Chloe Pinkney is a senior at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, NY. This summer Chloe is an intern in The Scholastic Library, where she is working on various projects related to visual storytelling - from social media to items for our upcoming 100 year anniversary.
I tend to go towards books where I feel a real connection with the main character. My favorite books all have a main character that is very similar to me. This makes putting myself in the character’s shoes very easy because I already feel like I am the character in some way. I gravitate towards books with a strong female lead, searching for both inspiration and someone to laugh at like I laugh at myself.
Here are the five books that have influenced me most:
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon: From the moment I was able to make decisions on what I chose to wear to school, I was meticulous about my outfits. Whether it was the frills on the wrists of my dresses or the buckles on my shoes, everything needed to be on-point. I was so particular about my grade-school wardrobe that I threw mini-tantrums if I felt my “look” wasn’t complete, and I guess author-illustrator David Shannon (or a kid in his life) can relate. In Shannon’s book, A Bad Case of Stripes, Camilla’s struggle to pick the perfect outfit for her first day of school is completely realistic for someone like me. When Camilla breaks out in rainbow stripes after a fashion anxiety attack, she’s forced to stay home from school. Soon after that, Camilla’s skin is covered with stars, polka dots, twigs, and berries. As a young reader I loved all the colors and designs on Camilla’s skin. What a fashion statement! Each skin pattern gave me an idea for a pattern I wanted to wear on my skirt the next day. Although Camilla was embarrassed by the shapes and textures covering her arms and legs, I was enchanted by Shannon’s use of colors. These inspired me to be as daring with my wardrobe as Camilla was, even though she was embarrassed and ridiculed at school for the patterns that covered her body.
Camp Confidential: Natalie’s Secret by Melissa J. Morgan: Thanks to this series, I took the plunge and went to sleep-away camp when I was only nine years old. Camp Confidential allowed me to explore the fun of sleep away camp before I could make my dream of going to camp a reality. The first of a full series of chapter books about girls at a sleep away camp in the same bunk, Camp Confidential is a coming of age tale for the girls featured in each book. My favorite book, “Natalie’s Secret,” is the first title of the series and it is about a city girl who’s forced to leave her diva lifestyle and trade in sunglasses for sunscreen. As a fourth grader, I understood Natalie’s background and preference for being in the streets and loft spaces of New York to being in a log cabin in the woods. Although Natalie’s dramatic, high-end needs are seen as annoying by her bunk mates, the other girls soon come around to see Natalie’s qualities as endearing. When I started reading this series with my dad, I was so taken by its characters and scenarios that I quickly used them to convince my parents to send me to sleep away camp. Much like Natalie, I used my first day of camp to expose my fellow bunk mates to what I thought of back then as a true New York princess (keep in mind that I only nine years old): I showed up at camp wearing a plastic tiara. That wardrobe choice was a bold one, but it encompassed who I was, a true city girl who felt she was royalty among the pine trees and plank-wood bunk beds of camp. Eventually the girls in my bunk came to love my eccentricity. These same girls are some of my best friends today, and my summers at sleep-away camp are still my fondest childhood memories.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier: From the time I was in seventh grade until my sophomore year of high school, I was cursed, like so many are, with braces. For me, having braces was not only physically tortuous, but it was also simply not a cute look. The orthodontist promised I would only have to wear the braces for two years, but two years turned into four years. It was endless, and I was one of the last kids in my grade to still have those torturous traps on my teeth. By the time I finally got the braces taken off I’d had it! Smile helped me get through the tough, awkward years of being called “brace face.” Telgemeier’s graphic novel also gave me a fun break from the more serious novels I was reading in class. Smile took my mind off of my teen troubles and brought me into the world of Telgemeier’s struggles, which were similar to my own, and made me feel less alone.
So Sad Today by Melissa Broder: Wow, what a powerful book! From the very first page, Melissa Broder took me on a ride through her brain. I love this book because it’s one of the first I’ve read that touches on mental health without making it clinical. So Sad Today is a collection of personal essays drawn from the author’s Twitter account that showcase her random thoughts and moments of anxiety. Broder is funny, sad, and realistic. I was able to relate to her view of anxiety in ways that are witty and genuine. Broder takes us into very intimate and brave parts of her life, from creating a fantasy of someone to trying to find her higher self. Thanks to Broder, readers don’t feel so alone in their thoughts and feelings. Broder’s ability to show every side of her – the good, bad, and ugly – is a reminder of how multifaceted we all are and the good and bad ways people cope with everyday struggles.
We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby: This is by far one of the funniest books I have ever read! I let out an audible laugh on every other page of Irby’s book, and so I may have looked a little insane while reading it on the train, but that’s this book’s power. As a huge fan of personal essays, I found Irby’s collection especially remarkable. It’s rare to find a memoir or personal essay collection written by a black woman that is as frank and comedic as this one. Irby tackles difficult matters, including race, mental health, body image, and poverty. She makes tough subjects meaningful and hilarious. Her humor is smart, gritty and relatable in so many ways. In each essay I felt as though Irby was expressing thoughts and opinions that I could not put into words, in ways that made me laugh and cry.