When I hear the phrase "favorite childhood books," here are the images that come to mind:
A long row of blue-bound Nancy Drew books on a shelf in our basement rec room in Lackawanna.
A collection of Scholastic paperbacks, ordered from a flimsy sheet handed out in school and paid for with dollar bills and change -- especially Edward Eager's "Half Magic," about the magical adventures of a family of literary children.
An illustrated hardcover called "The Abecedarian Book," by Charles Wright Ferguson, a gift from my aunt, who was a Sister of Charity, a college dean and a classics scholar. It used each letter of the alphabet to introduce an intriguing word. ("W" was for wanderlust.)
The books made me happy -- and helped make me who I am.
Nancy Drew convinced me that girls could be independent problem-solvers who drove around in sporty cars.
"Half Magic" confirmed my idea that fantastic things were likely to happen in real life.
And my aunt's gift opened the door to the worldwide club of word-lovers, a membership I've held for life.
There's no doubt: Favorite childhood books grab hold of us emotionally and don't let go.
So, as the annual Books for Kids drive approaches its April 30 ending, I invite you to reflect for a few moments on your favorite books from childhood.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked that question on my Facebook page, accompanying the posting of a News story on the book drive's start.
I was floored by the immediate response.
Fast and furious came the answers from friends and acquaintances in Buffalo and all over the country:
For musician Michael Oliver, an early favorite was the Seuss-like board book, P.D. Eastman's "Go, Dog, Go!" Decades later, Go Dog Go became the name of Oliver's rock band.
For critic Jeff Simon, it was Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind in the Willows" -- "a gift from my cousin Janice." (Many know her as food writer Janice Okun).
For my nephew and godson Patrick Sullivan, it was C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." After noting that his first copy came from his aunt, Patrick called the gift "a big stepping stone for me down the long and winding road of fantasy fiction."
If you feel, as so many others do, that books were important to your childhood and your life, I'd ask you to consider this idea:
Think of your favorite childhood book, go to a local bookstore, buy a copy of that very book and give it -- through Books for Kids -- to a local child who probably does not have books of his or her own.
Whether it's "Harriet the Spy" or Harry Potter, "The Velveteen Rabbit" or "The Black Stallion," the giving of that book is sure to give you pleasure. That act will be something you will do for yourself, as well as for someone else.
With this year's drive, the 17th annual, The News and its important partners hope to reach the 2 million mark for putting books in the hands of needy children in the Buffalo area. There are drop-off points at local Wegmans and Barnes & Noble stores, as well as all the local library branches. (You can also write a check to Books for Kids to help defray the costs of books for special-needs children.)
To learn more, go to buffalo.com/booksforkids.
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Our newsroom said farewell earlier this month to two key staffers: Sports Editor Steve Jones and Assistant Managing Editor for Features Elizabeth Kahn.
In both cases, their careers spanned decades at The News and each made important contributions to the paper. Both used their creativity and journalistic skills to make the sections they supervised attractive and compelling. As they move to new chapters in their own lives after taking advantage of a News buyout offer, both Jones and Kahn leave behind the strong staffs they helped to build -- and a lot of great memories.