I'm not sure what drew me to the review.
Maybe it's the several entries that have gone up on this site about kids' books. Or it could be the fact that we're in the dying days of winter and this writer talked about her love of frigid days. And this is still curl-up-with-a-book weather.
Whatever it was, this review of "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett got me thinking. About kids books.
Again. I know.
Mostly it was an, "Aw man, I forgot that one" feeling. I forgot it on my own top five list of kids' books. I read it and "A Little Princess" (by the same author) half a dozen times when I was younger. My family had this beautifully-illustrated set, and they were a treat to delve into.
I love the way Slone Crosley dug into "The Secret Garden's" themes: the darkness, and the light. I guess I never read the book at an age to realize these on my own. But reading her review, I wonder if that wasn't part of the appeal for me.
After all, what I think I loved about "The Secret Garden" was the mystery. Misselthwaite Manor was chock full of secrets upon secrets: a garden, a hidden cousin and the meaning behind all of it.
Looking back, there are plenty of mysteries that could've - and probably should've - been listed in my top five. (Or maybe it should've been a top 10.)
I loved the Boxcar Children books. I had dozens and checked out more from the library. I didn't even mind reading through the same introductions in each book in the series, explaining that the children were orphans and hid themselves away in an abandoned boxcar to stay together.
And then there's "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E. L. Konigsburg. I loved just thinking about staying over at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and figuring out all those things.
And then there was "Harriet the Spy"
by Louise Fitzhugh. So maybe she didn't solve mysteries, but she had plenty of observations.
Now, looking back on these books like Crosley did with "The Secret Garden," I see some similar themes running through these books: observant kids who were scrappy enough figure out mysteries on their own.
I'm not much of a mystery-reader now (I actually don't read them because once I start, I physically can't put them down). But I remember the thrill of knowing my beloved characters were going to figure it out - or putting together the clues before they did. It's sort of cool to see the way they influenced me (after all, while I don't solve mysteries, I do enjoy putting the "pieces" of a story together).
And I guess that's what kids' reading should be about - finding role models you want to be like and emulating them.