My First Books: Reminiscing with Debbie Miller

Debbie MillerMost people remember at least a few stories from those early years of reading that stick out as something special.  The pool of childhood storytellers is wide and deep, from Maurice Sendak to Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl to Madeleine L’Engle, J.K. Rowling to Mark Twain, and more and more and more. What are the first three books that influenced your distinct perspective?

Today, Bushwick reader and performer, Debbie Miller, shares her memories of the first books on her shelf.  Debbie is a clever singer-songwriter originally from Long Island, and has written and performed 5-star hits at Bushwick Book Club shows inspired by books such as Alice in Wonderland, 1984, A People’s History of the United States, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

What were the first two or three books that had a significant impact on your perspective in your early life?

A children’s book about dinosaurs, which was red; I can’t remember what it was called. Also, Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar and The BFG by Roald Dahl.

How did you discover these books, or why did you end up reading them?

The red dinosaur book my dad used to read to me every night before I went to bed when I was in either nursery school or preschool.  Then, one night, I began reading it to him. That is how I learned to read.

As for The BFG, I loved Roald Dahl, but I’m not sure how I got the book. I used to belong to a children’s book club called BOMVO (Books of My Very Own). Many of my books came from the book club.

Why were these books important to you?

Sideways was probably one of my first chapter books. It was a wacky book about students in a school, and each chapter was devoted to someone different.  One of the funniest snippets from the book was a teacher who supposedly taught in the school, but didn’t actually exist.  Her name was Miss Zarves, and she was supposed to have been a teacher on the 19th floor – but the school had no 19th floor.  When I got up to chapter 19, if I remember correctly the entire chapter read like this “There is no 19th story.  There is no Miss Zarves. Sorry.”  I thought it was the funniest thing I ever read!  Who knows – maybe that’s where my appreciation for clever humor-writing stemmed from.

I was a big reader as a kid; I would get absolutely lost in novels.  I often long for the same powers of concentration that I used to have as a child, to be able to sit still for hours and read. I read several Roald Dahl books, but The BFG stands out in my mind as a story about dreaming and friendship (and of course snozzcumbers).

920709_526772530715039_1299570487_oWhen was the last time you read these books?  Would you read them again?

As a kid, and yes yes yes.  Now I think I will.

Are there any books you have read later in life that you wish you had read as a child or teenager?

None that I can think of, but I recently did the reverse and reread To Kill a Mockingbird.  I loved it as a high school student, but it had an even more profound impact on me as an adult.  It is different to read something for school (even if you like it) than to read something for pleasure.  All of the themes came flooding back to me, but I found that this time I felt even more connected to the characters than before.

Hey Bushwick Readers, we’d love to hear your memories of your first books. Comment below or tweet them @iReadandSing with #myfirstbooks