the practice to help me zero in on adverbs. In that case, I told WORD to replace all examples of “ly” with “LY”. This worked fine! AssembLY, alLY, and such don’t turn up that frequentLY in my writing, so I was finalLY able to zero in on the actual errors.

3. Having conquered adverbs and versions of “to be”, I moved on to POV. Though I didn’t then know the name for it, when I first began write I was evidently using the Omniscient POV, which fell out of favor a hundred years ago. Well, I’ve always been a bit behind my time.
I’m proud to say that I’ve cut down the numbers of times I switch point of view from a half dozen times per scene to about two. I’m still working very hard on this, encouraged by a friend who wrote that my less frequent POV switches remind him of switching gears on a manual gearshift. After a while, he wrote, he got used to it! Awesome!

4. Next up was learning what goes into each paragraph and what doesn’t. Back in the 80’s, I was convinced that all dialogue was sequestered in its own paragraphs, cut off for reasons unknown from the POV paragraph of the speaker. I know better now intellectually but I still have trouble convincing my fingers to follow through and do this with the keyboard.

5. Which brings me to anatomical parts. Sorry! Not as you think. I’ve discovered that I permit parts of the body to stroll off and do their own thing—especially eyes and hands. Example: “Bill’s eyes 👀 studied her face, looking for a clue to her thoughts.” Or: “Her hand grasped his hand and gave it a squeeze.” (All the while her brain was screaming through her mouth 👅 to her hand ✋ to stop doing that!) This gets weird very quickly. Sometimes in revision, I feel like I was writing horror in my first draft.

6. Other writing errors to which I succumb regularly? I got a million of’em, at least when it comes to my private stable of misspelled words.
I seem to be convinced that “amongst” should be spelled “amoungst”, making me more British than the British;
And that “about” doesn’t really need that “o” (which is a real problem since WORD doesn’t flag “abut” as a spelling error. 
And that “inspite” really isn’t (is?) one word. I still can’t deal when it comes to sorting out this one.
I do this with character names sometimes too. When I was assembling the various chapters of “The Gryphon and the Basilisk”, I noticed my character “Medea” devolved later into “Media” 📹 which in turn devolved into “Melia”. Fortunately, a WORD Replace command really did work out fine for fixing this.

7. Two more and then I’ll stop. G&B is full of angst and strong emotions. However, that’s no excuse for having everyone getting teary-eyed and even outright crying at the drop of a line of dialogue. And when the characters aren’t crying, they’re sighing.

I used to work with someone who was a part-time freelance editor. After reading something of mine maybe 15 years ago, she commented that she was putting me on a diet—I was allowed no more than one sigh per chapter or story. In this much older manuscript, written decades before I knew her, I laughed at such restrictions. Or maybe I sighed over them. One of my favorite type of “dialogue tags” consisted of “Luisa sighed and commented…” Sometimes she multitasked. 
example: Luisa sighed, 🙎 "This makes no sense."

Yes, before you ask, I realize that I’d better fire up that WORD Replace once more and input, “sigh”, “abut” and numerous other no-nos.

And yes I used to write “once more” frequently. I’m not sure what the attraction was. Because I like the lyrics to "Once More" by Locklin? Sure... That's it.  😉

Well, those are some of the forbidden writing choices I used to indulge in back in the early 80’s—and still do on occasion. Now it’s your turn. Don’t leave me dangling out here with all of my composition short-comings hanging out all by themselves. What typical writing errors have you overcome or are still battling?
Sherry Thompson


Below are the Original Comments in response to my "Confessions" blog entry when it was posted at YAAYNHO on January 17 2011. I hope they are readable!