Thursday, April 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday: What were you reading in 1994?

Happy Throwback Thursday!

The year was 1994. It was a dramatic year, the year of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, the year that O.J. Simpson led the LAPD on the Ford Bronco chase, the year when prolific, award-winning actress Dakota Fanning was born.

(Let's take a minute to feel old and wrinkly while we let that last one sink in.)

In my family, it was also the year of the personalized sweatshirt... But if we're being honest, that was everyone's family, and it was more of a decade than a year. #The90sCalled

(This family photo is worthy of Look closely.)

I wasn't just reading up a storm in 1994 -- I was writing up one, too. This was the year I fell in love with the composition book, with its black-and-white Magic Eye-like cover, and its dozens of ruled pages just waiting to be filled with dramatic third-grade narratives. My most memorable story was a contemporary (illustrated!) epic of friendship, about three kittens named Goosy, Moosy, and Missy, who wanted to travel to Paris. I'd say that gives you a good representation of my oeuvre at that point in my writing career.

Here's what I was reading in 1994!

Not only did I read this charming book about insecurities and girls who trick boys, but also a classmate and I made Freckle Juice for a project! I went over to Sarah's house and we mixed in everything from ketchup to olive oil to grape juice, right down to the speck of onion. It was disgusting and fun, perfect for our third-grade selves.

I wonder if the Freckle Juice recipe was the inspiration for all these seven-day cleanses floating around...

Okay, I didn't exactly read this by choice. But my brother was reading the Goosebumps books, and I was addicted to books, so I couldn't resist trying out these scary books when he wasn't reading them, and OH MY GOSH WAS I TERRIFIED!!! I was much more into comic misadventures with happy endings. These books, with their suspenseful plots, their gross-outs, and their twist endings, shook my third-grade self to the core. The first one I read, Monster Blood, gave me nightmares. Oh, who am I kidding. They all gave me nightmares.

I guess I've always had a connection to spunky, strong-willed, klutzy female protagonists (See 1993), and Ramona Quimby is no exception. Ramona is a pest, a questioner, an adventurer, a doer. She also has a big mouth and a big sister who rarely gets her. She's curious and fearless, exemplified by when she decided she was "The Baddest Witch in the World," or when she squeezed out an entire tube of toothpaste into the bathroom sink. I mean, come on, who hasn't wanted to do that?

If I were to draw a parallel between Ramona and any other literary little girl, it would be with Laura Ingalls in the Little House series. Yes, Ramona is fictional, but in her Beverly Clearly shows what Laura Ingalls Wilder showed of herself in writing about her 1800s childhood: honest depictions of an "ordinary" child's everyday life, in which "little" things, like toothpaste and going to school, become memorable adventures with victories and consequences.

They're the kind of characters who show children that they don't have to be lightning thieves or dragon hunters to lead lives worth writing about. They show children that their lives are significant, and when you get down to it, I think that's the most important mission of children's literature.


Throwback Thursday is always more fun with friends! Please feel free to leave comments with what YOU were reading/writing during the year in question. If you'd like to be more involved by "guest posting" a complete reader/writer Throwback Thursday here, please email me at joy.eilene (at) I want to see your throwbacks!

So tell me, what were YOUR literary choices in 1994 (or whenever you were nine)?

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