Rediscovering My Favorite Childhood Book

What if it wasn't as good as I remembered? I had to find out.
Molly Coplan Marketing Manager Categories: Reading, We Recommend
Marketing Manager

Some of my fondest memories growing up were reading with my mom. I'd be snuggled in bed under the covers; she'd be propped up on a pillow on top of the bed, close to me. And as she read, she'd give each character its own voice, really making the books come alive. 

I remember my favorite book was Tor Seidler's The Wainscott Weasel, wonderfully illustrated by Fred Marcellino. It's the story of a misfit weasel who enlists his woodland friends to help protect his imperiled lady love -- who happens to be a fish. I was 8, and it was one of the last books my mom read to me before pushing me out of the nest to fly into a lifetime of reading on my own. (Yes, that's me as a little girl in the photo, reading another of my childhood faves.)

It was also the first book I loved less for its plot and more for its beautiful writing, the vivid setting of the Wainscott woods, where the weasel and other critters lived, and luscious descriptions of the natural world, such as "A dark red strain spread over the pink glow in the west" to convey a setting sun. It was then that I learned to love books for the way I felt when engrossed in the words.

Many people have never heard of The Wainscott Weasel, and when I noticed we didn’t have a review of it on the Common Sense Media website, I encouraged our book editor to consider assigning it. "Why don’t you write the review?" she asked. And I jumped at the chance to revisit a book that had had such a transformative effect on my life as a reader.

I asked my dad to send me the copy that my mom had read to me. As I waited impatiently for the book to arrive, I started to get anxious about the assignment. What if it wasn’t as good as I remembered? I had just read The Great Gatsby and The Poisonwood Bible; how would this book stack up to all of the amazing novels I have read in my adulthood?

When the book arrived, I opened it right away and the smell of my home wafted out. I started reading it and was immediately transported back to my bed, snuggling with my mom. I began to read, realizing I remembered next to nothing about the plot. I was surprised by how much the book taught readers about nature and relationships between species. I had forgotten how touching the theme of friendship was throughout the story, and I was shocked by the ending and how uncharacteristic it was for a kids' book. But just like when I was 8, what I loved most was the beautiful writing and vivid setting. My 25-year-old self happened to agree quite well with my 8-year-old self. So I felt great about recommending this hidden gem to our users.

What books do you remember loving as a kid? Have you reread them to your kids? Tell us about it!

About Molly Coplan

As a member of Common Sense Media's marketing team, Molly is involved in developing and executing all of Common Sense's marketing programs, including PSAs, guides, emails, and events. She also analyzes site usage to... Read more

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Comments (10)

Parent of a 8, 12, and 14 year old written by Jill VT

I remembered the Lord of the Rings trilogy--and The Hobbit--as just "fantastic books". I was excited about sharing them with my sons about three years ago (they were then around 8 and 10). But as an adult, I found myself wanting to edit them--a lot. So many words and descriptions--and gore! There were parts I did completely gloss as I was reading out loud. The kids enjoyed the movies (I didn't, particularly--too much violence). And we never did get to the end of the third book, just couldn't get excited about finding the end of the never-ending journey. On the other hand, we devoured the whole Harry Potter series. The boys have each read each of the books on their own, at least twice now, as well. Perhaps we just live in a faster paced world these days?
Parent written by Cooldee

My favorite book is Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl- Definitive Edition. I first read the book in 6th grade. Her diary is the best book that I ever read!
Parent of a 9 and 10 year old written by DanzaJoy

My favorites around 4th/5th grade as I recall were The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Wizard of Earthsea and the Hobbit. However, the excessively violent movies of recent years make me loathe to share my love for Tolkien with them as young pre-teens. As an adult, I discovered a great series by Patrica Wrede that I can't wait to share with my kids: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series of 4 books starting with Dealing with Dragons). I read the 4 books in 4 days during a sad time. They are utterly charming and turn the traditional fairy tales on their heads. This not-your-typical-princess is a protagonist I'd love my children to learn about.
Parent of a 10 and 13 year old written by Middle West

My son is 10 and I'm still reading to him! He reads just fine on his own, but we still enjoy the time together. We couldn't get into "The Mixed Up Files..." even though I knew it was a classic. Really enjoyed all the Dahl books, we loved the humor. Just read the latest Lemony Snickett book, loved the wordplay and humor. Now we're on a non-fiction book about WW I - I'm learning a lot!
Educator written by ideasnatchers

We could always tell who was reading Where the Red Fern Grows because he/she was the student who was crying. My love of dogs and the author's voice make this one of my favorites for pulling me into reading.
Parent of a 3, 8, and 11 year old written by Thethreechunks

Oh my.... Haven't seen Behind the Attic Wall in forever, I love reading favorites with my kids, we have read together Charlotte's Web, From the Mixed Up Files..., Great Gilly Hopkins, and both mom and kids have been completely engrossed :)
Educator and Parent written by RilynnJogNog

This is a great "history" of a child learning the love of reading. It must have been so hard for your mother to stop reading to you - not just that you were growing up, but that she obviously really enjoyed it. My favorite book as a young child, perhaps 5 or 6, was The 'Possum That Didn't (1951). I just now found excerpts of the book on a blog! I've realized as an adult that this book is really about being bullied - it's actually quite a sad story. It starts out so sweetly: "Once upon a time not so long ago, in a forest not so far away, there lived a 'Possum. He was a happy little 'Possum, who always wore a great big smile." The URL for the blog post about the book (with some scans of the drawings and a synopsis) is here. You have to type the letters "dot" com after the word blogspot -(replace the asterisk).
Parent of a 4 year old written by Nat1017

First of all, your childhood photo jogged my memory of "Behind the Attic Wall." I remember really liking that one, but I had completely forgotten it until now. Some of my favorites from first "on my own" reading experiences: James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Secret Garden . I can't wait to read all of these with my kids when they're old enough.
Educator and Parent of a 6 and 8 year old written by Sierra Filucci

I tried to read The Hobbit to my kids, which was a book my dad read to me, and we just couldn't stick with it. It's so wordy and complicated in the beginning. Also The Gammage Cup was one I loved as a kid, but couldn't get into with my kids. But The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was a hit. And The Island of the Blue Dolphins, too. Thanks for the great post!