Tag Archives: comfort books

A Snowy Tradition

22 Dec

I’m about to be a little cheesy.

There’s a book that I read every year, either at first snowfall or over Christmas. And since we had that little blizzard on Saturday, it’s time for . . . Winter Dreams, Christmas Love by Mary Francis Shura. It has a heart with “romance” in it on the spine. Cheesy, right? But I just kind of love it, because actually, the story is not as sappy as you’d imagine.

This book was, I think, one of my last Scholastic book club purchases in the seventh grade. (Yes, I continued to order books long after it was cool. I don’t understand how people could resist the siren call of those paper fliers!) Come on, what 12-year-old girl is going to pass this cover up? Right?

And it’s exactly the right story for a shy 12-year-old, too. Ellen is a normal 14-year-old girl just starting high school, and she falls hard for Michael, the guy–a junior–that every girl falls for. We follow her for three years as she deals with high school and her unrequited crush. Of course, at the end, Ellen finds out that Michael had fallen just as hard for her, and they get together. It warms your mushy heart, doesn’t it? Discovering the boy you’ve been crushing on does, in fact, like you back just as much is what everyone wants in high school (or, let’s face it, far beyond high school).

But Ellen’s crush isn’t easy on her. It actually sucks pretty bad. When I was in seventh grade, the YA section of our Waldenbooks was filled with mostly Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine or really, really cheesy romances. So despite the cheeserific title, Winter Dreams, Christmas Love seemed refreshingly real. After realizing she loves Michael, Ellen thinks, “She’d seen a lot of movies, read a lot of romances. She had thought love was supposed to be stars in your eyes and joy that made you feel like dancing. She didn’t feel like dancing. Her chest ached and she felt cold. She clasped her arms across her chest and held her breath to keep from crying. If love hurt this much, she didn’t want any part of it.” Love is the exact opposite of rainbows and unicorns for Ellen, and it’s the first book I read back then that showed it that way.

There are flaws in the book, to be sure. The characters often sound oddly old-fashioned for something written in the ’90s. The chronology of the scenes doesn’t always totally fit. But neither of those stuck out to me the first few times I read it back in the day; it’s something that I’ve only noticed because of my repeated yearly reading. When I was 12, I was caught up in Ellen’s struggle. She also has wonderful friends–which has always been a draw for me in a story–and a warm family. And her crush on Michael develops into a lovely friendship, too, despite the way the unrequited love hurts her. “They were friends who loved each other,” it says at the end, “and they had all the time in the world to see what came of that.”

Yeah, it still gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Comfort Books

1 Jul

Alice Sebold wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times last summer that had a great sentiment I wrote down for my quote collection, and part of it says very much why I’m a big re-reader of books:

“It is comfort, company, a way to buffer oneself form the pain and isolation of the everyday. It is the peace I find by visiting my closest friends. I have given up thinking I’m deranged for discovering them between the covers of a book.”

Perhaps I would not necessarily call my books my closest friends, but I do certainly think of them as friends. They’re familiar and engrossing and give something to me every time I open them, regardless of whether it’s the first time or the twentieth. And some of them have been with me since my childhood. They have not only their own stories inside them, but pieces of my story, my memories.

And so, my favorite comfort books, the ones that are as welcoming and comforting as old friends, the ones that make me feel that all will be right in the world…

The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Persuasion by Jane Austen

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