"Right-o," I said today, standing in the used bookstore. In my quest to revisit the reading of my youth, now that I am somehow a children’s author, I have read Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and Bunnicula and Gildaen and The Egypt Game and the Great Brain books and Thurber* and Little House on the Whatsit and enough kid’s fantasy to wallpaper a battleship**.
I already revisited James Herriot and the Hobbit and the Jungle Book and the Pern books years ago, and I can get all of E. Nesbit at Project Gutenburg. Hmmm. I have one of the McGurk mysteries on order at Amazon, and I don’t know if I can bear to start in on the Bobbsey Twins…
All those weird point-of-view-of-the-animal books…what is that genre called? Is there one? They didn’t talk, they were wild animals. Kind’ve Boy’s Life/Gateway to Furry Fandom. Some of the books were REALLY old. There were a dozen about foxes, I remember, who were generally eluding hunters, and I know I read one about a bobcat, and one about a mustang called Cinchfoot, and there was one about a cougar called Yellow Eyes that I re-read until the pages fell apart. Hmm. I dunno if I need to revist that genre any time soon…and checking the prices of some of those used on Amazon, I definitely don’t. Forty bucks? Sheesh!
What else was I reading in those halcyon days of yore, anyway?
Well, there were two other things I was reading. One was Star Trek novels, which I was not quite old enough to really get my teeth into, but slogged through religiously nonetheless, much to the improvement of my vocabulary and my comprehension of Vulcan sex. The other, which I had largely forgotten until I cast my eye across the shelves and suddenly twitched was….was…oh god…
The horse books.
I don’t mean Marguerite Henry, who I revisited awhile back, or even the Black Stallion books, which I have lumped with the Bobbsey twins under monolithic undertakings that I am not willing to commit to. (And those got REALLY weird towards the end, too. Does anybody else remember the Black Stallion book with aliens? (I’m pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate that. I might have.) And one with a rabid vampire bat and one really messed up one that I think was about voodoo or something but they drug the rider in the middle of a swamp so that the Black Stallion will get it on with some weird voodoo mare…that one was like a drug trip except that I was nine and had no idea what a drug trip would be like, but looking back now, the parallels are undeniable. Hmm, come to think of it, maybe I should dig some of those up. Aliens, Mr. Farley? Really?)
No, I’m talking about that time honored girl-and-her-horse genre so beloved of pre-teen girls. I recall buying one. I think I got it from a Scholastic bookfair thing, and I recall my mother rolling her eyes rather hard during the ordering process. I re-read it fifty bizillion times or so. It was called "Panky in the Saddle." SHUT UP DON’T JUDGE ME. I didn’t read the Babysitter’s Club books, because nobody in their right mind would ask me to babysit, so it was a non-starter. Instead I read horse books, when I could get them.
I don’t remember many of the others. I know there must have been others, my memory is that it was an entire genre, but I can’t pull any of them up in my head…but god, I know I read any of them I could get my hands on.
I will buy a Regency romance without feeling a dash of shame these days, my friendship with Deb nee Sabrina Jeffries has broken me of such angst, but I tucked the copy of "Canterwood Crest" in between some Gail Carson Levine and Poul Anderson and fought the urge to justify myself to the clerk. Oh, the shame of it all. (And what would I say, really? "I’m an author! It’s okay!"? Right…)
This is good for me. This will make me a better writer. And if I find I Iove it and buy everything in the series, I just hope I will someday be able to face myself in the mirror again.
*Which is MUCH funnier as an adult.
**And was my library just inadequate, or did the kid’s fantasy genre EXPLODE between the mid-eighties and now? Seriously. I jumped to Xanth and Dragonlance out of sheer desperation around ten or eleven, because I had to return The Hero and the Crown and Ratha’s Creature to the library SOMETIME, and the pickings got awful slim after that.