There was a message on my machine last week about my daughter’s bookshelf. “Does she have the Ramona books yet?”
My daughter is four. And yes, she does, a few of them anyway. Because I had only just delivered a girl when I started collecting the “girl” books that were such a part of my childhood.
So it was fitting that in the same week of the Ramona book query arrived Lizzie Skurnick’s collection of essays. Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading brings together her columns from Jezebel in a book that’s as much memoir of a seventies childhood as it is a reader’s guide to teen lit.
Because Skurnick (and a few guests writers, including Jennifer Weiner and teen lit queen Meg Cabot) break down the likes of Harriet the Spy and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books with a nostalgic look at where they were on first reading and what they discovered the second time around. Not merely a re-telling of the stories of classic young adult fare, Shelf Discovery repaints the stories of our childhood much they way our English teachers did their versions of the classics.
Skurnick treats the dime store paperbacks with reverence, and in her re-readings, we find messages of feminism, empowerment and sometimes just a simple story to grow older with.
The essays are at times a tad short, and those essays centered on books that I hadn’t read (although she hit fairly close to my own childhood reading list) were plagued with inside jokes and obscure references that made reading cumbersome. My suggestion? Pick up Shelf Discovery and open to the index – then pull up Amazon and get shopping. Once you’re done with the originals, head back to Shelf Discovery. Indulge.
But first – pick up your copy of Shelf Discovery at Amazon.