The other night, I was feeling sick to my stomach. The Japanese Nobel Prize-winning novel I’ve been slogging through was not getting it done. Sometimes, a reader needs the comfort of a bedtime story. So I routed through the three stacks-deep shelves of books in the upper half of my closet until I came across what I was looking for: a little known but beloved to me novel that I bought at my elementary school book fair. It got me to thinking about when I first developed as a reader, past the picture books of bears and fairy tales. I thought it would be nice to pay homage to those first books that truly awakened me as a reader and saw me through those pre-teen years.
Missing Carrie Phillips: Age 15 and Don’t Tell Mom were a two novel series written by Janet Dagon in the early 90’s, about a dysfunctional family in which the older sister is a runaway who dates the wrong boys, experiments with substance abuse, shoplifts, etc. More so, it’s about the younger sister who’s trying to maintain a normalcy of life while her emotionally distraught parents and narcissistic sister duke it out.
I loved these books because they captured what it was like to be a child in a family that was far from perfect, but at the core loved each other; I could relate. The characters were real to me; I identified with them. The novels were written with beautiful description as well. The writing flowed effortlessly, and there was an element of maturity that spoke to me even as a young reader.
Years ago, I gave these books away, ready to move on to more “grown-up” reading. Then, about five years ago, I was feeling part nostalgic, part in the mood for a good book hunt, and I tracked down a used copy of Don’t Tell Mom on Amazon and bought it used. I was sad to discover that only copies of Missing that were up for grabs were a second or third edition, but I bought it anyway b/c the story was more important than the cover. Then, low and behold, I was at a yard sale about a year later, and there lay an original copy, a twenty-five cent sticker attached to it. Now both hold a special place in my book collection; the ones that started it all.
In the spirit of nostalgia, here are some other books that long ago disappeared from my collection, but are remembered fondly as good friends and fun reading: