Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Because of A Book with Pamela Ehrenberg

I am so excited to have this guest back at my blog.  She has been here before, and I'm thrilled that she has agreed to share her thoughts about a childhood book.  Thanks for stopping by Pam!  I hope, readers, that you will check out Pam's book, Tillmon County Fire, which I reviewed back in June.

Pamela Ehrenberg is the author of Tillmon County Fire (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2009) and Ethan, Suspended (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2007). She has been an educator for twelve years, currently serving as a consultant for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and Getting College Right. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her children Talia (age four) and Nathan (almost one).

In first grade, what I wanted most was a big sister. Or a little sister. Or even a brother. I wanted someone to play with, of course, but also someone to draw imaginary lines down the back seat of the car, keeping me company back there on long rides. I wanted a non-grownup to argue with, and someone to distract my parents now and then. Mostly, I wanted someone to balance things out in our family, make things feel not so uneven, and make me feel not so different from everyone else.

My first grade classroom had a bookshelf from which, every day after we'd finished our work, we could read any book we wanted. And though I must have read other books from that shelf, the one I returned to over and over was called The Oldest, The Youngest, and the One in the Middle. The book had probably belonged to my teacher's children in the 1950s and was old (not in the classic sense) even in 1978. But I recall clearly the characters' efforts to establish a neighborhood club, how as their needs expand (someone to build a clubhouse, someone to paint a sign) the membership grows from children who are the oldest in their families to include youngest children and middle children as well. And even one girl with no brothers or sisters at all.

At the end of the book, someone's mother presents lollipops to all of the club members: first to the "oldests," then to the "youngests," and finally to the middle children. The girl with no siblings, of course, falls into all three categories--and the last illustration shows her with one lollipop in her mouth and one in each hand.

Of course, the book didn't cure me of wanting a sibling. But because of a book I learned there's a place in the world for people who feel different, people like me. And that sometimes, if you face the world head-on with all its potential for disappointment, you just might stumble into a triple serving of lollipops.

About Tillmon County Fire - In tiny Tillmon County, where it seems like nothing ever happens, a mysterious fire rocks the lives of the teenagers who live there. Who set the fire that night, and more importantly, who owns the reasons behind it? / As the story unfolds, the lines between truth and fiction, motive and happenstance, guilt and innocence blur. This novel-in-stories is told sequentially in the voices of its disparate cast of characters: a frustrated adoptee, a gay teenager, a big-city kid who is new in town and wishes he were back in Manhattan, a pregnant store clerk, and a boy with autism who is more at the center of events than he imagines.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at IndieBound

About The Oldest, the Youngest, and the One in the Middle - written by Lillian Gardner and published in 1954 by The Junior Literary Guild and Franklin Watts, Inc, NY.  I was unable to find information about this book as it is an older title.  I would appreciate any comments about where to find a picture of the cover and/or a synopsis of the book.

Buy it at Amazon


Pamela Ehrenberg said...

Thanks so much for the chance to visit again! I've enjoyed reading other writers' book memories and look forward to reading more in the future--what a great feature! Thanks again for having me.

PracticePRN said...

The Oldest, The Youngest And The One In The Middle by Lillian Gardner was my favorite book as a very young child. A little girl suddenly finds herself excluded from her friends because they formed a club. Frustrated, she goes to an older boy who's both a friend and mentor. He helps her make a club that's even more exclusive but lets everyone join. It's about exclusion and inclusion -- sort of the childrens version of the They drew a circle that shut me out/ Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout/ But love and I had the wit to win / We drew a circle that took them in.

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