Today, I polished off Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me for the second time. I have to do a project on it for one of my classes, so I figured it would be wise to go back and re-read A Wrinkle in Time (or just read, cuz I can’t remember if I actually finished it as a child) and then re-read When You Reach Me. In When You Reach Me, Miranda carries a copy of A Wrinkle in Time with her wherever she goes, and reads it over and over again, without showing any interest in reading other books. There are both obvious and subtle references to A Wrinkle in Time throughout the book as Miranda explores the complexities of time travel. I was supposed to be thinking about the relationship between the two books and all that jazz, but instead, I was completely enthralled by Miranda’s character and her desire to read the same book over and over. It was more than a love for the book, there was a sense of loyalty apparent as she stuck her nose up at any other book that was thrown her way.
So what exactly is it that makes a child want to re-read a book? Is it the quality of the writing? The storyline? The complexity of the storyline? The characters? All of the above and more?
As a child, I was a notorious re-reader. When I look at the books from my childhood, the most well worn ones are the ones that I loved most. Apparently, this started at a young age. Like many children, my sister and I had our favourite books and stories, and my dad, our official storyteller, would patiently read and re-read The Little Red Hen and Angela’s Airplane until we’d had our fill of his wacky re-enactments. To this day, these are stories that he can recite from memory.
As I grew up, the habit continued. I had a good collection of books of my own in elementary school, and when I finished a book, I’d grab another one off my shelf and read it again. For me, re-reading was just a part of reading– I was visiting old friends and noticing things that I had missed or forgotten about since last reading the book. There’s something comforting about knowing a story and having it be there waiting for you just as you left it. To this day, re-reading my favourite books from childhood is calming, there’s security there: I know the story, I know the characters, I know the writing.
New books are desirable for an entirely different reason. Reading a new book is like trying a new type of food; they hold great potential, but also have an inherent risk associated with them. Old books though, they’re like tucking into my mom’s famous spaghetti. It never changes, and it doesn’t need to, because it’s so darn good.
Here’s the top 5 books that I re-read as a child (in no particular order, except that Kit’s always at the top)*:
1. Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson
2. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
3. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
4. Stand in the Wind by Jean Little
5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (but only the first one, because the rest of the series didn’t really do it for me)
*Really, anything written by any of these authors will do.
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