Growing A Reader
by Alison DeCamp
This is my mother (the one on the left, obviously. The one on the right is my father. I just noticed the sign on the bottom right for the first time. I was hoping it was some clue to a secret place like Narnia, but turns out it’s simply the name of the shrub behind them. What it does tell me, however, is that this picture was taken in Florida, where my parents met. See how much you can learn from reading? Also, I apparently should become a private investigator). Like many before me who have had wonderful mothers, I completely took my mom for granted, and it’s only now that I realize how smart she was. She is 100% the reason I’m a reader.
And a writer, for that matter.
Because of her, I can’t remember not being able to read or not being surrounded by books. My mother read to me every night until I was 12 years old. She took me to the library as often as I liked where I invariably checked out this book:
which now looks like this:
You may still find my name scrawled in the back cover multiple times next to the due date. And I still love this book. It’s funny and suspenseful and full of the best kinds of magic. It also has that terrific combination of smart children and checked-out adults that makes for wonderful children’s stories.
A favorite read aloud was (and is) Charles Dickens’ Captain Boldheart and The Magic Fishbone. Hilary Knight’s illustrations don’t hurt, either. I slightly prefer The Magic Fishbone, the wonderful tale of an inept father, the beautiful Princess Alicia (who took care of her 18 younger siblings), her Good Fairy Grandmarina, and, of course, a magic fishbone. Somehow I related to Alicia, even though I had a very capable father and was the youngest in the family. Maybe it’s the hairdo?
My mother was always so encouraging as a book pusher—she constantly provided options, whether it was old Bobbsey Twins books or Nancy Drew. I rewrote this passage in my diary from a Trixie Belden book, written before I was born, so I could read it over again and again. I found it incredibly romantic:
"You know what it means, don't you?" Jim asked.You’re welcome.
"Tell me," Trixie answered.
"It means that you're my special girl, Trixie," Jim said. "As if you didn't know that already."
"I do," Trixie murmured. "Oh, Jim!"
Trixie looked happily at her bracelet, then reached over and put her small, sturdy hand into Jim's. He closed his long fingers tightly over it.
-from The Happy Valley Mystery
I think every middle-grade writer who is a woman holds up Jo March from Little Women as her hero, and I definitely fit this stereotype. And even though I was not happy when she didn’t marry Laurie, I followed her through Little Men and Jo's Boys and still wanted to be her.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s there was no Internet. “Young adult” wasn’t really a “thing,” save for Judy Blume and Paul Zindel and Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier. I’m from a very small town in a remote area of Michigan so there were no bookstores nearby. I read everything that was put before me—cereal boxes, Guideposts magazine, Organic Gardening, Fine Homebuilding, and books like Herman Wouk’s Winds of War series. Somehow my mother always found books for me, and although she was quite formal and very religious, she never, ever censored anything we read.
Which is only one of the many reasons I’m now so grateful for my mother. So thank your mom if she is that person, and be that mother if you get the chance.
About the Author
Like Stan, Alison DeCamp grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her family history consists of stories of life in lumber camps and old scrapbooks. A graduate of Michigan State University, Alison is a former middle and high school language arts teacher. She now works at Between the Covers, a bookstore in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and spends the rest of her time with her husband and teenage children.
About My Near-Death Adventures (I Almost Died. Again.)
Fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and humorous historical fiction will embrace this follow-up to My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!), which Publishers Weekly called an “exuberant first novel.”
It is 1895 Michigan. But now, instead of helping out rough-and-tumble lumberjacks, Stanley Slater (aka Stan the Man) must go to school. And on top of that, he has to look after Cuddy, a younger boy, before and after school.
When his ne’er-do-well father shows up in town, Stan finally has a chance to meet the man he’s dreamed about for so long. Plus, it will give Stan a chance to impress the infamous Captain Slater. (Stan is a whiz at impressing people, he doesn’t mind saying.) But Captain Slater isn’t quite what Stan expected. In fact, Stan isn’t so sure he wants to be like his dad— Captain Slater—at all.
About My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!)
For history lovers and journal fans comes a “hilarious and heartbreaking . . . 99–100% fantastic” (A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal) story about a boy on a mission to find his long-lost father in the logging camps of Michigan. A 2016 Michigan Notable Book.
There are many things that 11-year-old Stanley Slater would like to have in life—most of all, a father. But what if Stan’s missing dad isn’t “dearly departed” after all?
Armed with his stupendous scrapbook, full of black-and-white 19th-century advertisements and photos, Stan’s attempt to locate his long-lost hero/cowboy/outlaw dad is a near-death adventure fraught with pesky relatives, killer lumberjacks, and poisonous pies! His tale will leave readers in stitches, but not the kind that require medical attention.
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!