Friday, August 13, 2010

What Inspired Me To Read

by Hilde Garcia

I learned to read in the fall of 1971. Bert and Ernie taught me how to spell SHOE. But hey, I thought the word was ZAPATO. Well, that’s the day I figured out I was bilingual. But that was also the day I discovered words and their power.

By the summer of 1972, I was a reader. The end of Kindergarten culminated in my first Scholastic Book Club order. My purchase? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a paperback filled with the classic comic strips. I read them over and over again. I identified with Charlie Brown. I loved Lucy. She was everything I wanted to be, confident, sassy and bold. Peppermint Patty was practical. Snoopy was lovable and smart. I loved them all. I wish I still had that book, but I am sure my mom donated it long before I went to college.

My love for books grew over the years. I ordered every week from Scholastic using my lunch money (who needed lunch when you had a book), to buy the next book by Helen Cavanaugh (A Place for Me, The Easiest Way), Maud Johnson (A Kiss for Tomorrow, Warm in the Winter, Cold in the Summer, Sixteen Can be Sweet), or Norma Fox Mazer. (Baby Face, Taking Terri Mueller). If the cover looked appealing, I bought it. If the description was enticing, I bought it. If I didn’t have money, which was often, I got it at the library.

I loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Caroline B. Cooney, Lois Lowry.

They were my friends. They understood me.

I read these books to stay alive, to stay healthy. I lived through the pain of the main characters, knowing they shared my pain and together we could get through any tough times. There was a period in my adolescence when I contemplated suicide, sex, alcohol and smoking cigarettes. I was in pain and scared.

I was a rebel. But only in my mind.

The heroines in each of the books I read helped me live. They not only helped me live, they kept me alive. They spoke to my heart and showed me the way to survive. I always thought, “If I die now, I’ll never know what happened to Katie, or Clara, Deeny, or Jane.” So, I didn’t. I tied a knot at the end of my rope and read some more.

And I dreamed. I thought of the castles I one would day visit. I thought of the cool adventures that surely one day would wait for me. I thought of college and travels, of romance and friendship. I forgot about my lonely world and just like in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, I waited for the passage to another world. And every time I opened up a book, I found that passage way.

Many of these titles I saved and stored in a box in my closet. Here they wait patiently for my five-year-old daughter to grow up, so she can read them. Will she love them as much? Will she need them in the same way? Her existence thus far is happier than mine ever was.

Maybe she will read them and say, “Mother, pah-lease.” Or maybe, she’ll think my books rock. It’s hard to guess what will inspire her in years to come, but I do know she has discovered the word shoe as well as amphibian, omnivore, hypothesis, basically, magenta and cowabunga. She has discovered the power of words and I can only hope that a good book will be a good friend, like they were for me.

Which book was your friend? What inspired you to read? Which book kept you alive?


  1. 谢谢你那美丽的情感

    Hilde, I am pretty sure Sam and Victoria will be readers and I know they are going to be proud of their mom, the writer. I hope they do what my brother and I did and read each others books

  2. I read macho boy books like Monster From Chem Class, Invasion of the Giant Califlower and I Was a Teenage Sea Serpent.

    Lupe F.

  3. Truth is, I grew up hating to read. That's why I'm writing action-adventures & mysteries today, that I would have liked as a child. Hopefully I can help other boys who are growing up like I did.

    Max Elliot Anderson and/or

  4. I recognize some of these covers, Hilde! Anne of Greene Gables was a series I loved, and I also enjoyed sci-fi (Ray Bradbury) as a teen. You are so right about books being a wonderful escape from real-life teen drama. I still read to get away in to someone else's world.

  5. Hi Hilde. It is one of my greatest joys that my daughter has grown up loving one of the series that I loved so much as a kid (and that, honestly, I still read once a year, usually when I'm home sick.) Yes, we are both fans of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and other more popular series, but I'm talking Betsy-Tacy here! It's the Betsy/Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. The series starts when the girls are 5 and follows them through marriage. It is delightful. (I was Betsy, I am a Betsy. When I traveled the world, I had to visit the places Betsy visited.)

    When I had a daughter, I worried, would my little girl relate at all to this series of little girls around 1905? Would she grow with them, enjoy the nuances, appreciate the different old-fashioned era and find the commonalities in children then and today? Yep, she did and she does and we revel in them together. In fact, she's even attended the local annual meetings of the Southern California Chapter of the Betsy-Tacy society, with her book in tow! Today, we have fun plotting when we will together explore the world and high on that list is in seeing the things that Betsy saw and remarked on.

    When my girl was quite small, I delighted in finding out that the author had retired to Pomona, CA and I found her house and even found a book in a second-hand store that could've been hers!

    You have a lot of fun ahead of you, friend!

  6. Hilde, my prolific friend, I was just thinking of you today as I am reading a book by Anne Lamott that my son (a fellow reader) gave me to read called "Bird by Bird" that delineates her process of writing. Such a wrenching and solitary exercise can ultimately provide so much entertainment and learning for others.

  7. Judy Blume, Judy Blume, Judy Blume! I read and re-read all of her books including one that was (gasp!) banned from our Catholic grade school library - such scandal! I so identified with her characters and, like you Hilde, they helped to get me through so many of the rough patches of my own childhood - they were my friends!

    I loved seeing your books Hilde as so many of them were favorites of mine as well! As for Betsy-Tacy and the wonderful lady (thank you Crystal!) who introduced them to my own daughter, Judy Blume herself listed the Betsy-Tacy books as her own childhood favorites!!

  8. Hello Hilde,

    I always enjoy reading your blog posts. I agree with you so much... when you open a book, you're transported from your current world into whatever world is waiting for you behind that cover.

    Growing up, I didn't enjoy reading that much, but I really enjoy it now. But two books from my childhood that stand out are "The Velveteen Rabbit" and "Charlotte's Web". Sydney just read "Charlotte's Web this last year and we listened to the audio version in the car while we were out and about. Listening to it reminded me why I loved that book so much as a child, and it gave me a warm feeling that Sydney and I had bonded over it. The other night, I read the abridged version of "Great Expectations" to the kids. Who couldn't get a kick out of Miss Havisham sitting around in yellow wedding dress for 20 years??


  9. I H-A-T-E-D reading as a kid. Yikes! It was torture. But two books I remember experiencing fondly were Charlotte's Web and Homecoming (Cynthia Voigt). And I still LOVE them both. Meting Cynthia Voigt was a T-H-R-I-L-L!!!!!! And having her sign my tattered, old copy was priceless. Before that I loooved Amelia Bedelia! And my favorite picture book was The Fur Family, by Margaret Wise Brown. Cute, cute, cute.

  10. Hilde, darling. I am fascinated by your recollection of reading Charlie Brown Comics. So enjoyable. My first printed passions were Judy Blume and (I must confess) Sweet Vallley High! But I am confused. Wasn't You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown the musical inspired by the peanuts? Is it also a book? Or could it have been one of the first published collections of comics: You're a Brave Man, Charlie Brown? Or You're My Hero, Charlie Brown? Please help me clarify....

  11. I just checked out Smart Girls by Judy Blume (an adult novel) from the library. Sometimes they grow up with us. :)


We love hearing from you.