How I Almost Never Read Harry Potter, Or: Baby's First Bookish Memory

February 27, 2015

Photo credit: thejbird / Foter / CC BY
When I came up with a list of questions to ask some fellow bloggers last Monday, one of them was, "What is the first book you can vividly remember reading?" This may or may not have been out of the selfish desire to answer this question myself, so I'm just going to pretend that one of you asked me.

Because you're curious, right? Right.

I've been reading since before I began kindergarten. My mother claims I was reading at the age of 2, but my grandma is convinced that I'd just memorized all the books I had at that point. Even that sounds like something more impressive than a two-year-old is capable of, but I digress.

Though I've been devouring books for close to two decades, my first clear reading memory is from the age of 10 or so. I'd recently picked up a mass-market paperback of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. All the cool kids at school were gearing up for the release of The Goblet of Fire (or was it Azkaban? it's a bit fuzzy now), and I finally caved and wanted to see what all the fuss was about because, apparently, I was a very discerning fifth-grader.

I remember sitting in my parents' bedroom as I read the opening lines, and I almost immediately closed the book in terror. There was a line about Dudley getting some kind of toy—possibly a remote control car—and running over the neighbor's dog with it. I was a delicate little thing (and, who am I kidding, still kind of am), and the thought of a boy wantonly injuring an animal was just too upsetting to bear. I had to put the book down, at least for a little while. Eventually, I realized that animal abuse wasn't J.K. Rowling's shtick, and I became fully enamored of the magical world of Harry Potter. It amazes me that I almost missed out on it due to those first icky feelings.

I'll never forget the satiny coating on the book and how it started to bunch up and peel after excessive handling (I found my copy on Google Images, and the wear is just like I remember it). The pages, too, quickly became stiff and crinkly after several bath tub reading sessions with Shaina, Destroyer of Books. I have no idea where the book is now—it probably got beaten up enough for a trip to the garbage can during one of our moves—and I'd probably find it pretty unappealing if I came across it, but it's firmly lodged in my mind as the prototype of my love for reading.

What's your earliest bookish memory?

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16 comments

  1. I answered this in the questions you asked me, but definitely Trixie Belden. She was a lot like Nancy Drew, only she was more real to me. She wasn't handed her own cars, didn't have a convertible when she was 16, instead she had to do chores and take care of her brother and save her money to buy a horse. I adored her, and I still love (and collect) the books. They make me smile and I look on them fondly. :)

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  2. I'm so jealous of everyone who has childhood memories with Harry! The books came out when I was in middle school, and though I'm sure I would have loved them, I tossed them aside as something for my younger sister. Big mistake! I didn't end up picking them up until a few years ago.

    I have vivid memories of reading The Berenstain Bears No Girls Allowed to my mom...I think that's the earliest that comes to mind.

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  3. I wish I could claim something as great as Harry Potter as my earliest bookish memory, but instead I remember devouring the Babysitter's Little Sister books when books about 12-year-old girls were just too mature for me. I'll never forget Karen, with her two pairs of glasses in pink and blue.

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  4. Criminy. You guys are making me feel old. If we're talking first book I really remember reading, then that's probably either Miss Nelson is Missing! or Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. As far as books I actually got sucked into as a series, my first big foray into that was the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary. I made sure to get my hands on each and every one of those when I was in elementary school.

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  5. My earliest bookish memory is the Puddle Lane books, which are so incredibly obscure I doubt anyone would have heard of them! They were books that my mum and I read together when I was learning how to read and came in different reading levels - the cover of the book would be a different colour depending on the reading level. The story in each book was also printed twice - so when you open out to a double page, on the left side would be a more complex version of the story (longer and with bigger words), and on the right side was a simple version (shorter and easier words). So once you'd mastered the simple side, you could then graduate to the big words! They were the best.

    And I've just discovered they are as old as me - first published in 1985!

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  6. One of my earliest bookish memories is picking up Little Women at the library. I remember picking it up because it was the biggest book in the children's section and I needed long books (I was a fast reader!). I don't remember reading the first Harry Potter book, but I have lots of memories from other books in the series.

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  7. I love reading early HP memories like this :D I was an old lady when they came out but I devoured them with my eldest daughter. She's 23 now and has such fond memories of reading those books with her mom...at least I think she does. Lol, she SHOULD ;)

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  8. Amanda @ The Zen LeafMarch 5, 2015 at 4:13 AM

    Wow. My experience with HP was entirely different. The first books were coming out when I was in late high school/early college, and they sounded completely stupid to very cynical Manda. I refused to have anything to do with them for years. Then, in 2005, right after Half Blood Prince came out, my sis-in-law convinced my husband to read them, and I caved. I read the opening pages with scorn, determined to prove that I was "right" for avoiding these books for years. Then I read all of them in like a week. I later went on to read them so many times that they're almost memorized. Yeah... :D

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  9. I definitely went into them similarly! I thought they must be crap if all the kids at school were reading them... guess I was a pretty judgmental ten-year-old. :P

    Glad we both finally saw the light!

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  10. Hahaha, I hope so! I don't think my mother ever ended up reading them herself...

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  11. Ah, I love that you picked it up because it was longest! Little Women is such a good one, too.

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  12. Wow, these sound great for early readers! You're right that I've never heard of them, but I'm glad you enjoyed them so much. :)

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  13. Ooh, I feel like I pitted Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume against each other (for what reason, I have no idea), and I was definitively in the Blume camp. I definitely remember reading some of her stuff geared toward teens (maybe.. Fifteen? is that a Cleary book?).

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  14. Haha, aww! I'm glad you have such a vivid memory of them. I never read those ones myself.

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  15. It seems like so many of us wrote off HP early on! We're such snobs.

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  16. Ooh, a self-sufficient young lady. I like it!

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SHAINA INSTAGRAMS (MOSTLY HER CAT)

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