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6 Degrees of Separation

6 Degrees of Separation

It’s time for another adventure in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. We are given a book to start with, and from there we free associate six books.

This month we begin with a book that is celebrating its 50th birthday this year – Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. Since this book was published the year I graduated from college, I missed it when I was in its targeted age group (about 12), although I did read it 21 years ago.

1. “Didn’t you just love Rascal when you were a kid?” an acquaintance once asked me. Love it? I had never even heard of it. When I looked it up, I found out why: It was originally published in 1963, when I was already in high school. Since its target age is about 10-12, Rascal by Sterling North is another book I missed because I was already past its target age when it was published.

2. And now it’s confession time: I have never read the almost universally beloved children’s classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Since it was originally published in 1910, I can’t offer the excuse that I was already too old for it when it came out. Perhaps I did read it as a young child, but I have very few memories from my childhood. If I did read The Secret Garden, I have no memory of it.    

3. Memory can be a funny thing. When I was reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my young daughter, I suddenly had the experience of once before seeing the words printed on the page exactly as I was seeing them  at that time. The picture from an earlier reading telescoped in my vision and laid itself perfectly over the page I was reading. It was as if the memory and the current page were two prints developed from the same negative so that they perfectly merged into one. It was a strange experience, one that I’ve never had again in any context.

4. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink is another children’s book that features a family living on the American frontier during the U.S.’s expansion westward. The author based the book on the life and memories of her grandmother.

5. From Caddie Woodlawn we move to Emma Woodhouse, the title character of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. It’s not a children’s book, but it’s memorable to me because of it lilting opening: “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich . . . .”

6. The Book of Ruth is by another author named Jane, Jane Hamilton. It’s Hamilton’s first novel and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Fiction in 1989.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey from childhood to adult memorable books through 6 Degrees of Separation.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

16 replies on “6 Degrees of Separation”

Thanks, Helen. I don’t know why I never read The Secret Garden. I’m sure we didn’t have a copy in the house. Maybe by the time I was old enough to go to the very small library in my little New England home town, I was past the age for it. Or maybe the library didn’t have a copy, either.

The reason behind your first two choices made me smile, Mary. And what an odd experience you had with Little House on the Prairie – was it unsettling or comforting?

The only books in your chain that I’ve read are The Secret Garden (my sister’s favourite book as a child, but not one of mine), Little House on the Prairie (I wanted to be part of that family so much) and Emma (my favourite novel by Jane Austen – Emma is so very modern, despite being from a long time ago!).

I read your comment with interest, Jan, because I, too, wanted to be a member of the Ingalls family. And Emma is also my favorite Jane Austen novel, even though most people seem to prefer Pride and Prejudice. Thanks for reading and commenting. Oh, the odd reading experience was pretty neutral, not good but not bad, just different.

I don’t know what it was about that family, because they had it tough, and yet Ingalls Wilder described a happy life.

Pride and Prejudice is good, and I love the chaos of the Bennet family and the romance between Lizzie and Darcy, but there’s so much more going on in Emma, she’s a much more complex and real character study.

From the descriptions I’ve read of The Secret Garden, it really doesn’t sound very interesting to me. That’s why I think it’s possible I may have read it but simply didn’t find it memorable. Thanks for reading and commenting.

I was just about the right age to read Are You There God when it was published, but I never read it either. Mind you, being older doesn’t mean we can’t read books meant for younger readers (I mean, if we don’t read and review them, how will other people know if they’re any good for their own kids?), but I don’t practice what I’ve just preached! Oops!

I agree about reading books intended for young audiences when we’re older. I kept hearing about Are You There God?, so finally decided to read it to see why it was so talked about. And I went back to Caddie Woodlawn and a couple of others because there was much talk about how those books presented Native Americans during the western expansion of the U.S. It’s also interesting to read books for children as an adult to see how the process of instilling cultural values takes place. Thanks for reading and commenting.

That’s fascinating what you write about Little House on the Prairie. I re-read Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge the other day and had a sort of reverse experience in that I had no recollection of it being like it was at all although I do remember loving it as a child!

It’s interesting to read (or reread) children’s books as an adult to see how those books we loved as children helped educate us on how our society wanted us to act and what it wanted us to believe. Rereading some of the Little Golden Books of the 1950s-1960s really opened my eyes to this. Thanks for reading and commenting, Victoria.

Rascal and Caddie sound amazing, and I wish I’d read them when I was younger! Well, it’s never too late to correct mistakes. 🙂 And if you haven’t read Secret Garden, never fear — I would recommend watching the movie produced by Francis Ford Coppola, which is very well-made and has great cinematography

Although we can, as adults, read the childhood books we missed, I’m afraid part of what we’ll miss is the sheer wonder of childhood, that amazing fact of the process of reading, the realization that we can completely immerse ourselves in the lives and stories of other people whose experiences may be different from (or similar to, a comfort in its own way) our own Thanks for commenting. I’ve been enjoying interacting with other people on the experiences of childhood reading.

I'd love to hear from you!