A Blast From My Past

In addition to writing, I substitute teach in elementary school. This week is Read Across America, with schools celebrate reading, and particularly, Dr. Seuss. The program is encouraging supporters to take a selfie with their favorite childhood book and post it to social media. I decided to take it one step further and write this month’s blog about my choice.

But before I start talking about that, I must issue a quick apology, because my favorite childhood book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, isn’t western related. For those who don’t know the story, it’s about a selfish, spoiled girl raised in India whose life is overturned when her parents die, forcing her to move to England to live with an uncle she’s never met.

I can’t remember what grade it was in elementary school or who my teacher was, which I truly regret, but one my teachers read The Secret Garden aloud to my class. From the moment she cracked the book open, I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for afternoon to arrive so I could head to the English countryside to spend time with poor Mary Lennox. After we finished the story, I bought a copy from Scholastic and reread the book repeatedly.

I loved seeing Mary growing more confident and content as she connected with the moors. Her budding relationship with Dickon captivated me. Even then I possessed the heart of a romance novelists, because I envisioned after the story ended, them living happily ever after on their own land, with a beautiful garden they lovingly tended together, and of course, they were still best friends with Colin. (BTW, I still want to know how their lives turned out. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a western fan fiction story in there!)

The mystery surrounding the cries in Misselthwaite Manor and why everyone insisted Mary was imagining things held me mesmerized. When Mary found her cousin Colin, and they and Dickon started exploring the secret garden, I was there too, sharing in their adventures.

For me, The Secret Garden had it all—romance, mystery, a heroine with a tragic past in need of a home, family, love and belonging. All themes that are intertwined in the books I write today. The Secret Garden hooked me on reading and started me dreaming about writing my own stories.

But how about you? Leave me a comment about your favorite childhood book to be entered to win the snack set and a copy of To Love A Texas Cowboy. Ironically, like Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, To Love A Texas Cowboy is my story about a tragically orphaned little girl. Though she’s not the main character, Ella being orphaned, like Mary, sets the story into motion.

Now go. I’m excited to hear about your favorite childhood book and why it means so much to you!

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Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at www.juliebenson.net.

48 thoughts on “A Blast From My Past”

  1. I always loved Old Yeller. I was wrapped up in it from the beginning and stayed until the very end when tears were running down my face. I am in my sixties now and have never forgotten that book. If fact, the copy that I received as a child, I gave to my oldest grandchild last Christmas. A treasure!

    • Melanie, I love Old Yeller too, though I didn’t read it as a child. A couple of times I’ve watched and read the book to classes and dang if I don’t still cry! I fact, I’m tearing up just thinking about that sacrifice that wonderful dog made. ? l

  2. It is sad to say that I honestly can’t remember my favorite childhood book. Sorry ahead of time I can never pick just one of anything. I have MS so my memories are not very good unfortunately. My favorite books from when I was a little older but Cam Jansen, Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. Then I loved the Little House on the Prairie books! I’d love the opportunity to read your book! A giveaway is the perfect way to discover a new favorite author!

    • Stephanie, glad you stopped by this morning! I had trouble picking, too. Decisiveness is not my best quality. I also thought about so many of the Dr. Seuss books that I love, but The Secret Garden made me love chapter books and reading, so I went with that one. I’ve never read The Little House on the Prairie books, but so many people recommend them. I might have to give them a try!

  3. I remember enjoying Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys for my first books. The one I really like is The Little Engine That Could. I bought one for my first grandson who is 8 months now. Determination really helps you.

    • Debra, you listed some classics, too. I never read Nancy Drew. I do remember my mom saying I loved to read the Bobbsey Twin books. I wasn’t a mystery gal until I started reading romantic suspense, and my dear friend Nancy Haddock’s cozy mysteries. Thanks for stopping by today!

  4. For me it was also Old Yeller. I can remember, oh so long ago keeping that book under my pillow. My daughter’s favorite is also The Secret Garden. I enjoyed watching the DVD of Secret Garden. All one thousand times that we watched it. lol

    • Carol, there’s a saying on Facebook that says a dog is the only creature who loves someone else more than he loves himself. Having had dogs most of my life and now fostering them, I truly believe this is true. And Old Yeller is the perfect example of this. I still cry when I think of that wonderful dog.

    • Great choice Kim! Isn’t it amazing how Dr. Seuss changed children’s books? I still have some of my childhood copies of his books, and can recite a good portion of it by heart. Thanks for stopping by this morning.

  5. I enjoyed Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy, Tacy and Tib stories. That dates me, but women of a certain age will remember the three little girls growing up in Deep Valley, Minnesota before World War I. Of course as a writer I identified the Betsy character. The other book that had a huge impact on me was “A Wrinkle In Time,” which changed the way I view, well, everything.
    Love the illustrations in your copy of “Secret Garden.” Illustrations make a kids’ book.

