I took a road trip last week over seven days with my 80 year old mother. We drove 1,612 miles from VA to Louisville to Chicago to Loraine, Ohio and then back home to VA. We visited her cousins, her granddaughter (my daughter) and her friend since 3rd grade.
Along the way, I asked those we met, “What book from your childhood do you remember reading?”
Her cousins (ages 65-78) – I don’t remember being read to ever. I don’t remember my school having a library. But I always read to my grandkids.
Her granddaughter (my daughter, age 26) – As a young child, Dr. Seuss books, then Harry Potter. Also, the Alanna series by Tamora Piece.
Her 3rd grade friend – “I read Seventeenth Summer in my childhood. I was just sharing an idea from that book with my granddaughter who was sad to breakup with a boy. I told her that book taught me:
Afterwards, I did a little research on my mom’s 3rd grade friend’s favorite book while growing up. It was published in 1942, written by Maureen Daly when she herself was age 17 and it was published while she was in college. Wikipedia states: “Some critics claim that the modern period of young adult literature is often said to have begun with Seventeenth Summer. Daly is a teen writing for teens and her work influenced other writers to write specificially with the young adult audience in mind.” And now our libraries often have a Young Adult section. I never thought about a time before such books existed but now I know the book that started this genre!
I was able to download this 1942 classic book to my kindle and read it this weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Angeline “Angie” Morrow the summer following her high school graduation and preceding leaving home for college, the summer she dates Jack Duluth.
One theme of the book was the growth of love between the main characters. I especially liked how Maureen Daly described the setting so beautifully throughout the book to masterfully match the amount of affection felt between Angie and Jack. The book was divided into three chapters – June, July and August. Here’s a glimpse at her setting descriptions –
from the June chapter:
It was just after nine o’clock and I was in the garden picking small round radishes and pulling the new green onions for dinner at noon. I remember it was a warm day with a blue and white sky. The garden was still wet with last night’s rain and the black earth was steaming in the sun, while between my toes the ground was soft and squishy – I had taken off my shoes and left them on the garden path so they wouldn’t get caked with mud – and I remember thinking how much fun it would be to go barefoot all the time. The little tomato plants laid flat against the ground from last night’s downfall and there were puddles like blue glass in the hollows. A breeze, soft with a damp, fishy smell, blew in from Lake Winnebago about three blocks away. I was so busy thinking about the weather, the warm sun, and the sleek little onions that I didn’t even hear Jack come up the back sidewalk.
from the July chapter:
We took the longest way, the way that goes through the park and along the edge of the lake where the small boats moored at the shore dip in rhythm with the waves and the blue water is spangled with sunlight. And down the long thin highway toward the country, passing cars with their windows glinting with sun, to the curved gravel road with scum-covered water in its ditches, growing with tall heavy-headed cattails and slim purple iris. Farther on the air is honeyed with the clean, sweet smell of clover and the willow trees shake their varnished leaves till they glitter in the sunlight.
Jack drove with both hands tight on the wheel and I sat close beside him till we came to the place where the Virginia creeper stretches heavy on the fences and the trees beside the road grow thick and gnarled, reaching up muscled arms, and the fields, all wild with mustard plants, are yellow as sunshine. Jack slowed the car while we held our breath and listened to the whole air singing with the sound of insects and the wind in the grass and the warm steady hum that is summer.
from the August chapter:
But even if it was only August there were already signs of summer’s dying everywhere. The poppies in the garden that had been tousled pink blossoms only a few weeks before were now full-blown and hung heavy with the busting seed pods, scattering the seed like black bugs to the earth. The corn leaves dried in the sunlight and rustled with wind, while the fine, silken hair that hung from the ears shriveled, tobacco-brown. And I knew by the tomatoes that summer was ending. The vines sprawled luxuriantly over the earth still, but the runt tomatoes ripened before they were full-grown, not trusting the sun to shine many weeks longer.
And a few photos from the road trip:
|Nana on far right with her cousins – Jan, Alice and Ronnie (from left to right)|
|Nana with Bridgit in Chicago|
|Nana with Marilyn, her friend since 3rd grade|
I recall reading The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg as a favorite of my childhood. I also recall my mom (who now is called Nana) reading Encyclopedia Brown to my brother and me before bedtime!