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 Tracy Marchini, a former literary agent and current children’s author. Here are the four books that changed her life!
There is a clear disadvantage to being an August child. One, my birthday party was always on days when my friends’ families were squeezing in their last summer vacations. And two, my penchant for August means that so many of the books that I would have chosen for Four Book Friday have already been discussed! (Clearly, Mackenzie and her friends have good taste!) In order to avoid repeats, my four would have to be:
Chatty Chipmunk’s Nutty Day by Suzanne Gruber and Doug Cushman
– Though this is an easy reader now, when I was a child it would have been considered a picture book. And I loved it.
I loved the repeating refrain (“Chitter, chitter, chatter. I like nuts!”), the artwork and the appearance of a cat (perhaps because I subconsciously knew that I would spend the next eight years of my life begging for one.) As a child, I did not wonder if the cat would be more interested in the chipmunk than his winter acorn stash. Now – in my wiser, elder years – I think that I probably misunderstood the obviously murderous look on the cat’s face.
A Treasury of Fairy Tales by Lucy Kincaid, Eric Kincaid and Gerry Embleton –
This book broke my young heart
. Or more so, the destruction of this book by my younger brother (who, granted, was only four or five), broke my heart. This was the most gorgeous, illustrated collection of fairy tales my eyes had ever seen. Each fairy tale was a page to three pages max, with lush illustrations surrounding the page. I would have compared it to an illuminated manuscript, if I knew what that was at the time and ignored the difference between tri-color printing and painstakingly illustrating individual pages by hand. Even the end papers were lush! But when my brother threw it down the stairs and it snapped in two – with the cover going in one direction and the story of Snow White split right at the climax – it probably was the birth of my desire to never
lend books to friends, lest they crack the spine. (I have mostly gotten over this. Depending on the book.)
Nancy Drew and ::fill in the blank here:: by Carolyn Keene –
I followed Nancy Drew from her days of her vintage, blue 1970’s Mustang convertible to a puffy haired, puffy sleeved Bess in the Nancy Drew Case Files. At night, I would read until the point where Nancy was about to go into a dark room alone, then close the book and tuck it under the bed (not because books were ever censored in my house — it was more of a “Joey throwing Little Women in the freezer” reaction.) Then I’d pick it up again in the morning — Yay, daylight!
To me, Nancy was fearless — the kind of teen I wanted to be. (Though I wondered if she’d really spend that much time with Bess. What did they talk about, really?)
Caveat: This is not to say that Nancy and I would have agreed on all things. There are obvious problems with racism/sexism/classism in the original (and decades of rewritten) Nancy Drews. If the 1980’s were the decade of the superwoman, one could argue that a contemporary Nancy reflected that and that is why my recollection of the series is Nancy as a fearless/do-it-all-to-perfection woman. This, of course, comes with problems of its own. Moving on…
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
– In college, I did an independent study on Jane Austen’s politics. I had a friend at the time who was also an English major, and he hated Jane Austen with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I tried to convince him that Austen’s novels were actually very smart, sociopolitical commentaries, but to him she was just a silly woman who wrote trashy books.
So one day, I printed out a couple of Jane Austen quotes, and my roommate and I tucked them into various parts of his car, so that he’d have a little Jane Austen with him wherever he went. Fast forward a few days, and I walk into my bedroom and it is covered in thousands of little slips of paper, individually cut into little rectangles that say, “Jane Austen Sucks.” Years after graduation, I still occasionally find one of these papers.
Tracy Marchini is a freelance editor and author. She’s worked at a Manhattan literary agency, as a children’s book reviewer and newspaper correspondent. More about her editorial work and her books for children and teens can be found at www.tracymarchini.com. She’s also on Twitter at @TracyMarchini, where she daily fights the urge to tweet pictures of her favorite picture book protagonists — ducks.
Want more Four Book Friday? Here are more posts in the series:
- Mariah Manley on How Green was my Valley, Grapes of Wrath, and Hope and Fanny
- Lisa Palin on Harry Potter, Grover, Anne, and Group 6
- 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