Childhood Books that influenced the Stories I made up

Today at my college library they had a poster up about banned books, and I was amazed to see “Blubber,” by Judy Blume, on the list. I have no idea why anyone would ban that book.

I remember when I first saw the book “Blubber,” sitting on the upstairs bookshelf. I picked it up when I went into my room, sat on the couch, and devoured it.

The main character was this average girl named Jill who went to public school where there were popular girls who were bullies. The main popular bully was a girl named Wendy. Wendy picked on a fat-ish girl named Linda by calling her “blubber,” and Jill joined in even though she was not as mean-spirited as Wendy.

Eventually Jill stood up to Wendy and Wendy was so so so mad. She re-focused her efforts, becoming friends with Linda and bullying Jill instead. Linda bullied Jill too. Everyone bullied Jill.

And then…this was the most amazing part…Jill stood up to all the bullies. She said all these cutting words which made them stop in their tracks and re-think their life. Maybe not exactly. But they stopped bullying her.

I loved that book. I dreamed of going to a public school and getting bullied and saying all the right things to make them stop, fazed at my amazingness.

My mom was bullied in public school. She was amish, and the boys made fun of her covering. They would say “everything’s better with a bonnet on it!” You know, the blue bonnet margarine slogan. My mom wouldn’t know what to say.

“If it were me,” I said, “I would have told them, ‘ha ha everything’s better with a bonnet on it so I’m better than you!'”

“You see,” said Mom. “You can just think of stuff like that to say, but I never could.”

I made up a lot of stories as a kid. Some of them played out in my mind like a movie. Some of them I acted out with my dolls, or while playing with my friends. But they were all heavily influenced by the books I read.

Blubber, of course, was one of those books. For weeks after I read that book I made up a story in my head about a girl who was super-beautiful and went to Wendy’s school in the middle of the year and all the boys liked her and Wendy was mad and did all these mean things but the girl said all the right things back.

Other books that heavily influenced my stories:

Mandy, by Julie Edwards

Plot: This is a book about a girl named Mandy who lived at an orphanage. One day she discovered a little cabin in the woods, and she re-decorated it and made it all pretty. Then some really rich people adopted her.

Result: A lot of my stories involved cabins in woods which got restored. I made little doll houses out of these boxes that held two milk jugs, and the doll who inhabited that house always had the Mandy story.

Adopted Jane, by H.R. Daringer

Plot: An orphan girl gets adopted by rich people. I don’t really remember what I liked so much about this book, but it probably was partially because the main character got new dresses. This was back in the day when everyone wore pretty dresses.

Result: A lot of the stories I made up involved orphans getting adopted by rich people and getting new pretty dresses. I have a cassette tape where I recorded myself telling a story I made up, and later, when I let my sister Amy listen to it, she said, “Isn’t that just like Adopted Jane?”

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnette

Plot: A girl goes to live with her rich uncle, and finds a garden which she restores.

Result: Similar to Mandy, in that I was fascinated by the idea of having this secret place and making it pretty. Every other Friday my school used to go to the rec center in Brownsville, and while the guys played basketball my cousin Stephy and I went down to the park. We found this place that we called our secret garden, and we restored it. Well, we moved a big rock and made a path through it. Close enough.

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel, by Lois Gladys Leppard

Plot: Mandie was a beautiful girl who lived with a really mean mom and sister. Her Dad had died. Then she realized that her mean mom and sister were really only her step-mom and step-sister! Also, she had an uncle living, and he was really rich!
Mandie ran away from home and found her uncle. Then she lived with him. Then she discovered that her real mom was still alive and she married her uncle. Oh, and Mandie got a lot of pretty dresses. And discovered a secret tunnel. It was all quite amazing.
This book was followed by a huge series in which Mandie did many more amazing things.

Result: There were gobs of things about the Mandie books Mandie which influenced my stores.  I will make a bulleted list.

  • Running away from home
  • Getting pretty dresses
  • Going to visit Indian friends
  • Being divinely beautiful and having all the guys fall in love with you
  • Solving mysteries
  • Going to a boarding school
  • Finding secret tunnels
So how about you? Did you read these books as a kid? What books influenced the stories you made up?
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5 responses to “Childhood Books that influenced the Stories I made up

  1. Ahh, memories. A couple of those books really influenced my daydreams and play stories in my childhood. Thanks for the reminder

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  2. If you made your own secret garden once, you might love An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden. It’s a story that makes my throat ache because it’s so sweet and sad simultaneously.

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  3. I read the Mandie books when I was younger! I loved the books when she traveled to Europe with Celia and her grandmother. I think every kid should get to read that series. They taught me to love reading and about many places around the world.

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  4. I loved the Mandie books! My pastor’s wife actually knew Lois Gladys Leppard and had a ton of the books autographed, and she gave them all to me and I read a lot of them. I also loved the book “Mandy” for the same reason – I loved the idea of restoring an old place. I don’t think I ever read “The Secret Garden,” but I did listen to it on tape. I had a little flowerbed that I made into my little fairy world, and I made houses out of sticks and got moss from other parts of the yard to make into a cushy yard for the fairies and put in little paths and a swimming pool and tons of other stuff. I remember working out there for hours! I think this was partially influenced by the book “The Littles” that we read in elementary school about some little people who lived in a house. Actually, occasionally I still have the urge to make little fairy houses. And one day when I was making my houses, my mom showed me a gardening magazine that had little fairy houses in the flowerbeds and I felt so justified! 🙂
    I know I read tons and tons of books when I was little but I can’t remember many of them now. I do remember I read this book called “Hitty: Her First Hundred Years” or something like that, and it was about a doll named Hitty and all the people with whom she lived and her long history being adopted by different little girls and living in different places. I think I liked that because I had and still have a fascination with history and specifically the history of things: where has this been, what did it see 200 years ago, where will it be in 100 years?

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