If you’re like me, you were inspired to become a better reader and a blossoming writer from one or more books you read as a child.
As a ten-year-old, I could usually be found curled up on my bed after school, engrossed in my favorite series, the Nancy Drew Mysteries. Along with my book, I had my go-to snacks handy, namely, an apple and a generous portion of Fritos. A napkin helped me keep the book pages clean since nothing was allowed to sully my best friend and heroine Nancy! I also had pencil and paper nearby to note new vocabulary words that I wanted to learn and use when I wrote mini adventures for Nancy and her friends.
On many evenings, my mother would repeatedly call me for dinner from the kitchen where my family was already seated and ready to dig into the meal that my dear grandmother had prepared. I used to pretend that “Gama” was Nancy’s live-in housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. Well, needless to say, I did not make an appearance. I was too cozy and lost in Nancy Land once again to hear my mom or anything. But suddenly, my book would go flying out of my hands! My mother, who had stormed into my room unbeknownst to me, said, “Sherrill, get your nose out of this book and come to the table!” I scurried off my bed to rescue Nancy and company from my mother’s grip before apologizing and following her to dinner. I would glance back at the book and say, “Don’t worry, Nancy. I’ll be right back and bring you some dessert.”
The Secret of the Samurai Sword and The Mystery of the Green Cat, both by Phyllis A. Whitney, were other mysteries I read over and over again as a child. Whitney’s books took me to other lands and paved the way when I would read Pearl S. Buck in high school and as an English major in college.
I can’t leave out The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I became the little orphan girl, Mary Lennox, who was sent from a cholera-stricken India to live with her hunchback uncle in a spooky Yorkshire, England, mansion. The house and garden ignited my imagination then and still. And the master gardener, Dickon, was the brother I never had but always wanted.
After college, I became a literacy teacher and over my thirty-five-year career, taught every grade K-12. What joy bringing these stories and more to my students’ reading. I would also use passages from them and other books as “mentor texts” to spark and improve their imaginative writings.
Now that I’m retired, what fun to realize a lifelong dream to be a published children’s mystery book author! Thank you, friend Nancy, Miss Phyllis, and Miss Frances. I couldn’t have done any of it without you.