    • Kathy, the stories about three little girls growing up in Deep Valley, Minnesota before WWI sounds interesting. I enjoy reading stories set in that time period as well as around WWII. I haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time, but with your recommendation and the movie coming out, now might be a good time to do that. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. My favorite book was Robinson Caursoe. It was the first book that was mine alone(had 5 brothers and sisters).

    • Estella, I can’t imagine having five brothers and sisters. I only have one younger brother and we were always fighting. I bet with having that many siblings, having a book that was all yours was a special treat. (My mom was one of six children and has often shared similar stories about not having anything that belonged specifically to her.) Thanks for stopping by and sharing your favorite book.

  7. Good morning everyone! Flu season has hit schools hard and some of my fifth grade teacher friends have been out sick so I’ve been substitute teaching a lot . Tht’s the case today. So—I’ll be popping in and out when I can.

    I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to chat about your favorite childhood book. So far Old Yeller is out to an early lead!

  8. I wasn’t a big reader when I was young, so I don’t have much for a favorite book. I do know the one that I always asked my mom to read to me was Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. I didn’t read ones like The Secret Garden until I was a teenager. The classics are still favorites – maybe because I read them as an older kid?

  9. I can’t really remember books form my childhood at all. I do remember reading some in my teen years but they were books we wasn’t suppose to read. It was a very long time ago.

    • So you were a rebel, huh? Reading books you weren’t supposed to read? I remember babysitting and finding a copy of The Flame and the Flower by the incomparable Kathleen Woodwiss. As young as I was, I’m sure that was one I wasn’t supposed to read either. 🙂

  10. Black Beauty comes to mind – I remember reading it over and over – and still crying when he was being whipped for not pulling!

    • Teresa, I remember Black Beauty, too! That and The Blue Dolphin were close runner ups with me to The Secret Garden. I think I read those after The Secret Garden when I started reading every chapter book I could get my hands on.

  11. I adored The Secret Garden (and even more The Little Princess), but my favorite book from that era was Johnny Tremain. I loved American history and I’m pretty sure I had a crush on Johnny. It’s probably the first book that made me cry when his friend Rab died after Lexington and Concord. It was also so eye-opening when I watched the Disney movie and Rab survived. I remember being outraged that the movie didn’t match the book. Now, I feel a reread coming on!

    • Carrie, isn’t it funny how we had crushes on characters we met through childhood books? I think I had a crush on Dickon. He has such a green thumb, loved the outdoors and had such a special relationship with animals. And I know what you mean about the movies. If I have a character I fell in love with in a book and then I don’t agree with the casting choice or the screenplay has some big change like with the Rab character, it ruins the movie for me, too.

  12. The Little Princess was my favorite, though The Secret Garden was up there too. When I was a teenager I found a lesser known book by the same author called The Lost Prince. I still love that book and try to reread all three periodically.

    I think I got started with my love of reading fairly early. Besides the Dick and Jane books, I remember that my grandmother gave me The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport when I was in second grade. I also remember spending Christmas Days curled up on a chair reading my way through whatever stacks of books I got as gifts. I still do 🙂

    • Susan, I can’t believe I found another Bobbsey Twins fan! Now that’s an old series. Ugh, I hate to admit that.

      I can’t believe I never read The Little Princess. I guess I hadn’t learned the trick of looking to see what else an author has written and reading their other books then. I may have to fix that mistake now with The Little Princess and The Lost Prince. Thanks for sharing them with me.

  13. My favorite of all was Anne of Green Gables. Still love this book which is memorable and very special. I read many wonderful children’s novels.

  14. Books were always in my house and we would go to the public library where I would check out book weekly. I could always find time to read. Little Women and The Little Prince.

  15. My favorite book was called the Oregon Trail. I can’t remember the author’s name but I was hooked. My favorite books to read are about wagon trains, pioneers and mail order brides plus others.

  16. My favorite childhood books were the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard! I loved every book and I loved that I always seemed to have another one to read!

  17. I loved Black Beauty but my first chance to really know a character was by reading the Trixie Belden series and I then graduated to Nancy Drew. Thanks for sharing today!

    • Caryl, The Velveteen Rabbit’s another great book. Everyone’s mentioned so many, today definitely has been a trip back to childhood. Thanks for stopping by to chat.

  18. I just loved to read and Christmas meant new books. The rest of the year our mom would bring books home from rummage sales our church held or other fund raiser sales. I do remember a “Black Beauty” book that had been my dad’s and the beautiful illustrations in it. Trixie Belding was my sister’s and my favorite girl sleuth.

  19. Sadly, I have no memory of a favorite childhood book. My childhood was colored by many things, but reading wasn’t one of them. Funny…I became a teacher and love reading now. I think I finally fell in love with reading after college when I found Stephen King. 🙂 I think I’ve read every one of his books. Now, however, I’m into personal growth books and I’m currently reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I would like to say you deserve a PERMANENT OFFICE here in our 5th grade hallway at school. You, my friend, are an indispensable resource for these kiddos and I know, without a doubt, that when I have to be out (and you are my substitute) the kids get the BEST WRITING INSTRUCTION EVER!

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