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Fun Friday/What’s in Your Five–’Tween Favorites

Friday, October 19, 2007


I heard a story on NPR yesterday morning about how Hannah Montana is the biggest thing for ’tween girls these days (and the biggest ticket scalping scandal in years). Which got me to thinking of the characters/stories I was interested in when I was between the ages of 9–14. I can’t specifically remember anything that was on TV (except Little House on the Prairie, and I think T.J. Hooker may have been on during those years, but I’m too lazy to go over to IMDb to look), so, naturally, my thoughts turned to books.

It goes without saying that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books were—and still are—some of my all-time favorites. But those have been favorites since before I was a ’tween. So I went to books specifically from those years. I’ve listed them in chronological order by copyright date, but I must say that the final one on my list was my favorite book all through my teens and is held together by contact paper and clear packing tape, I read it so many times.

5. Can I Get There by Candlelight by Jean Slaughter Doty, © 1980, published by Scholastic. This book had everything—horses, time travel, and history. This was probably one of my last girl-and-her-horse novels.

      Gail’s parents have just rented a carriage house, about all that’s left of an old country estate. The big house was torn down long ago, and woods have sprung up where the lawns and gardens grew. Beyond the woods, fields stretch for miles—perfect for riding. But when Gail steps through the iron gate near the edge of the woods, she has a shock. Instead of fields, she looks across a wide lawn to an enormous house! and running toward her is a girl wearing a dress from a hundred years ago!

      Somehow, Gail has gone back in time. Can she return to the present? Or will she and Candy [her horse] be caught in the past forever?

4. Spunky by Dori Brink, © 1980, published by Scholastic. It’s a dog’s life . . . told from the dog’s point of view. Spunky begins life as a thrown-away puppy who is found and adopted by a young couple. Other dogs come into their family. They move to a big house out in the country. Stuff happens that made me cry every time I read the book. (I have this thing where I cry whenever I read a book/see a movie about dogs.)

      You are asleep now and don’t even know I am here watching you. The house is still and everyone else is asleep too. I will see that no harm comes to you. If anything happens, I will bark loud and even bite. I’ve learned a lot in the past year since I was a pup. As soon as you are able to stretch your legs, we will run through the fields and play together. There is so much I can show you and so many things we can do. Strange how much I love you. Up until now, I didn’t know how love could feel. Maybe if I tell you about myself, you will understand. . . .

3. The Ghosts of Departure Point by Eve Bunting, © 1982, published by Scholastic. The twists and turns in this story were what made it something I would read over and over . . . along with the romance between the two main characters.

      Depadres Point was the name of the steep jutting cliff, but around here it was called Departure Point. Twelve people had died at this place when they missed the curve and went down onto the rocks below.

      So begins the story of a girl, a boy, and a place known as Departure Point. Many people have lost their lives there—and it is there that seventeen-year-old Vicki and eighteen-year-old Ted meet and fall in love in a strange and unique way. You see, Vicki and Ted are ghosts, victims of Departure Point, and now it’s up to them to find a way to stop the accidents—but they’re running out of time . . .

2. And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle, © 1983, published by Laurel-Leaf. Aside from the fact that it was penned by the incomparable Madeleine L’Engle, this book is an example of a perfect YA romance. It’s got the fantastical setting of a Swiss boarding school (this was the early ’80s—thanks to The Facts of Life the boarding school setting was cool), it has a foreign boy as the romantic interest, and a girl who wants to fit in but finds that she’s happier being herself and having only a few friends than being part of the popular group. And did I mention it was written by Madeleine L’Engle?

      Flip doesn’t think she’ll ever fit in at the Swiss boarding school. Besides being homesick for her father and Connecticut, she isn’t sophisticated like the other girls, and discussions about boys leave her tongue-tied. Her happiest times are spent apart from the others, sketching or wandering in the mountains.

      But the day she’s out walking alone and meets a French boy, Paul, things change for Flip. As their relationship grows, so does her self-confidence. Despite her newfound happiness, there are times when Paul seems a stranger to her. And since dating is forbidden except to seniors, their romance must remain a secret. With so many new feelings and obstacles to overcome in her present, can Flip help Paul to confront his troubled past and find a future?

1. Victoria by Willo Davis Roberts, a Sunfire Romance, © 1985, published by Scholastic. Following the formula for the Sunfire line, Victoria faces two major conflicts: a major historical event/era and choosing between two equally suitable men to whom she is almost equally attracted—though in this case, she really knows she’s in love with Cade, Luis is there as a comfort and as someone who offers to whisk her away from all the unpleasantness. It was through this book that I learned what happened in the battle at the Alamo (I’m not from Texas, so it wasn’t really part of anything I learned about in school to that point), and what gave me my interest in history (well, the whole line served to do that). The other majorly important thing about this book is that I did my first writing after reading it—writing the “sequel,” or my version of what happens after the happily ever after ending. I loved the characters so much, I just couldn’t let them go.

      To beautiful Victoria Winters, Texas in 1835 is a place where parties last for three days. It’s also a place of turmoil and violence. A war with Mexico can’t be far off. Luis Arista, the son of a wealthy Mexican landowner, offers Victoria security and comfort, but would she ever be able to adjust to his way of life? Cade Riely is a ruggedly handsome Texas Ranger who loves Victoria. But he can’t marry her until—or if—he returns from the battlefields. What will become of Victoria’s Texas and the men she loves?

My copy naturally falls open to page 100, which is when Vickie and Cade share their first kiss, and where my favorite lines in the book appear:

      Cade . . . bent to brush her lips with his own.

      Ice and fire swept through her, and she knew now why a man embraced a girl when he kissed her. Otherwise, she’d fall down when her bones turned to jelly this way . . .

So what are the books you remember from your ’tween (or early teen) years?

  1. Friday, October 19, 2007 10:03 am

    You were a sophisticated youngster! I’m almost embarrassed to say how much I loved the Sweet Valley High series. That may have been around the time I started reading Agatha Christy. Sorry to say I don’t remember much from that long ago!


  2. Friday, October 19, 2007 11:36 am

    I loved Jean Slaughter Doty too! Though my faves by her were Summer Pony, the sequel Winter Pony and another by her called The Monday Horses.

    I loved Betty Cavanna’s Spring Comes Riding and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion Books, Leland Silliman’s The Scrapper, John Richard Young’s Arabian Cow Horse, Glenn Balch’s Lost Horse series, Helen Wells and Julie Tatham’s Cherry Ames series…

    The list goes on forever. I always had my nose stuck in a book…even while I did my chores sometimes.


  3. Friday, October 19, 2007 9:58 pm

    Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, a YA bio on Belle Boyd, an absolutely hilarious tall tale bio of Davy Crockett. Dr. Doolittle, Mandie, The Saddle Club. The Snow Filly by Eyne Mitchell.

    Pretty much anything I could get my hands on! The Snow Filly and King of the Wind are ones that I read over and over and over. Several of my Mandie books need to be replaced because I’ve read them so many times the covers are coming off. And The Secret Garden and A Little Princess.



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