Books and Bratz

I was a huge nerd as a kid. It’s my mom’s fault.

When I was in the fourth grade, our TV stopped working. There was sound, but no picture. We didn’t watch a lot of TV anyway — whatever the rabbit ears could pick up. Cartoons on Saturday morning. “3-2-1 Contact” after school. Maybe the news at night. I remember watching “Remington Steele” with Mom a few times. Sometimes she rented a VCR (remember when you rented VCRs?) and movies; our favorite was “The Sound of Music.”

Mom said she wasn’t going to fix or replace the TV. She said we needed to read more, especially my younger brother. Reality: We didn’t have a lot of money. The reading excuse sounded a lot better.

So we read.

In the fifth grade, we had a contest at school: Whoever read the most books in the school year got a prize of some sort. By then I was reading at least a book a day. Granted, “The Babysitter’s Club” series, which had just started, and “Sweet Valley High” series weren’t super challenging. I also took on some classics — “The Call of the Wild and “White Fang“; Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn“; “Little Women” and “Little Men“; “The Three Musketeers“; “Grimm’s Fairy Tales“. Some Judy Blume. “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” The “Little House on the Prairie” series. The “Anne of Green Gables” series. Trust me — there were a lot of books. I stayed up late and read under the covers with a flash light. I got caught (more than once) reading novels during science or history classes. I would read as I walked home from school — literally, walk and read. I loved books.

Somehow, I lost that fifth-grade contest. It was based on the number of pages you read, and my friend Beckett Senter — whom I haven’t seen since middle school — managed to pull ahead of me at the end of the year. He was very smart, and liked to read classics and books about Greek mythology. He read Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.” In the fifth grade.

Anyway, I always looked forward to getting the Scholastic book club fliers — I would study them, crossing out the books I’d read, circling the ones I wanted, trying to narrow down the list to the one or two we could buy. I never thought of those book lists being censored. It saddens me to learn that they are.

I also believe that “The Babysitters Club” is more challenging than the “Bratz” series. Although, let’s face it, neither of them are “Satanic Verses,” and I’m sure it wasn’t on the Scholastic list either.

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