College is fun… okay, let me rephrase that: college can be fun. There’s parties, getting to decorate your own dorm, taking classes never, ever offered in high school, and tons of other new, exciting possibilities! And you can explore them all, once you’re done writing dozens of research papers, balancing a job and school, and wondering if there’s a limit to how much ramen one human being can eat in a year.
College, like I said, can be fun, but it can also be hard.
Man, I miss elementary school.
Always having a ride thanks to the school bus, recess, getting a lunch made of food besides ramen noodles, recess, fun parties to celebrate the holidays, and did I mention recess? Yeah, elementary school is heaven on earth, but you only realize that once it’s long gone.
Personally, my favorite elementary school memory was storytime, because unlike in college, where the average English assignment is having to read Moby-Dick in a week and write an analysis half the size of the novel over the weekend, kids are actually allowed to enjoy the books they read in school.
That’s why I believe many of the characters in books we discover as kids make as lasting an impact, or even moreso, than the ones we discover as adults. In fact, the character you loved and identified with the most often had a lot to say about the kind of childhood you had.
Loved Angelina Ballerina? You were a girly girl through and through, and definitely took at least one ballet class. More of a Pippi Longstocking type? You were young (literally), wild, and free. Was Hermione Granger your main gal? You’re an average human being, congratulations.
And those are just the first few examples.
From: “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans
In an old house in Paris covered in vines, there lived a crazy-cool girl named Madeline. Just because this red-headed wonder was pint-sized doesn’t mean she wasn’t a powerhouse, and if you admired Madeline when you were just as petite, you were undoubtedly a natural leader and queen of the playground.
Go down the slide headfirst? Sure thing! Walk across the top of the monkey bars? Can do! Nothing scared you, and it’s likely that even today, you look at life’s challenges and say “pooh-pooh,” just as Madeline did to the tiger at the zoo. As for boys, they didn’t intimidate you a bit. You weren’t afraid to tell the school bully what a bad hat he was for teasing your friends! If only you knew he liked you as much as Pepito did his next-door neighbor…
From: “Eloise” by Kay Thompson
Before Zack and Cody reigned havoc upon the Tipton Hotel in Boston, New Yorker Eloise was the Plaza’s resident diva. Like this rawther precocious youngster, you considered yourself to be at a maturity level much higher than your peers, and at a young age already had a sense of sophistication and a love of the finer things in life (translation: your parents took you to see The Lion King on Broadway once and you never failed to mention it).
Your passion for fashion began early, and no matter how many times you were told that you were not, not, not going to school in a pink tutu and striped parasol, you more often than not got your way. Some may call it spoiled, but they’re terribly wrong! You just happened to be crafty and guileful enough to work the system in your favor, even as a tot.
From: “Matilda” by Roald Dahl
You clicked upon this article the minute you saw it, and you can’t tell me otherwise. After all, you’re a Matilda-lover, and Matilda-lovers are articles-about-books lovers. Matilda Wormwood was the textbook definition of a bookworm, and a genius to boot. While you may have not had a supremely gifted intellect—and definitely didn’t have telekinetic superpowers—you were known as one of the smartest, if not the smartest, kids in your elementary class, and was the most excited one when the Scholastic Book Fair arrived in the library.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that you were one to show off your big brains. In fact, you were more than willing to lend a helping hand to those who needed it most. While your quiet presence led some to see you as just another nerdy wallflower, they were wrong to do so: your steely will and steady morals helped you early on to see right from wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t have put a tack on your math teacher’s chair—but then, maybe they shouldn’t have called one of their own students a moron.
(And your favorite movie is the masterful 1996 adaptation starring Mara Wilson. Even to this day).
From: The “Ramona” Series by Beverly Cleary
Ramona Quimby held many titles throughout her years, including daughter, little sister, big sister, student, best friend, and—pest. She resented that last one, however, and growing up, so did you! You weren’t annoying or weird; it’s just that your siblings and peers couldn’t comprehend how much of an original or a free spirit you were! Okay, that sounds a little melodramatic… as were you, my dear.
That’s not an insult, though: you had a flair for the theatrics simply because of how creative you were and how unique of a world perspective you had. Kids can be cruel, though, and you may not have been appreciated for the one-of-a-kind individual you were. That’s okay! Neither was Ramona, but it always turned out alright for her in the end, as it will for you. The Yard Ape’s and Snoozin’ Susan’s of the world just don’t know a funny, bright, amazing person when they see one.
From: “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
All children have a love of fantasy to some extent, but if you were a fan of Lucy Pevensie and her magical adventures in Narnia, you had an even deeper appreciation for all things make-believe than your schoolmates. Tag, hopscotch, and Red Light Green Light were fun and all, but you preferred casting spells with a magic stick or hiding out in your invisible tree fortress.
The only part of you bigger than your imagination was your capacity to love, and the only people more important to you than the elves and fairies in the stories you adored were your friends and family. Through good times and bad, you stuck with your loved ones with all the fierceness and ferocity of a lioness. If the tales you told made you sound a bit loopy, your faithfulness assured others you still had a good grip on reality and what really matters in life.
Your turn, dear readers!
Sara Crewe, Meg Murry, Mary Lennox, and Petrova, Pauline, and Posy Fossil… there are so many young literary ladies that inspired us in our young lives that there’s no way to list them all here. Maybe someday I’ll pay tribute to them in another novel, but this is a good start, I believe.
So, who are some of your favorite characters from kids’ books? Please comment below with a response, whether before or after you share this article. As long as both get done, I don’t mind. Thanks for reading!