Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Shelf Discovery Challenge

My 2008 Reading Project was to focus on children’s and young adult literature and I used that as an excuse to revisit a lot of my old favourites, so when I heard about the challenge that had erupted around Lizzie Skurnick’s Shelf Discovery last year, the decision to join the  Shelf Discovery Challenge was an easy one. The hard part was narrowing down the list.

I found that I recognized the majority of the books that Skurnick considers in her book. A lot of them were favourites but I decided to narrow my choices to books that I’d loved well enough to hang onto them for those couple of decades in between. And, in the case of the Zindel novel, I read The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger many times, but it’s another of his titles that shows the most wear.

That brought me to these titles:
Laura Ingalls’ Wilder’s The Long Winter
Sandra Scoppettone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike
Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Meet the Austins
Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Little Princess
Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Judy Blume’s Blubber
Paul and Bonnie Zindel’s A Star for a Latecomer
Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall
and Jean Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear

But as I was going through my shelves, I realized that there were a lot of books that I read and re-read just as many times (so many times that the titles were hard to read past all the creases in the spines or the layer of glossy paper there had started to peel back, so I wanted to include these titles as well:

Mary Stewart’s The Little Broomstick
Sheila Greenwald’s It All Began With Jane Eyre
Deborah Hautzig’s Hey Dollface
Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes
Joan Lowery Nixon’s The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore
Jean Little’s One to Grow On
Julie Andrews Edwards’ The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
Lyn Cook’s Samantha’s Secret Room
Janet Lunn’s The Root Cellar
L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle
and Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah

A lot of these were from Canadian writers and even though I certainly wasn’t aware of writers as having national identities at that age, availability certainly played a role. I’m sure Lizzie Skurnick’s public library didn’t have 6 or 8 Jean Little and Lyn Cook titles, but mine did. So however unappealing some of the plain, dull library bindings may have seemed (and some of them were dull indeed), it was inevitable that I would eventually try one of them and then another, and so on and so on. Small town libraries lend themselves to re-reading and multiple titles by a single author were an invitation to be a loyal reader: these writers were practically bound to be favourites.

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