Welcome back to Four Book Friday, a continuing series where writers and readers tell us about four books that changed their life! This week’s post comes from Lisa Palin, one of my fellows at Simmons College and an avid kidlit reader and writer. Here are the four books that changed her life!
The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone – I have crystal clear memories of sitting in my Dad’s lap – long before I could read – and laughing hysterically as he “struggled” to turn the pages after Grover had barricaded them with tape and bricks. As an adult, I can look at this book and say that the story invites participation by the child, escalates in intensity and tension, and then resolves with humor and heart. As a toddler, I just loved it and wanted to read it myself, which is one of the reasons I became a very early reader…and why it makes the list of books that changed my life.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – I was more of a Diana but desperately wanted to be an Anne. Something about her desperate longing for…everything…resonated with me. As a shy, bookish little girl who craved attention but was afraid to get it, and who would rather not act than make a mistake, I understood desperate longing. Watching Anne struggle to be herself and to be worthy of love, only to learn that they were one and the same, taught me that wishing and wanting are fine, that doing (even with mistakes) is better, and that being me was okay because people who are worthy of me were the ones who would love me for it. It’s the philosophy by which I live my life, and it has served me well. I’m finally an Anne, and I couldn’t be happier.
The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson – I read this book for the first time in junior high in the early 90s. Since no one has ever heard of this book (for shame, all of you!), here is the concept: five teens who don’t get along with their parents arrive at their new boarding school for an orientation camping trip, only to discover that their parents have paid the school to have them assassinated. Yep. That’s what this book is about. Parents assassinating their own kids. Of course, the assassin is a twenty-something nobody who has second thoughts, and then the games really begin. My heart pounds just thinking about it. This book changed my life because before then, the darkest books I had read were about issues like drugs and disease. This sort of realistic but fantastic darkness opened my eyes to a whole new world of storytelling and is part of what led me to writing thrillers.
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling – You may have noticed that all of the books on this list are children’s books. It is my field, after all, but I think the causal relationship goes in the other direction: books that changed my life are children’s books, and thus writing children’s books is how I want to change the lives of others. I didn’t always know this, however. Sometime in 2000-ish, shortly after college, I was writing adult fiction. Someone told me to read the Harry Potter books and I was puzzled. They were kids’ books. But I picked up the first one. And the second one. And was duly impressed. Then…then…I read the Prizoner of Azkaban. This book took my breath away. The intricate plotting, the mystery, the emotional punch as Harry learns who was responsible – or so he thinks at the time – for his parents’ death, the raising of the stakes, the way the story pulled details from the first two books and made this plotting thing look so easy (it’s not, trust me)…I was blown away. My attitude towards children’s books, which I had left behind sometime in high school, did a 180. And here I am today.
Lisa Palin is a writer, teacher, and a recovering attorney who has trouble sitting still. When not spinning tales or captivating juries, she can be found hiking, drinking IPA, planning a trip to Disney World, or marathoning her latest television obsession. As a RI native, she calls a drinking fountain a bubbler and gives directions based on where things used to be. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA and is not related to the similarly-named Alaskan family. You can check out her occasional updates at LIsaPalin.com and CreativelyUnhinged.com.
Want more Four Book Friday? Here are more posts in the series:
- Greg Batcheler on four different series from Star Trek to Frog and Toad
- Caitlin Jacobs on food, I Capture the Castle, and epic fantasy
- Smatt Read on The Little Prince, Black and White, E.B. White, and Mazes!
- Jenny Kaczorowski on A Little Princess, Beatrix Potter, and the two books that brought her back to YA
- Katy Upperman on A Thousand Splendid Suns, Gayle Forman, Caroline B. Cooney, and Blubber
- Krista Van Dolzer on To Kill a Mockingbird, Lois Lowry, Stargirl and the power of introverts
- Hannah Thompson on Rumble Fish, Harry Potter, Chris Crutcher, and John Green.
- Clarissa Hadge on A Wrinkle In Time, Tamora Pierce, North to Freedom, and Mi Revalueshanary Fren
- Mackenzi Lee on Laini Taylor, One Day, The Thief Lord, and a book about a man and his steam shovel