How Alexander and Garfield’s Terrible Days Made Me A Writer

January Entry for the “Books That Made Me Love Reading” Challenge:

As you may recall, I joined two reading challenges this year, the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, and the “Books That Made Me Love Reading” Challenge (click the image above to go to the info page for that challenge).  I posted my first review for the TBR Pile Reading Challenge last week, which you can read here: “A Review of Angela Kulig’s Skeleton Lake #1.”

Now, it’s time for my first post for the second challenge.  I decided to start from the beginning, with some of the picture books that were particularly special to me as a child.

And I’m starting with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz.

“What’s so special about this book?” you might ask.  Well, beside that fact that it is a wonderful, fun, beautifully-illustrated picture book, it was one of the first things that ever contributed to my path toward being a writer.

In second grade, each class had a mascot.  In my class, that mascot was Garfield.  Drawings of him littered the room, we had a stuff doll of Garfield, and everyone took turns taking him home for weekends to “babysit,” for which we all wrote little journals about the things we did together.

Now, in second grade, we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in class in one.  And we all enjoyed it so much, that we decided as a class to write our own version of the book with Garfield as the star.  Each student was in charge of writing and drawing a single page.  We worked on these for at least two weeks, in between our other classroom assignments.  And I worked diligently to make sure every word was spelled correctly, every letter was written with perfectly straight, neat lines, and my drawing was as close to the real Garfield as possible.  It was my pride and joy.

At my elementary school (the third elementary school I was at, actually), Montclair Elementary School in Virginia, the school had an ABSOLUTELY wonderful program unlike most schools I’ve been to (and I’ve been to many), called Quill and Scroll.  First: the school had a program for which we could by small hand-bound, cloth-covered booklets with blank pages, and write our own little stories in them.  They would also take already written pages to laminate and then bind them with wire rings.  And THEN, once a month, the library hosted a Quill and Scroll Night, during which any student could read what they had written to an audience of students, teachers, and parents.

Our class had our book, Garfield and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, laminated and bound.  And then, in a vote, I was given the honor to read the whole book at Quill and Scroll Night in front of my mother, my friends, the teachers, the other parents.  I was horribly nervous (I didn’t then, and still don’t, do well in front of audiences of any size), but also ridiculously proud.

The book stayed in the second grade classroom, to be shown as an example to future students.  I can’t really remember what my page look liked, or what we all wrote exactly.  But I remember that experience to this day, and always will.

Reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day again this morning (yes, I own a copy – I’m working a collection of picture books, in fact), makes me remember with vividness the hilarity and joy we got from the book in second grade.  As Alexander awakens to gum in his hair, stubs his toe, is forced to eat lima beans, and endures all manner of other horrible things, we could all relate to his plight.  Because who among us didn’t hate eating lima beans (and probably still DO hate them)?  Who among us hasn’t had one of those days when absolutely everything manages to go wrong?  And that’s the joy of writing: even when you write things that are strange, unique, or absolutely off-the-wall, you can find a way to make it relatable for people.

That’s what a good book does.  That’s what makes me love reading.  And what makes me love writing.

So, does anybody else remember that book with fondness?  What picture books really inspired you? Or made you extra-happy?  I’d love to hear about them!


My Year For Reading Challenges

My Year for Reading Challenges

Just to prove my capacity for biting off more than I can chew, on top of working on my PhD, doing this blog, and agreeing to a number of requests for book reviews/blog tours, I am signing up for two separate reading challenges this year.

This is a first for me, and I’ll be honest… I don’t know how well this is going to work.  I imagine what will happen is that I’ll start out the first month or two okay, fall off the wagon, scramble frantically to catch up over the summer months, and then ultimately fail in December.  But it doesn’t hurt to try.  So I’m just going to dive in and see what happens.

So here are the two challenges:

2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

This is a challenge to read books off that pile that sits and waits, and we keep meaning to get to it, and never seem to.  And lord knows I have a LOT of those.  Some of the books on my TBR pile are fairly recent, having been added over the past year, but some have been sitting around waiting for me for several years at least.

