Time with Uncle Bill meant freedom and fun and lots of dirty work. While my parents raised us to get in and out of trouble on our own (natural consequences and problem solving skills at its finest), Bill’s house was something just a bit different.
It was a little like Lord of the Flies, but with no malice. The first crop of cousins spent endless hours exploring his property. We shoveled muck in the mornings to earn a trip to the lake for the afternoon. We made homemade coleslaw and kraut, and ate Ramen noodles like they would quit making them. We salted homegrown radishes and the slugs that threatened to eat them.
Bill’s house was my introduction to the dark side via Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was also the summer of hippies as we piled into a bus and drove across the state to attend a week-long rodeo. It’s with him that I won a first place trophy for calf riding.
Uncle Bill was always bigger than life. To be cliched, he was quite the character, and it made perfect sense that his term of endearment for me would be “cuter than a bug’s ear.” I’m not sure how the game evolved, but my response would inevitably be, “You’re cuter than a dump truck.”
I can only hope that you have a “dump truck” character of your own who taught you so much about life simply because of who they were.
If not, I will provide you with three of my all-time favorite literary characters that have impacted who I am.
My most beloved character is Cassie Logan from Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Hands down she is the sassiest, sweetest, savviest young lady I’ve read. The life lessons she taught me about perseverance, “fairness”, and heart are unparalleled. Her personal growth over one heartbreaking year of night ridings and burnings, of white girl humiliation, and an uncanny ability to hold a certain innocence in the midst of violence shaped who I am today. It’s a book I’ve read every year since I was 8 years old.
My second fave is Bartimaeus, a nasty little djinn who tries his hardest to wreak havoc in the world of the magician boy who summons him. Jonathan Stroud writes with British wit and charm and infuses stuffy, pretentious Bartimaeus with hope, humor, and a curmudgeonly personality you can’t help but love. The Amulet of Samarkand is the first in a trilogy that quickly became my second annual must read- thanks to Sylvan Learning Center.
My newest love is Boy in The Book of Boy. New to the library, the main character teaches so much about the meaning of home. The message is beautifully told through a medieval pilgrimage that rivals Bernard Cornwell, but for kids. Catherine Gilbert Murdock weaves a tight and intriguing tale that culminates in a somewhat surprise ending. Boy’s transformation of figuring out who he is and where he fits into the world is one we can all learn from. Timeless in its storytelling, this novel is now on my perennial read list.
So there, three characters plus my Uncle Bill to start your day. Hopefully you will find delight in those around you, and that their little quirks can endear you rather than annoy you. If not, just remember that all the characters we meet have something to teach us about ourselves.
happy reading~ jody