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Readers tell us about their favorite childhood books

November 14, 1997

Readers tell us about their favorite childhood books

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Children's Book Week is a tradition that has been celebrated since 1919. It is sponsored by The Children's Book Council, a New York-based nonprofit organization that encourages the reading and enjoyment of books for young people.

Lifestyle is celebrating Children's Book Week by sharing readers' memories of their favorite childhood books. Their enthusiastic responses came by phone, letter and e-mail, from nearby and from as far away as North Carolina.

The readers who responded range in age from 25 to 75. They shared cherished titles and stories about the importance of books in their lives.

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We thank them and hope that reading their stories will bring back your memories and inspire you to read and make some more.

Doctor Doolittle has another fan in Erston Newcomer, 69, of Hagerstown. Newcomer says he read all 12 books "over and over."

He believes the books helped spark his interest in space and astronomy. "We went to the moon long before it became fashionable," Newcomer e-mailed.

He calls the series, with its house and garden in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, "a real lesson in sharing, tolerance, compassion and always a thirst for understanding new and different things."

When Peggy Bushey of Smithsburg saw our request for favorite children's books, two came immediately to mind, and she wanted to share them.

"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeline L'Engle and "Harriet the Spy" by Louise Fitzhugh are are the two that have stayed with her among the hundreds she read as a child.

She notes that both have female protagonists, and she was able to find something new each time she read them.

Thinking about the books makes her want to read them yet again.

As she's gotten older, she doesn't have time to read as much as she would like.

She plans to try to make more time for it.

Sandra Hanft of Hagerstown says her mother read to her "every single night at bedtime." Hanft's favorite books were those by Laura Ingalls Wilder, "The Little House" books.

She recalls her mother going to the library and checking out the books, but the family owned one or two of them. They were lost when the family's home burned down seven years ago.

Hanft's 2-year-old son, Elijah, likes Dr. Seuss and anything that rhymes and holds his attention. "He doesn't sit still too long," Hanft says.

As he grows older, she'll be looking for books that present good values and morals, and show how people can survive hardships - just like the books she enjoyed as a child.

A first-grade teacher at Paramount Elementary School, Lucy Austin's favorite memory of a book read to her is of "Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel."

She still owns the book. Austin e-mailed that she loves to read that book to her students, and they love seeing the old, well-loved book.

Austin says the first "whole chapter book" she remembers reading by herself was "From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler."

"I'm dyslexic, so learning to read was a real challenge," Austin, 36, says.

She remembers feeling great sense of accomplishment reading the whole book by herself.

Austin has read the book to older students through the years and says they've loved it as much as she did.

Ann Bambrick of Sharpsburg has her mother's copy of a 1900 edition of "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The small book, with a child's stray marks on its cover, has wonderful color illustrations and a sticker bearing the name of Bambrick's mother, Carolyn Cushing, who was born in 1905. Bambrick says she and both her sisters were raised on the book.

"Bed in Summer," about a child's unhappiness at having to go to bed before dark, is one of Bambrick's favorites. She recalled visiting her sister in Seattle when her nephew was 3 or 4 years old. He was upset because he had to go to bed. Sisters exchanged knowing glances, sharing a memory of the poem. "It makes it wonderful," Bambrick says.

Cindy Lauffer's favorite childhood book was a small volume titled, "Under the Saskatoon Tree." She doesn't remember the author and has searched without success to find a copy of the little book she says had an impact on her.

It tells the story of animals in the forest gathering to play and have a good time under the Saskatoon tree on a gray and rainy day. They had fun despite the weather, and Lauffer believes that kids wouldn't mind gray, rainy days if they could read this book. She doesn't.

Lauffer, a marketing coordinator at Bulldog Federal Credit Union, has a 7-month-old son, Ian. She plans to start reading to him soon.

Marie Kutz says "David and the Phoenix," a book purchased from a school book order form, was a favorite of hers.

The young protagonist moved to a new area - Kutz remembers mountains - and met up with a mythical creature, a phoenix.

"Understood Betsy" was another book club favorite.

Kutz says she was lucky to have grown up with books. She says she feels sad for kids today with television being such a big part of their lives.

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