For full information and the sign-up page, go here, but here is some of the basic info:

Challenge guidelines: 
  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 – Dec 31, 2012.
  2. As we would like to see quality reviews linked up to our monthly wrap-ups, only bloggers can enter. Sorry about that!
  3. Any genre, length or format of book counts, as long as it is a book that’s been sitting on your shelf for some time now. Only books released in 2011 and earlier! NO ARCs and 2012 fresh-off-the-press releases allowed!
  4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  5. When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the 2012 TBR PILE Reading Challenge (You need to include the info + host list + challenge button. You can also grab the button code and add it to your sidebar!)
  6. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  7. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
  8. At the end of each month one of the hosts will post a wrap-up. Every wrap-up will have it’s unique theme, a mini-challenge, a giveaway and place for you to link up your reviews from this month. For each review you link up, you will get one entry in a drawing of one book of choice from Book Depository. It’s open to INTERNATIONALS. For participating in the mini-challenge you will get +1 entry.
  9. If you miss a wrap-up post + giveaway, you can link up your reviews next month. Do not, however, try to link up one review twice – we will be checking 😉
  10. December is a wrap-up for the whole year. All the book reviews you linked up January-November + the ones you’ll link up in December will be entered into a HUGE giveaway – 12 books, 12 winners, INTERNATIONAL.
  11. You don’t have to follow all the hosts to join the challenge, but you do have to follow all of us to be entered in giveaways!

Reading Levels:

1-10 – A Firm Handshake
11-20 – A Friendly Hug
21-30 – A Sweet Kiss
31-40 – Love At First Sight
41-50 – Married With Children

Evie from Bookish – @SeoEvie
Nicole from All I Ever Read @Nicoleabouttown
Bonnie from Hands and Home @HandsHomeBlog
Donna from Book Passion For Life @BookPforLife
Caitlin from WatchYA Reading @caitlingss
Rie from Mission To Read @missiontoread
Vicky from Books, Biscuits & Tea @alouetteuette
Christa from Hooked On Books @ChristasBooks
Jenna from Fans Of Fiction @fansoffiction
Angel from Mermaids Vision @mermaidvisions

I’m not making a full list of books ahead of time because I simply have too many books on my TBR pile to choose from and you never know where my mood might take me, but I can say that Skeleton Lake by Angela Kulig, Being Human by Patricia Lynne, and Breathe by Melanie McCullough will be on the list.  Also, probably a few that have been sitting around for awhile like White Noise by Don Delillo and The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto, to name just a few.

However, I am starting at the lowest level (1-10 books) right now, because I simply don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up.

2012 “Books That Made Me Love Reading” Challenge

This wonderful challenge is being hosted by the always-awesome Emlyn Chand, and is much more simple than the TBR Pile Reading Challenge.  Pretty much, this challenges asks you to read at least 1 book per month that you loved as you were growing up, and which had a huge impact on your general love of books and reading.  This could be a children’s picture book, or the books you were forced to read in high school that you actually learned to love, etc.

I think this is an absolutely fantastic idea for a challenge because those of us who love reading have usually had this passion since we were children (possibly since before we can remember), and we always have a huge slew of books we’d love to re-read some time.  I know for me books have always been a part of my life.  My mother is a also an avid reader and our house was always filled with books, no matter how many times we moved, or how small the apartment or townhouse was.  My mother read to me a lot when I was little, and my brother and I both started reading on our own at very young ages.  Some of the first books I really remember reading are The Boxcar Children mysteries that I read in first grade.  I was obsessed with those books, and I will no doubt read at least the first one over again for this challenge.  I also really loved picture books.  In fact, I still do, and I collect them.  And, of course, the book that changed everything for me (as I’ve mentioned on this blog before) was The Hobbit.  I read it in the 4th grade and knew from that moment on that I HAD to be a writer.  No if, ands, or buts.  So, that one will definitely be on the list (just in time for the new movie too!).

For more information and the sign-up for this challenge, go here.

So there you have it, folks.  More things to add to my schedule, to keep me busy, keep me awake nights, and make me (more) crazy.  But at least it should be a fun ride to the psych-ward. ^__^