Monday, March 23, 2009

The books that changed my life (1)

I got this idea of coming up with a list of the books that had a strong influence on me from Facebook. I decided, however, to post the books here on my blog as part of a series. Coming up with the list was more difficult than I initially thought, so I decided to approach it chronologically, beginning with a book that started my life as a bibliophile.

When I was in grade 2, I checked out the children's chapter books section in my school library out of boredom. I was first drawn to the blue spines of the Hardy Boys series, but I was turned off by the age of the Hardy Boys themselves -- they looked so old. Nancy Drew was out of the question, since the main character was a girl. I then scanned the rest of the books on the shelf and pulled out a novel called The Bobbsey Twins and the Doodlebug Mystery. I must admit that what made me borrow this book was the cover, which showed four kids riding a freakishly large beetle.

The Bobbsey Twins series was less popular than its contemporaries (Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew). The series began in 1904 and was rewritten in the 1960s to give it a fresh new look. The Bobbsey Twins are actually two sets of fraternal twins -- 12-year-olds Bert and Nan, and 6-year-olds Freddie and Flossie -- who find themselves in quaint scenarios involving simple plots, a few of which are mysteries. The books themselves have been criticized for having too many protagonists, saying that the twins are only a "simple duplication of protagonists."

I loved The Bobbsey Twins and the Doodlebug Mystery still, although I can't seem to remember the plot; all that comes to mind is that I finished the book in three days and I ended up borrowing most of the Bobbsey Twins novels from the library. I guess I was partial to uncomplicated plot lines back then. My Bobbsey Twins phase lasted for 2 years, when I eventually found the stories too parochial. In grade 5, I started reading Hardy Boys and I would read a few of them for a year.

I noticed that the Bobbsey Twins books were not really that popular in school. They were placed at the bottom of the shelf; you had to scoot down just to scan the titles and most of them were dusty. Today, only FullyBooked carries the series at some of its branches. And again, you only find them at the bottom of the shelf. I was hoping that the publishers would release the books in their 1960s covers, the same thing that the publishers of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew did.

The Bobbsey Twins began my relationship with books, one that would make me a true-blue bibliophile. Before Bobbsey Twins, the only books that I read were fairy tales compilations and Dennis the Menace cartoon strips in paperbacks. Since grade 2, I have never been caught without a book in my bag.