Join me as I go back to December 2009 when I penned this blog for Bookreporter.com ~ a fabulous site for readers and writers.
Heather Gudenkauf — author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE — thinks back to one holiday from her childhood, when she learned a valuable lesson from a hasty decision and the help of a favorite book.
The holiday season was always a wonderfully chaotic time in my childhood home. With six children, two adults, a dog, a finch, two gerbils, and several hermit crabs all living under one roof, we had our share of adventures and misadventures. But unmistakably, we always had each other.
One of the most wonderful gifts I received the Christmas I was nine wasn’t from Santa Claus, but from my mom and dad. I could tell by its shape and heft that inside was a box of books. Books were highly valued in our home, but being the youngest of six, I rarely had a brand new, unmarred book of my own. I always received the chocolate-smeared, doodled-on books they didn’t want anymore. On Christmas Eve, with anticipation, I tore into the package and found a box set of Beverly Cleary books including one of my all-time favorites, RAMONA AND HER FATHER. Growing up, I wanted to be Ramona Quimby. I loved her sassiness, I loved her wonderful imagination, and I loved all the predicaments she got herself into and out of. Unfortunately, my personality was more akin to Ramona’s mild-mannered, best friend Howie than to Ramona’s free-spiritedness. While the snow swirled and the wind blew, I spent the remainder of my holiday break ensconced in my toy box, wrapped in a sleeping bag, holding a flashlight and reading my Beverly Cleary books. In RAMONA AND HER FATHER, Ramona managed to get a crown of burs stuck on her head, accused her teacher of having wrinkly elephant ankles, and called the elderly neighbor lady pie face. But in that same book Ramona also managed to convince her father to quit smoking, taught the reader how to make tin can stilts, was the best lamb in the Christmas play even though her costume was made up of old pajamas with faded bunnies on them, and taught me the lesson that family is what is most important.
In a matter of days, I had finished reading my books. Even at the age of nine, I was always on the search for something new to read, so I braved the cold and walked to a local used book store where I could trade my books in for credit toward more books. As I handed over my box of Beverly Cleary novels that my parents had just given me for Christmas, I knew I was doing the wrong thing, but that didn’t stop me. As I went to bed that night, my new books piled by my bedside, I found no joy in the adventures within their pages. I knew how hard my parents worked, I knew how carefully they picked out those books for me, but still I had given them away with little thought. And for what? A few used books, which on closer inspection, had stained pages that smelled liked mildew. I couldn’t sleep that night knowing that my actions hurt my parents’ feelings. The next morning, still feeling guilty, I asked my sister what I should do. “Go back and get them,” she told me simply. And not for the first time, and certainly not the last, I understood the wisdom in my sister’s advice.
I dug into my earnings from shoveling snow and tromped back to the bookstore. After a few frantic moments scanning the shelves in hopes of finding my box of books, I saw them, still within their case, still shiny and new looking. I paid for my books and brought them home with me, where they belonged. Now that was just the thing Ramona Quimby would have done.
I still have that copy of RAMONA AND HER FATHER. The pages are stained and smell a little like mildew, but no matter, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have shared my love for Ramona and the other characters that live on Beverly Cleary’s Klickitat Street with my own children. We have laughed over Ramona’s feistiness, groaned over the dilemmas she gets herself into, and pondered over the lesson that Ramona always manages to teach us… that family is the gift to be valued most.
— Heather Gudenkauf
Welcome to the Heather Gudenkauf’s Books Giveway for December!
This month three books are up for grabs for one lucky winner: An advanced reading copy of MISSING PIECES and the first two books in the Zoe Goldman series by the immensely talented Sandra Block ~ LITTLE BLACK LIES & THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME.
To enter simply click on the leave a comment link at the top of this post and share your biggest holiday disaster (just read the following blog post to learn about mine!). Your comment won’t show up right away ~ but check back and it will be there. I’ll choose one random winner on Friday, December 11th.
While you’re here ~ feel free to browse around my newly updated site and then head on over to Sandra’s website ~ http://www.sandraablock.com
Thank you for joining in the fun!
Everywhere I look this holiday season I see book Christmas trees. On Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram. The pictures make it look so easy. I’m a book lover. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of books. I can do this!
9:56 AM: I send off the first 40 pages of my next novel to my editor so she can take a peek. Yay me!
10:15 ~ Head to Menards to pick up some greenery for decorating the house for the holidays. Listen to some Christmas music on the way.
11:30 AM ~ Aw look, some of the kids’ favorite books from when they were little. These are definitely going to be part of the book tree. Except the one with the barcode on the front. Sorry GWMS – it’s only about four years overdue! I’ll return it on Monday.
12:36 AM ~ Lolo wants to help. She’s so cute. I just have to take a pic and post it to FB.
1:39 PM ~ Looking good. I didn’t think the tree would end up this wide though.
2:04 PM ~ It’s getting a little wobbly. I’ll just add a few items to help shore it up. Yes, that’s a bulletin board.
2:20 PM ~ Progress!
2:32 PM ~ The end is in sight.
3:37 PM ~ Done! I think. It looks kind of… I don’t know…
3:39 PM ~ I’m still not sure. It looks kind of widish on the bottom. I text a picture of it to an Unnamed Family Member. No response. I’ll just call her.
Me: I just sent you a picture of my book tree. Will you take a look?
UNFM (Unnamed Family Member): Laughter
Me: What? Doesn’t it look like a tree?
UNFM: More laughter
Me: I’m starting over!
UNFM: I think I might have peed my pants a little (more laughter)
3:59 PM ~ Now this could be a little more manageable. I can do this!
4:15 PM ~ Diet Coke break.
5:06 PM ~ This still doesn’t look right. I text a picture to UNFM.
Me: Why can’t I do this?
UNFM: I could help you on Sunday. Go have some wine. And guac!
Me: I really want to do this!
UNFM: I think it’s looking good…maybe lights would help
Me: Or an architect
UNFM: Hahaha! Oh my goodness, I have laughed waaay to much over this!
6:34 PM ~ Lights help. Right?
6:36 PM ~ Never mind. Drink anyone?
I’ve been in thriller mode as of late and have been reading many great ones as of late. Right now I’m reading the series by Robert Dugoni about sharpshooter and Seattle PD detective, Tracy Crosswhite. In MY SISTER’S GRAVE, Crosswhite must face the questions that still surround the twenty year old disappearance of her beloved little sister. Was the right man convicted or has an innocent man had to pay for a crime he didn’t commit?
I finished MY SISTER’S GRAVE in a matter of days and immediately picked up HER LAST BREATH. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful read ~ look no further!
Have a book club? One of my favorite things to do is meet with fellow booklovers and talk books. Too far away? No worries ~ I’m happy to meet with book clubs via Skype or Google Chat. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work together to set up a virtual visit.