Summer makes me nostalgic. The warm weather, the scents of sunscreen and fresh-cut lawns, the children out and about at their summer activities – these things make me long for the summers of my childhood. Specifically, for summers of reading, curled up like a cat in a patch of sun on the dining room floor or stretched out on the couch keeping anyone else from sitting down. I read non-stop during the summer when I was young. One year, I had my photo in the local paper (along with a handful of other children) for reading over 100 books during the library’s summer reading program. And they were chapter books, not picture books. I would so love to be able to go back to those summers and again read all day long.
The funny thing about summer nostalgia is that I am not only nostalgic for my own summers, but for the books I read during those summers, and for the summers in the books I read; summers that were different from mine. I recall distinctly reading a book that talked about the “dog days” of summer – hot August days, and feeling a kind of nostalgia for that even as a child, because it was not a type of summer I experienced, growing up on the relatively cool coast of California.
One of my absolute favorite series, and one that particularly lends itself to nostalgia, is the Trixie Belden mystery series. I love these books and I have re-read them more times than I can count. Trixie is a 14-year old aspiring detective growing up during the 1940s and 1950s (the books were written over a large span of years from the 1940s to the 1980s, but they have the feel of the ’40s and ’50s) on a farm near a small town in New York State. There are so many elements to the books that make me feel nostalgic for a life I have never experienced. The teenagers are in many ways the epitome of the “perfect” 1950’s stereotype. They spend their summers (and after-school hours) riding horses, exploring the woods, helping their neighbors, and planning charity events for their club to do, besides getting involved in various mysteries. Their town is small and neighborly, with one department store store, one main diner hangout, one junior-senior high school, and where everyone knows each other. Although I also read and enjoyed Nancy Drew, I enjoyed Trixie Belden more, I think because the books evoked an entire realistic setting and way of life more than Nancy Drew books do. Trixie and her friends are not perfect; they have homework, help with chores, and so on, and the families of Trixie and her friends are brought to life much more than the families of Nancy Drew and her friends.
I am not sure my description does the books justice; it hard to capture in writing the feeling I get when reading them, but hopefully you have some sense of what these books are about. I still enjoy re-reading them, perhaps partly because I am reminded of the feelings I had when first reading them as a child. I have been feeling particularly nostalgic for Trixie recently, and I am looking forward to visiting my parents in July and reading one again (they were out of print for many years and have only recently been brought back in to print, and can be difficult to get a hold of. My parents bought the whole series at a garage sale when I was young – minus a couple books, which I still haven’t read!).
I could go on and on about my favorite children’s books and authors, many of which I am either nostalgic for or made/make me feel nostaglic, but I will save some for future posts. I do want to mention two other books that I am particularly nostalgic for right now: The Four-Story Mistake and Then There Were Five, by Elizabeth Enright. These books were written in the 1940s and are about four children who move to a big house in the countryside. They are really wonderful and delightful and inventive stories, and I read them many times. The funny thing is, I had no idea until just now that these books were the second and third in a quartet: I discovered this on the publisher’s website. Apparently the books were reissued a few years ago, which is great, but I must say I do not like the new covers; I do not think they capture the sense of the books at all. These two books are also still sitting on a shelf at my parent’s house; perhaps I will also read one of them when I visit!