I’m not exactly sure where I saw this question, but I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks now. And if truth be told I didn’t have to dig deep for the answer.
I could have chosen good ole Dr. Seuss, but he didn’t really make me a reader. He did spark my interest in reading. I could site Clifford the Big Red Dog or The Berenstain Bears or Curious George or any number of books I devoured, but none of them made me a reader. The book that me me a reader without a shadow of a doubt was Judy Blume’s Iggie’s House.
Iggie’s house just wasn’t the same. Iggie was gone, moved to Tokyo. And there was Winnie, cracking her gum on Grove Street, where she’d always lived, with no more best friend and two weeks left of summer.
Then the Garber family moved into Iggie’s house — two boys, Glenn and Herbie, and Tina, their little sister. The Garbers were black and Grove Street was white and always had been. Winnie, a welcoming committee of one, set out to make a good impression and be a good neighbor. That’s why the trouble started.
Glenn and Herbie and Tina didn’t want a “good neighbor.” They wanted a friend.
So, how did this book make me a reader?
Well this was me. When my family (mom, dad, sister & me) moved to our neighborhood we were one of 5 black families in a neighborhood of 200 homes and counting. It was made perfectly clear in 1978 that we were not welcomed. Tolerated but not welcomed. So, Iggie’s House hit home.
I remember my next door neighbor Kelly who was a couple of years older than me, befriended me; which was cool. We had some fun times together. I went to Summer Bible Camp with her. We had sleep overs, painted each other nails and
put tried to put on makeup. She got me involved in the Girl Scouts (by far my least favorite thing we’d ever done together). Sorry Girl Scouts of America.
Anyway, I remember going over to Kelly’s house, knocking on the door and her father answering and him glaring at me. I didn’t know it until later that he didn’t like me or my family for that matter because we were black. Kelly’s mom on the other hand was super friendly and was the catalyst for a lot of the interactions Kelly and I had.
I still remember the day Kelly told me that she was moving. She came over, knocked on the door crying and spilled it. We hugged and cried and vowed to keep in touch; which we did for a while. But like everything we grew up and grew apart and communication slowly came to an end.
After Iggie’s House, I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Blubber, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, Deenie, Forever and yes they are all by Judy Blume. My mom had to get me off Judy Blume and onto something else; which wasn’t terribly hard, since I’d been bitten by the reading bug. Every week we would head up to the Bookmobile and I’d return a book and check out another. Oh my goodness! Those were the days.