First Book

As Julia edges toward being able to read on her own, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own reading history. In an IM conversation the other day with a friend whose son – both bookish and newly bespectacled, so you have to like him – read the first Harry Potter in one day – I suddenly remembered reading my first Hardy Boys book in what must have been the first week of Mrs. Bauer’s second grade class.

I had been disappointed in Mrs. Lesperance’s first grade class when I could only choose books from a certain section in the library (I’d read all the Richard Scarry books already: the Man was keeping me down even then), and I had really wanted to read the books that my friend Mark’s older brothers were reading, like the Hardy Boys. So when, early in second grade, the librarian said we could choose any book we wanted, I zoomed over to the long shelf of blue-and-black Hardy Boys books. I checked out The Secret of the Lost Tunnel, perhaps because it was the first one I saw, perhaps because I liked the cover art, perhaps because I was mildly obsessed with a weird little root-cellar thing we had at our house, or perhaps because I had an early love of the double entendre.

Secret of the Lost Tunnel
Secret of the Lost Tunnel

I read the book in the time it took to wait for the bus, ride the bus home, and walk up the driveway. It was a long bus ride, and a long driveway, but still – I had that shit down: I remember being able to correctly finish sentences that my dad read out from the book.

God. Nowadays I can barely remember to read a book, much less what I read.

That being so, the aforementioned friend (he of the readery son) and I are engaged in a little parallel-reading exercise that might interest certain readers of this blog – mostly the literate ones, but also lovers of Victorian fiction who may or may not be red-haired. We’re making our way, three chapters a week, through G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, available in a snazzy Vintage paperback ($8.95) or at The book is described as “a zany mystery story filled with often surreal twists that turn more traditional thrillers on their ear,” and it’s certainly that, so far. (One of the main characters has red hair, Rob!) You’re welcome to pick up the book and read along with us, perhaps making a comment of two. You can find our amateur lit-crit at The Blog Who Was Thursday.

10 thoughts on “First Book”

  1. I was like you. I’d zip through our Dick and Jane readers in the time it took for the teacher to get comfy in her chair. Then the class would take . . . turns . . . reading . . . parts . . . out . . . loud. And I’d think I was going to completely DIE of boredom.

    We also had these bizarre boxes of 2 or 3 page stories called SRA readers with tests at the end, and they were colored coded as the levels went up, all the way to Gold and Silver which no lower elementary student could reach in a school year. Or so they thought. My friends Chuck, Bethany, Gail and I would hit the gold and silver levels by Sept 30th. Teachers hated us.

    Luckily outside of the classroom my Mom took us to the library almost everyday with no restrictions. Early I found Nancy Drew and was hooked. Now I’m obsessed with reading and usually have 2 or 3 going at one time. I think my kids have caught the bug too. Right now my twins are immersed in the new vampire series by Stephanie Meyer.

  2. Yes, I too loved The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I recognize that Hardy Boys book, actually! It’s always good to read your blog to find out what my husband does with those long evenings when I’m working. 😉 Very cool idea.

    The bookish child in glasses is currently complaining to me because Daddy won’t let him read ahead in Harry Potter (we only let him read the HP books on his own if we’ve read them with him first, given the scare-your-pants-off nature of them for a 7-year old!). More than one person has noted that him getting glasses this week seems appropriate, given his predilection for all things literary and factual.

    It’s a lot of fun to watch our children share our love for books, that’s for sure.

  3. Because I could read well ahead of the other kids, I was given special permission to leave my first grade classroom and read to the kindergardeners. I was so bored with first grade reading.

    My mom was a librarian so I always had plenty to read and she never cared if it was above my grade level.

    While I had many of the Nancy Drew books, I couldn’t get into them. I didn’t like Nancy (still don’t) because she was too perfect.

    I wish I could remember which of the “bigger” books was my first. Maybe something by Judy Blume?

    I haven’t read much that’s interesting lately. Lots of crappy paperbacks and mysteries. I keep telling myself that as soon as school is over I will go back to reading higher quality stuff.

  4. I remember that “sentence completion project” and I was….well…ahh…”you read this whole book this afternoon?’ And I remember C saying yes. Its imbedded in my memory as if it had happened this morning.

  5. Hmmm, I’m not sure what this means but I’ve read the Chesterton book and not any of the Hardy Boys books (that I can recall). I came upon the man who would be Thurday in an odd manner. You’ll no doubt recall my phase of reading every word of Hemmingway years ago. There is a short story where Nick Adams and a friend are getting drunk and “Chesterton” is mentioned in the dialogue. Since I’d never heard of him I looked him up at the library and the only book of his they had on hand was …Thursday. This was at least ten years ago so I don’t recall all the details but that it was a good read. I just remember the way the plot spiraled out of control steadily.

  6. Nice to hear from you, Dean! I’m with you on the book being pretty strange. “Spiraling out of control” is an accurate summary of the action so far!

  7. Q: Trust me on this one – when you finish your dissertation, and after the sense that “I should be reading something important” fades away (for me, this took years), you will be ravenous for reading anything and everything. I probably haven’t read this widely since I was beginning high school. It’s wonderful.

  8. Mnmom: I can see you cutting through the elementary-school reading like butter! The ability to imagine yourself being married to Igor the goat skinner had to arise someplace – where better than grade-school fiction?

    Beyond that, though, your mention of SRA readers gave me a start. I’m SURE I had those same things in my elementary school. I found them excruciatingly boring. The quizzes after each one were so ridiculously simple that I could barely complete them. I didn’t know then that quite a bit of education is just makework. I probably wouldn’t have survived if my Michmom didn’t take me to the Carnegie Library in Ironwood, Michigan, and let me check out just about anything I wanted, such as – once, in sixth grade or so – a bunch of Peanuts cartoon books, three or four volumes in the Time-Life series on World War II, and The Grapes of Wrath.

    Good times.

  9. I have read, and probably still own, EVERY single one of the original 50-odd Hardy Boys books. Most of them read multiple times. I also used to read anything in reach. Twice. Or three times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *