The results are in

As part of the fifth annual Dominican University Caritas Veritas Symposium the Butler Center staged a Book Identity Project through which we solicited from members of the university community a book (or six) from childhood that contributed to their identity. Participants were given an old-school check-out card asking for the book and we lined the front door and window of the center with old-school check-out card pockets to receive them. We had a tremendous response, with 101 books listed on 86 different cards.

identity cardsThe submissions are fascinating, with a surprising variety. To be sure, the collection includes some well-loved, to be expected titles. Where the Wild Things Are gets three mentions, and Dr. Seuss shows up six times, twice for The Cat in the Hat, twice for Green Eggs and Ham, and once each for Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I’m not surprised to see Louisa May Alcott or A.A. Milne, C.S. Lewis or Lewis Carroll (or Robert Louis Stevenson) in the mix. The single most-cited title is Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, with four mentions, which is something of a surprise, not because it’s a book I don’t care for (indeed, I don’t care for it) but because it seems to have the sort of nostalgic perspective that I never thought spoke strongly to children. Consider me schooled. I was somewhat surprised, too, to find books outside the children’s canon, by the likes of Hemingway and Steinbeck and Dwight D. Eisenhower. We didn’t specify that the book needed to be a book written expressly for children, just that it resonated in the participant’s childhood, so it makes perfect sense that books like these would show up. It’s a great reminder of my own myopia, that I automatically understand young people’s reading through my deep engagement with the body of literature I study. Schooled again!

Quite a few series made the cut, including Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, The Chronicles of Narnia, and, of course, Harry Potter (I was 32 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published, and it’s just a little sobering to realize how many of our students read it as children). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day got two mentions (I wonder if those folks saw the movie) as did The Runaway Bunny. Andrew Clements’ Things Not Seen, published in 2004, is the youngest book mentioned, and the oldest is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, first published in 1855.

Here’s the complete list. Check it out. Are you surprised by what you see? And while you’re at it, let us know if you can identify the authors of any of the first few books listed, unfamiliar to us.

stephan and karaHere are Butler Center Student Assistant Kara Pauley and LISSA President Stephan Licitra collecting entires (and passing out candy). It sure is great to have such friendly, diligent assistance.


Oh, and for the record, my choice was Spectacles, by Ellen Raskin. It’s a great book. You should check it out.spectacles

What book from your childhood contributed to your identity?

photoOn September 23rd, Dominican University will be holding its fifth annual Caritas et Veritas Symposium, and the Butler Center will be taking part in the festivities.  We’ve created library date-due cards with space for members of the Dominican Community to answer a single question: what book from your childhood contributed to your identity?  Participants are encouraged to bring their cards to the Butler Center on the second floor of Rebecca Crown Library, room 214, where we will collect your responses.

But for now, a preview: what book contributed to my identity?  To answer this question, I first had to ask myself, how exactly do I identify?  In the most basic terms, I classify myself as a reader, a writer, a geek.  If there was one work really started me down the path to becoming what I am today, it was Kevin J. Anderson’s and Rebecca Moesta’s Young Jedi Knights series.

Prior to reading this series I would not have identified as a reader.  I remember reading being a struggle for me until middle school.  But after reading the Young Jedi Knights series (more commonly known among fans as the YJK books) I suddenly wanted all the Star Wars literature I could get my hands on.  And since LucasFilm continually publishes Star Wars novels, there are always more Star Wars books to read.

The YJK books made me a reader first, but the writer and the geek followed in quick succession.  By the time I reached high school, I was writing and posting Star Wars fan fiction online, which led me to pursue a major in Creative Writing as an undergraduate student.  Eventually, I began writing original stories.  Reading the Star Wars books also steered me toward other science fiction works, such as Ender’s Game1984, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  I steadily became indoctrinated in other fandoms, making me the geek I am today.

The YJK also had a specific effect on the way I viewed myself as a young girl.  While it could be argued that although all five main characters were equally important, Jaina Solo (the daughter of Princess Leia and Han Solo) acted as the leader of the group.  She was introduced as an inquisitive, mechanically-minded girl who preferred grease stains to makeup.  She was always the character to stay cool when a situation heated up, and has continues to be my favorite character in the Star Wars universe.  The YJK books also featured Tenel Ka, an athletic, rustic girl from a backwards planet with a no-nonsense attitude.  Like Jaina, she wasn’t worried about her appearance, but rather about developing her abilities.  Four books into the series, however, she lost her left arm in a lightsaber training accident, and as she recovered it was revealed that she has a somewhat secret identity: she was really the princess of a 36-planet cluster.  Both girls were able to become strong characters without losing their their femininity and were displayed in leadership roles more prominently than the three boys who made up the rest main cast.

The YJK was a series filled with great role models, fast pacing, and valuable lessons.  Best of all, it was easy to read.  These were definitely high-interest, low-level books.  Although the characters began at the age of fourteen, the series was really written at a fourth grade reading level, which is just another reason why they were able to pull me in when I was a struggling reader.  Without it, I wouldn’t have become the reader, writer, and geek that I am today.

So what book from your childhood contributed to your identity?  Stop by the Butler Center next Tuesday and let us know, or fill out the form below!