Saturday, June 1, 2013

Prompt #148 – A Favorite Book from Childhood

For some of us, a love of the written word began in childhood, possibly with the popular Golden Books and series like the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys mysteries. There were also Trixie Belden books (among my favorites) and classics of children’s literature such as Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Tom Sawyer, Robin Hood, and Alice in Wonderland, along with more recent “classics,” including Charlotte’s Web, the Harry Potter books, and poems by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

Back in the days of my own childhood, my one of my favorite books was a collection of poems by Eugene Field. (Anyone remember his "Wynken, Bylnken, and Nod"?) This was the book with which my mother taught me how to read when I was four years old, during the summer I was in bed with what the doctors diagnosed as “polio fever.” From that summer on, I loved books and became a devoted reader. When I was in third grade, I found a book in our classroom library titled Ellen Tebbits (a 1951 children’s novel by Beverly Cleary). The story tells about the adventures of a little girl named Ellen Tebbits and her friend Austine. The book has been called “pure nostalgic Americana” by children’s lit expert Anita Silvey and, although I doubt if it’s read very much anymore, I must have read it at least five or six times.

The importance of literacy and books in children’s development is clear but, sadly, children in many parts of the world grow up without books. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine our own childhoods without the literature that ignited our imaginations, taught us about people and life in other countries, excited and delighted us, supported good habits and values, and introduced us to poetry. Today’s e-book technologies (the Internet, Kindles, and Nooks) bring fast and easy electronic access to books, but there are no real page turns, no dog-earred corners, no scent or feel of paper, and reading electronically can be a bit like buying pre-made coffee or wine in cardboard boxes. Don’t get me wrong: the technologies have many plusses, but still I like to think that actual books will always have a place in young readers’ lives. For me, there’s nothing quite as special as the look and feel of a book in my hands, and I still treasure the books I read as a child, many of which hold pride of place on shelves in my home.

This week’s prompt asks you to think about books you enjoyed as a child and to write a poem about one of those books (a chapter book, a picture book, or a collection of children’s verse).

Things to Think About:
  1. What were some of the books you loved as a child? (Make a list.)
  2. What was your favorite childhood book? How many times did you read it?
  3. Why did you love about that book?
  4. Who was the main character?
  5. What did the main character teach you?
  6. What feelings did the book and the main character inspire in you?
  7. Is the book still popular today? Why or why not?
  8. What memories of your childhood does your favorite book call to mind?
  9. When you think of your favorite childhood book, what people do you remember? (What are the connections?)
  10. In what way or ways is your favorite childhood book a metaphor for your youth?

Every poem needs a strong emotional center that doesn’t smother meaning with sentiment—subtlety (and that doesn’t mean obscurity) is necessary for a poem to succeed. Be wary of overstatement. Don’t tell too much—leave room for your readers to fill in some gaps. Sometimes what you don’t write is as important as what you commit to words.

After Writing, Things to Consider:
  1. Does your first line (or first thought) invite the reader into your poem?           
  2. Have you used sounds effectively?
  3. Are there unnecessary words that you might delete such as superfluous adjectives? 
  4. Do you bring the poem to closure with a confident “punch?”
  5. Might you have concluded the poem sooner than you did? (Remember that a poem usually suffers when you “tie it up in a neat package” at the end.) 


A Note to Readers

While a lot of poetry activity stops during the summer and a number of journals are closed to submissions, there are many print journals that do read during June, July, and August. If you’re looking for places to send your poems this summer, be sure to visit poet Diane Lockward’s blog (Blogalicious) for a comprehensive list, complete with links.  Thanks, Diane, for this great resource! 

Click title to order Diane's most recent poetry collection, Temptation by Water.


  1. Brilliant, Adele! One of my favorites was THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE by Joan Aiken. I'd be really interested in learning what other blog readers enjoyed by way of literature when they were young.

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I'm not familiar with that book, but I love the title.

  2. - REMEMBER? -

    "Hey, Jennie, do ya
    wanna come over, I got
    a new Atomic

    Robo Dogs Of War?"
    "What is that?" "Oh, It's so cool,
    just about my best

    favorite Comix!" "Is
    this the thing you Read in School?"
    "Oh, sure, everyday!"

    "I'm Reading something,
    too..." "Oh, cool, what?" "Ya want to
    come over?" "Sure, I'll

    bring..." "No!, we'll Read mine."
    "O.K., what's It called?" "Chicken
    Little." "Ohh, Jennie,

    I know that, that's a
    baby's Book, It's...” "Billy, chunks
    of Sky are Falling!"


    1. Thanks so much for sharing, HaroHalola! The use of dialogue works really well.

  3. Thank you, Adele; this piece is one of 24, commissioned by Erik Ekstrom, Ed. for "Anthology: "A Hero's Journey," an attempt to support/help children to assuage their direct & indirect associations with the devastation of wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). All but a few of the poems employ dialogue between the two characters, Jennie & Billy.

    1. I'm not quite clear as to whether or not this is about your own memory of a childhood book??? Was it written for the prompt, or is it something other?

  4. It is certainly a memory of a "childhood book;" I took the liberty (see poem's date) to post for the context of the prompt, also explicated in my follow-up comment, above. Thank you for the query.

  5. My favorite books were the Hardy Boys mysteries – great to grow up with.

    1. The boys' counterpart to Nancy Drew. You're so right, they were great books to grow up with. I can remember saving my allowance and my dad taking me to the local toy store where they sold Nancy Drew books so I could add to my collection. (I still have all of them.)

  6. Treasure Island

    The sea of my youth
    was NYC
    It was closer than
    the other side of the horizon on
    the Jersey Shore
    the pirates of Florida
    captured my heart
    and planted me on the gold coast
    in the tropics
    daring days
    with a free flowing heart

    1. So Florida has become your metaphorical "Treasure Island." How wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing your poem.

    2. Very nice, Risa! Thank you for sharing with us. Your "tropics" sound lovely.

    3. Risa,

      It's truly a gift to be able to write that you live dancing. Thanks for sharing your poem about Florida and your life there (with the connection to Treasure Island, your favorite childhood book).

  7. Oh thank you so much for reminding me of Wynken, Blynken and Nod - I had almost forgotten the song my mother used as a lullaby when I was small and we were trying to sleep through the Blitz in 1940, in the cupboard under the stairs.

    I haven't the energy of a sleepy slug, but I have to sing the praises of a series of books that consoled, excited, transformed and cheered me from first starting reading well into adulthood: The Swallows and Amazons books of Arthur Ransome
    If ever I was ill or miserable, I would read the whole 12 books
    from start to finish. I still would, if I hadn't given them to my grandson!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Vivinfrance!

      I'm really glad to know that mention of the old poem brought back memories of your mom. Imagine trying to sleep through the Blitz in a cupboard under the stairs! Maybe there's a poem in the memory that you might write.

      P.S. I read a few of the Ransome books when I was a child and had forgotten about them until you reminded me (for which thanks). It's lovely that you gave your set of 12 to your grandson!