A few weeks ago I was looking at the books on the free cart in the Scholastic Library when I noticed the title The Chocolate Touch. I grabbed it off the cart and memories deep, deep down in my subconscious immediately started to rise up to the surface.
"Oh man I LOVED THIS BOOK!" I exclaimed to the libarians, at a loud yet library-appropriate level. "It's about a kid who turns everything he touches into chocolate!"
I flipped the book over to the summary and began to read aloud. "John Midas loves chocolate ..." I stopped.
"His name is John MIDAS?! I *just* got that."
I imagine if we look back and read some of our favorite stories from childhood, we'd experience a lot of these moments: when something that went completely over your head as a child suddenly *clicks* as an adult. I asked some of my colleagues if this had ever happened to them!
Anushka: I started the Harry Potter series when I was about 9 years old, and I remember being amazed at the names J.K. Rowling came up with. It was only as a teenager when the reasons behind the names she chose started clicking – such as Nagini being the word for female snake in Hindi, or that the word ‘Erised’ (i.e. The Mirror of Erised where Harry sees his greatest desires) was ‘Desire’ backwards.
Morgan: There were a ton of things in The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin that didn’t click for me until I was older. One of my favorites is when each character had to write their name and job title down during the reading of Mr. Westing’s will. Each one was then read out loud. Angela Wexler, a character who was about to be married, wrote “Angela Wexler, none” but everyone in the room thought it said “Angela Wexler, nun.” That went right over my 8-year-old head!
Deimosa: My sister and I a year apart and we shared many things, as siblings do, including books. As young bookworms, we read every Baby-sitters Club, Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley Twins title that we could get our hands on and passed them back and forth, but we rarely talked about them! Maybe never? One day in our late teens/early twenties, somehow we got to talking about the Wakefield twins and Elizabeth’s nemesis and Jessica’s bff – Lila Fowler. My sister said LEE-LAH Fowler and then I said, no, it’s pronounced LIE-LAH… and we looked at each other. It might be the first time we talked about a book, despite having read and shared hundreds. The “click” here was realizing that even though we’d read the same cannon of books as kids, we may have had completely different experiences with the texts. Now that I know about reader response theory, I get it.