Because I didn't start reading in English until I was seven, I missed out on many of the books that my peers considered "classics." Books like Winnie the Pooh and poems by Shel Silverstein were not part of my early literary experience.
By the time that I was nine years old, I started reading books like The Borrowers and Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy adventures. Then, when I got to my early teens, I found that I had nothing to read. The books for children were too childish. Teachers made me read books like The Chrysalids, As I Lay Dying and 1984. While those were okay to read in the classroom and made for interesting discussion, they sure didn't make for entertaining reading for an inquisitive, adventurous young woman like me. The books I had available to me were not filled with strong female main characters.
The books for adults were too boring, and had way too many pages with long drawn out monologues that made me want to tear the books into shreds. Who wanted to read mysteries about some pompous detective called Hercule Poirot? What did I care for John Updike? I didn't. I wanted to read books that reflected my reality. I wanted to see myself in the main characters. I longed to read about a heroine that was like me.
More than thirty years have passed since my teen years; and in those years, children's literature has changed a great deal. Nowadays, while books with strong male characters still abound, there are just as many (if not more) stories about girls who are changing the world. There are stories about having gay parents, about being weird, and about placing a well in Africa - and those are just the picture books!
My daughter is now eleven, and, just like I did when I was her age, she eats books for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So when I heard that The Bookshelf (our local independent bookstore) was in need of book reviewers for children's and young adult books, I put our name into the hat and crossed my fingers. A few days later, I received an email - we were in the reviewer's club! Today, I selected a long list of books that my daughter and I can't wait to read. If I can pick them up tomorrow, I should be able to do my first review by the weekend.