Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [Memory Monday]

Memory Monday — Welcome Author Jenn Sommersby!!

Today, our Memory Monday guest is Jennifer Sommersby. I've been chatting with Jenn on Twitter for a while now, I absolutely love reading her blog and she is just so much fun to talk to. I was so excited when she told me that she liked my Memory Monday posts and that she would be willing to participate! So, her she is folks! Here's Jenn!

Bio: Jennifer Sommersby's first book, a YA urban fantasy about a circus-dwelling, 17-year-old girl who learns that she is heir to a 3000-year-old magical book, is called Sleight: Book One of the AVRA-K. An American ex-pat, she lives in the Great White North (western Canada) with her family and collection of pets.
Memories: When Ashley so graciously invited me to write a piece for Memory Mondays, my mind was set aflutter. Talk about a book that made an impact on me as a kid? There were so many! I decided, rather than to break it down to just one, that I would cover a few with relating anecdotes to illuminate the joy that books brought to me as a wee, word-hungry ankle biter.

We all love Dr. Seuss (and if you don’t, you might want to see someone about that). Who doesn’t have a special place for the man who was first credited with use of the word nerd? I mean, GENIUS, people! Despite the fact that Seuss had a decades-long affair outside of his marriage, a tryst that eventually led to his wife’s suicide and his nuptials to his lover a year following his wife’s death, Seuss was a wordsmith of unmatched prowess. He understood words and sounds in a way that has revolutionized the learning-to-read process for generations of kids. My favorites? The Lorax and The Sneetches. And for my thirty-eighth birthday, my BFF bought me Oh! The Places You’ll Go. Perfect present for ALL occasions, especially for
high school and college graduates. Oh, and people turning thirty-eight. It’s so inspiring, though be warned—it can trigger wanderlust.

My mom bought me the coolest set of science books (nerd alert!), the series called “Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science.” Did you guys have those? I don’t know how many were published, but I had at least a dozen—and I still have them on the shelf in my son’s bedroom. Titles such as A Drop of Blood, Flash Crash Rumble and Roll, and Your Skin and Mine survived through my childhood, that of my little sister (who is now twenty-seven), and all of my kids, inviting us to investigate topics that aren’t otherwise covered in novels or TV shows or, nowadays, video games. I spent endless hours going through these books, feeling very smart because I learned how a scab formed and about the mechanics of thunderstorms and why some kids had darker skin than me (not tough considering I have had a sickly pall to my skin pretty much my entire life). I was a know-it-all as a kid. That continues until today, thanks to these books.

And on to fiction. I seem to have an affinity for it. But it’s sort of funny how it started, beyond my obsession with my sister’s sky-blue Smith-Corona electric typewriter. (“Clickity-clicky — click!” went the keys…). I had this thing for small books. Not the page count, necessarily, but the actual physical size of the book. The smaller, the better. I liked small things: closets that could be made into hideouts, picnic tables covered in blankets to make my own house, that cabin Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer stays in with Yukon Cornelius and the elf who wants to be a dentist. The Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region, while not fiction, was narrow and thin and fit in a pocket, perfect for field work. Did I read it? No. Did the size make me happy? Yes. Well, that and its awesome orange vinyl cover.

Sorry. Digressing again. My mom—she was never stingy with buying me books—picked up a series of classics in paperback form, and the dimensions of the books themselves couldn’t have been more than 4x4 inches. They were these little squares of literary history, and I read them because…I liked their shape. Around the World in Eighty Days was my favorite, although Little Women came in close second. (Oh, don’t even get me started on how my BFF Beth Ann and I would act out the parts from Louisa May Alcott’s ageless tale—she was Meg, the well-mannered, polite, always proper young lady; I was, and am to this day, Jo—feisty, word — loving, dreamy Jo.) I read Gulliver’s Travels and Treasure Island and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and all as a side effect of my attachment to the shape of the books. Weird, I know. If anyone’s good with past-life regression or Jungian psychology, perhaps you have a theory about my affection for small things.

No discussion of influential childhood books would be complete without a shout-out to Beverly Cleary. The elementary school I went to, Alameda Grade, in Portland, Oregon, was situated in the very neighborhood where some of Cleary’s stories were set. I used to ride my bike and roller skate up and down Klickitat Street, just like Henry Huggins, as my house was only a few blocks away. I must’ve been nine or ten when Cleary visited our school for Literacy Day (Ezra Jack Keats of The Snowy Day fame visited one year, as well). The whole school dressed up as characters from any one of Cleary’s novels and marched through the
neighborhood with Mrs. Cleary our Mistress of Ceremonies for the day’s events. It was a big to-do, obviously. Thirty-odd years later, I’m still talking about it. Thank you, Beverly, for being such a big part of my childhood!

And my last mention for Memory Monday—I would feel disloyal if I didn’t pay homage— Judy Blume. Need I say more? For those of you born in the late ’80s or the ’90s, maybe you haven’t discovered Blume’s genius. She wrote whimsical, fun stories for younger readers: Superfudge, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Freckle Juice. Her books for older readers (Deenie, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, Blubber, Forever) told stories in which the characters asked and answered questions I was too embarrassed or afraid to address. Her protagonists faced real-world hardships that were engrossing and often heartrending. I read and re-read many of her titles as I went from that tomboy climbing trees and riding BMX bikes to the pre-teen and teenager who cared about Guess jeans and what Mickey S. thought of her new haircut.

It is still amazing to me, the influence that books have had on my life. They’re like a good friend, always there waiting to be called upon, and as cliché as that sounds, books don’t care how bitchy I am or if my hair is a mess and in need of a color, or if I’ve filed the taxes for the year or unloaded the dishwasher. Books don’t judge if I didn’t donate enough to the food drive or if I screamed at that stupid woman in traffic (she totally deserved it…just sayin’). The consumption of books, and now the creation of my own books, are constants in a life that is forever in a state of flux. Life won’t be nearly long enough for me to get my fill of good
stories. I’m guessing you feel the same way, or you wouldn’t be here visiting Ashley’s terrific blog. Thanks for the chat. Now, go READ something!
Thank you so much Jenn! I loved this post! So much! If any of you readers are interested in guest posting for Memory Monday, in my blog!