NUDGE: Summer Reading


I’m 57, but every summer I still dig out a couple of books I enjoyed reading as a kid. These include some  Trixie Belden mysteries and The Paleface Redskins by Jacqueline Jackson. (The author’s own website says, “…now un-politcally correct, but it captured the imaginations of young readers in the ’60s and ’70s. They’re looking for it now for their own kids.”)

When I clear my mind and read these pages as I did 45-plus years ago, I’m again 10 or 11 or 12 and it’s summer. Not the summer of air conditioning, smog alerts, and concerns about sunscreen. I feel the breeze through the front room screens relieving some of the high heat as I curl up on the couch, the hum of the floor fan muffling the outdoor sounds of bicycle bells, yelling kids, and neighbors chatting. Or I’m lying on a bath towel in the driveway, pretending I’m at a beach, squinting against the glare reflecting off the page and reaching up to flick an ant off my forearm without missing a word.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m remembering sensations of my own or things the characters experienced that I’ve integrated into my own memory: the smell of the woods as Trixie and Honey ride horses along the trails or the taste of lemonade and cookies in Mrs. Belden’s farm kitchen; the refreshing coolness of the lake water, summer house awnings flapping in a midnight storm, or the feel of acorns on bare feet as Marci and the Indians wage war on the Boy Scouts.

I’m lucky enough to have vintage editions of these books, so the type and illustrations are authentic and true to my recollections. I still pause to study the dramatic depiction of Trixie sprawled on the lake shore as Honey rinses the rivulets of blood from her face (she dove into the lake where it was shallow and hit her head on a rock); or to chuckle at the capsized canoe of the “Indians” as the floating circle of Boy Scouts, who swamped them, mock and jeer.

I’m curious what the current generation of kids will remember of their reading experiences this summer. Everything is so different with the Internet and e-books (my niece has tried my mother’s Nook and seems to like it). It comes down to what each generation experiences and looks back on with fondness. I don’t know if print books really are becoming obsolete, but I cherish the yellowed pages of my treasured childhood books as much as I did when I read and re-read them as a kid. Maybe more.

Prompt: Write about a memory of summer reading. It doesn’t have to be a childhood memory, but it should include plenty of sensory details, the peripheral sensations that seeped into your consciousness between the lines of print. If the book is important to you, include details of that as well; otherwise, concentrate on the experience of reading, whether it was on a beach, at a table in a cool library to escape the heat, at a park, on a cot at camp during rest period, or sitting on a porch swing in the last light of a fading summer evening.

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