The Stories that Made Me

When I was five, I read Little Yip-Yip and His Bark, by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, a Little Golden book, clothbound, purchased from a used book sale from the Seminole, Texas public library. It’s about a little farm dog with a tiny bark, who gets teased by the other animals, until one day he falls into a bucket and his bark gets amplified, and he scares a fox away from the henhouse and becomes a hero.

The farmer rewards the puppy with a new pillow for his doghouse and a fresh bone. When I saw the puppy in his soft bed with the farmer and his wife smiling at him, I felt empathy for a character for the first time. Somehow I knew this was what a story was supposed to do.  

Little Yip Yip conveyed from where I was and made me feel at home someplace else.

I graduated to The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope when I was 7-8. These stories transported me to places I would have loved to go. I was completely enthralled with their adventures at the seashore and the farm, living each experience with them. An only child, I had no knowledge of what it was like to have siblings, so the fact there were four of them and two sets of twins at that—Bert and Nan, and Freddie and Flossie—made theirs a world I wanted to stay in. And I did.

The Bobbsey Twins introduced me to a life I could not enjoy in the real world.

And then one day (10-11) at the Denver City public library I discovered Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. I still remember the all-consuming joy of walking into that library and heading straight to the shelf where the Nancy Drew books were. There they were, all lined up like piano keys, some tattered, some new. I loved looking at the card in the pocket in the back and seeing who had read the book before I did, my fellow mystery lovers. 

Nancy was so intrepid. The Secret of the Old Clock. The Secret in the Old Attic. She faced problems and setbacks and confronted her own fears with such confidence.

Nancy Drew inspired me that “a girl” could have courage and I could do things I did not think I could do.

I still remember the way the sun was shining through the windows of the Terry Parker High School library the Friday afternoon I wandered in, looking for a weekend read, and found The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle on the shelf. I chose it solely because it was thin enough to read in a weekend, but how grateful I will always be I welcomed Sherlock Holmes into my life. 

After I read one novel, I read them all, and then read all the volumes of short stories and then read them all again. They always made perfect sense in the end and I found myself thinking, when Holmes explained how he had detected the murderer, Well, of course, I see that.

Sherlock Holmes convinced me a story had to fit together, be internally consistent, and true to itself.

These are the authors who answered when I knocked on their doors.

I am glad they invited me in.