When I agreed to do this blog, I wondered how I could possibly combine books and chocolate. First of all, I LOVE way too many children’s books to choose favorites and second, I’m not a fan of chocolate. Now before you run in the opposite direction screaming at such sacrilege, perhaps I should explain.
I used to be a total chocaholic in my early years. Then I got the ultimate job ever at age 16 – working in the Chocolate House at HersheyPark. After eating chocolate cake for breakfast, chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup topped with chocolate whipped cream for lunch, and following that with a chocolate milkshake and candy bars for my afternoon snack every day for months, I cured myself of my chocolate addiction.
But I never managed to cure myself of my book addiction. After I learned to read, I always had a book with me — a practice that grew into a 30-book-a-week habit from 4th grade on. I hid books in my desk at school and read while the teacher talked. I read with a flashlight under the covers at night. I read while my friends watched TV or played outside.
Of course, I grew up to become a librarian and later an author. So now in addition to reading, I’m also always writing. Or illustrating. Or spending time with other writers and illustrators, who share my passion for the written word. So choosing favorite books is even more difficult at this point in my life. So for every book I list here, there are hundreds or thousands of others I wish I could include. I went back to my childhood bookshelf to choose the books that had the most worn and dog-eared pages.
I’m going to start with the book I reread most often: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved Sara Crewe’s journey from pampered rich girl to abused servant girl (a reverse rags-to-riches story).
I dreamed of being just like her — staying happy and cheerful even in the worst circumstances. In the end, Sara receives her reward when she’s rescued by her father’s partner and once again becomes a wealthy heiress. But no matter what occurred in her life, she remained a princess with a big heart. From her, I also learned the power of imagination.
Because one of Sara’s triumphs over the nasty headmistress was when she spoke fluent French to the language teacher, I chose a chocolate eclair to pair with the book.
My second most-read book was Madeleine L’Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time. It transported me to another time and place. I reread the whole series multiple times and dreamed of someday becoming a writer as skilled as L’Engle.
The whole trilogy intrigued me, but I have to say my favorite of the three was A Wind in the Door, when Meg had to fight for her brother’s life.
It was in this series that I was first introduced the Francis Thompson quote, “Thou canst not stir a flower / Without troubling a star.” That made me appreciate the vastness of the universe and the interconnectedness of all life. I realized the impact even tiny acts of kindness can have on the world around me, and to this day, I can’t pull weeds without feeling a vast sadness. I’d rather have an overgrown garden than remove a plant, any plant — even a weed.
Because this trilogy deserves something out-of-this-world, I chose a Milky Way.
Janette Sebring Lowrey‘s Poky Little Puppy was a slowpoke, but rather than learning the lesson to be on time, I realized it was better to procrastinate because the poky puppy ended up with more desserts and freedom than his siblings who arrived home on time. That turned into a lifetime habit of procrastination, and although at times, it causes problems, most often I find procrastination has many benefits. So I can thank the Poky Puppy for that life lesson. And the illustrations by
For childhood dreams and coziness, I think a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows puddling on top sipped in a rocker evokes the warmth and joy of these picture books.
My list wouldn’t be complete without my favorite heroine, Pippi Longstocking. I thrilled to her adventures and travel and independence. In a time when so many girls were portrayed as gentle and mild-mannered, Astrid Lindgren‘s Pippi jumped off the page, did what she pleased without adult supervision, and lived life on her own terms. She said what she thought without fear of consequences.
Pippi taught me to challenge authority and to never fear being myself, even if it meant standing out from the crowd. From her striped stockings to her wild red braids, Pippi demonstrated what it meant to be true to yourself.
In keeping with her tropical environment, I paired Pippi with my favorite coconut treat, an Almond Joy. And the fact that it contains nuts makes it a perfect match for Pippi’s zany nuttiness.
So who do you have to thank for all this chocolaty goodness? Eileen Moynihan of Childhood Books asked me to participate in this Chocolate Book Blog started by Karen Hall. You can read Eileen‘s and Karen‘s Chocolate Book Blogs by clicking on their names. The next person who’s handed the baton has to write a blog post naming 6 of their favourite books and linking one kind of chocolate to each book. Luckily for me, I found a chocolate lover in Monette Pangan, who’ll be bringing you more mouthwatering books and chocolate next Saturday.