Day 21: The first novel you remember reading.
Digging around in the recesses of my 47-year-old brain, I can come up with a lot of novels that I read as a kid, but no recollection of the order in which they were read. I'm fairly certain that it was one of the following: Little House in the Big Woods, Little Women, or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That's the best I can do.
But, I can remember with absolute certainty the first novel I read aloud to my first child, my now 17-year-old daughter. She was not quite 4-years-old, and I was home on maternity leave with my son when I read Charlotte's Web aloud to her. She loved it, and, as an aside, it was an absolutely perfect read-aloud book. E.B. White's writing is marvelous. No one has ever made pig slop sound so appetizing, nor made a spider so delightful, before or since.
Day 22: A book that makes you cry.
There is a scene in A Little Princess that makes me cry, even though I have read it probably twenty-five times - where impoverished, orphaned Sara Crewe finds a coin in the gutter, and she uses it to buy herself a hot bun from a baker. The baker, a nice woman, sees how hungry Sara is and lets her have half a dozen buns even though she can't pay for that many. She does this because Sara is well-spoken and appealing.
Sara is ravenous, so hungry that the smell of the buns makes her dizzy, but as she leaves the bakery she sees an even hungrier, even more wretched child than she is huddled in the doorway, shoeless, dirty, and literally starving to death in Victorian London, ignored by the well-fed Londoners who walk by her without sparing her a glance, much less a bit of kindness. This child is neither well-spoken, nor appealing. She is invisible in her unattractive wretchedness.
Sara proceeds to, despite her gnawing empty stomach,to give that child five of the buns, keeping only one for herself. Moralizing? Yes, definitely. But dang it, the idea of that hungry little girl caring about a child who is even hungrier makes me bawl. And then, at the end, when Sara has recovered her fortune, and she returns to the bakery to set up a plan for the woman to give out food to hungry children, she discovers the child that she has helped, clean and grateful, living with the baker. The woman was so inspired by the kindness and selflessness that she saw in Sara, that she brought the girl in, and gave her dinner and a warm bed.
There is a lot of want in the world, and a lot of people who are prepared to ignore that want because, in their minds, no matter how crazy the idea that someone who is a child, or who is seriously mentally ill, could be responsible for their destitution, people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And while I totally get that impulse, when you actually stop, and look around, what you see is people in need. We need many more Sara Crewe's and many, many, many fewer self-satisfied, smug Londoners prepared to allow children to starve in the gutter because they can't be bothered to engage in a little empathy.
Which is why A Little Princess makes me cry.