Whether or not you’re a nostalgic person, you will never forget your favorite books growing up. Your taste in literature may change, along with your reading habits, but the books you read when you’re young are imprinted in your brain forever. Here are a couple books I read and re-read through middle school, along with one I wish I had read before my teenage years.
What Katy Did—Sarah Chauncey Woolsey. In college, Sarah Chauncey Woolsey wrote this charming novel under the pen name of Susan Coolidge. It follows Katy Carr, a twelve-year-old daydreamer, into adolescence. As the oldest of six children who lost their mother years ago, she is constantly expected to set an example to her younger siblings, which she often fails to do, but not for lack of enthusiasm. She is reminded of this frequently by her father, Dr. Carr, and Aunt Izzie, a strict disciplinarian who has been raising the children since their mother died. Aunt Izzie’s general disapproval of her only adds to Katy’s disappointment at being “all legs and elbows, and angles and joints.”
Among the many relationships that the book explores, a notable one is the strong bond between Katy and her sister Clover, second oldest of the Carr siblings. Shy, soft-spoken Clover complements Katy’s wild, whimsical nature. Katy doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do when she grows up, but she’s sure it will be something marvelous, and Clover faithfully agrees. Through the countless escapades, Katy grows on you with her wit and artlessness. It is a heartwarming story filled with colorful characters with interesting turns in the plot.
Black Beauty—Anna Sewell. This famous autobiography of a horse personifies a handsome black stallion with a white star on his forehead. He begins at his dewy days as a foal on a farm. After he is broken in, he is bought by the village squire. Here he meets a few other horses, some of whom, he realizes, have not been as well-treated as he has. As he grows older, he moves from the countryside to the city, and has a diverse experience at the hands of several owners with varying temperaments. There are instances of animal cruelty in the book that give you the victim’s perspective on the subject.
The theme of empathy towards animals and their reciprocation to it is prominent throughout the book. When Black Beauty describes how uncomfortable it is to wear a bit, and how his first owner takes great care to make sure his breaking in is as comfortable as it can get, his affection for the farmer becomes prominent. Later, he grows to love his first ever groom, John. Black Beauty is the first popular novel to change the way we look at animal welfare, and is a classic for all ages.
Anne of Green Gables—L.M. Montgomery. The novel is set in the picturesque, fictional town of Avonlea where life is uneventful until the Cuthberts decide to adopt a boy from an orphanage to help around the farm. Matthew and his sister, Marilla Cuthbert, live in Green Gables, a house on the edge of the woods. When Matthew goes to receive the boy at the station, he is in for a surprise. A fortunate miscommunication brings Anne to Green Gables, which her extraordinarily imaginative mind transforms into something out of a fairy tale—something she frequently does with places and things. The only thing she can’t seem to improve with imagination is her red hair, which she hates.
Through many adventures and misadventures with her “bosom friend,” Diana Barry, and other assorted characters over the course of four years, Anne becomes irreplaceable in the hearts of her family and friends in Avonlea. Although Anne sounds mature for her age when she speaks, mostly because she uses long words, her naeïvete appears every now and then when she gets into scrapes, or when she tries to deal with the awkwardness of entering adolescence. Reading this book is a luxurious experience, full of eloquent descriptions of the most mundane things transformed into something exotic and beautiful through Anne’s eyes.