by Ashley Spruill
A wise wizard once said, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic...” Movie Dumbledore was certainly on to something – so much so that I decorated my college graduation cap with this very quote. I’ve always been a proud and enthusiastic reader, encouraged by parents and teachers alike. And the power of the written word has never been lost on me. Now, as a Scholastic fall intern, I can’t help but reflect on the books I consumed as a child that fostered my love of reading and, inadvertently, got me into the publishing industry.
For me, so many books have been a source of wonder and inspiration, but these top five picks hold a special place in my heart for making me laugh, making me cry, and helping me understand myself and the world around me a little bit better.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Considering I already admitted to decorating a Dumbledore quote on my graduation cap, this first pick is probably not a surprise. As a Potterhead, I often struggle to find the words to describe what this franchise means to me. I started reading the books in second grade, and the series carried me all the way to the summer before my first year of college when the eighth movie premiered. There was something intimate about growing up with characters intricately and beautifully flawed, falling into a world so carefully crafted with details that it still feels real. And what truly made this series timeless is that it has never read the same way twice. The lessons I picked up as a child are not the same ones I pick up as an adult. This series inspired me to take on more challenging books at a very young age, and to feel that level of empowerment is something I am truly thankful for.
Night by Elie Wiesel
Speaking of challenging books I read at a young age – Wiesel’s harrowing autobiography about his experience in Nazi German concentration camps was the first non-fiction book I remember reading of my own accord as a child. Despite what I had learned in school about the horrors of the Holocaust, to actually read a first-hand account from a survivor completely changed how I viewed that time in history and its significance in the world today. It was, at the time, writing that was gritty and real and unlike anything I had really read before. It was hard to get through – but this work was my first lesson in how books can help outsiders understand someone else’s struggle and pain, something I would never forget.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
If Night was my foray into serious non-fiction, then Shel Silverstein’s poems were my comic relief. I would walk around quoting the poems (sometimes I still do), reading from the collection we had on hand at my school library. I admit that poetry is not always my favorite style of writing, but I’ve always had an appreciation for it. For Silverstein to make it fun and inviting, but also often heart-warming and kind, made me feel encouraged. Also, the knock-knock joke “The Meehoo and an Exactlywatt” is literary perfection and one of the greatest things to exist (don’t @ me). I even got A Light in the Attic as a college graduation gift, and anxiously await the days where I have all of his poems in my collection.
The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book by Bill Watterson
One of my favorite things about reading is that there is no limit to what you can read – just read something. Comics in the Sunday paper was my childhood staple but none compared to the adventures of six-year-old Calvin and his toy tiger, Hobbes. Although we owned several books compiling Bill Watterson’s most iconic duo (name another, I’ll wait), Lazy Sunday was my first time reading the comics and I was instantly hooked. As a child with an active imagination of my own, Calvin was surprisingly relatable in his various adventures and quests (except I was better behaved). There’s something about books and characters that make you laugh that make them more memorable and engaging. Whenever I needed something light and carefree, I was pulling out this book and lying on the floor in our living room, flipping through the pages in stitches. Watterson’s characters were the perfect reminder that it’s always okay to have a wild imagination (just don’t cause your parents any intentional duress).
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
Siblings, amirite? Parents think they have it tough, but try being the oldest child. At least that’s how it felt growing up with my little sister ﹘ love you, sis! ﹘ and man did I connect with Peter Hatcher on the most profound and personal level as he struggled to deal with his little brother, Fudge. In addition to the overall humor of the story, Blume has an absolute knack for getting in the head of her readers and pulling out feelings that, on their own, seem intimidating but, with her stories and characters, become a truth, universally acknowledged. Blume has a knack for creating coming-of-age stories that resonate with her readers, and I was no different, even from a young age.