Listling Without Commentary: Weird Things You Did As Children Because You Liked That Book So Much

Inspired by our list of kickass girl-novel heroines we wanted to be growing up, many of you commented to share childhood stories regarding the strange (and often homoerotic) things these books inspired you to do, such as carrying around a spy notebook to be more like Harriet.

Here are just some of those delightful activities:

1. I think there were years when I thought I WAS Laura Ingalls and ran around in prairie dresses climbing trees and spying.

2. I made a home movie with my neighbor girl around age 8 wherein I played Molly McIntire (I had the enormous glasses) and she was Samantha VictorianWhatsherface- it involved time travel and outstanding scriptwriting.

3. Definitely played “Heidi” as a child… you know like when kids play pretend or house or whatever… my friend and I would be Heidi and Clara.

4. After reading Anne of Green Gables I went through a (far too annoying) phase where I called people I liked “kindred spirits” and asked all of the girls at school to be my “bosom friend.” Clearly the lesbian card was being played even then.

5. After seeing the Harriet the Spy movie I made my parents buy me a Sherlock Holmesesque detective/spy kit. It was awesome.

6. At some point during my childhood, I may or may not have tried to float across a body of water in a wooden barrel. It didn’t turn out well. Thanks for the splinters Pippi.

7. In my fifth grade class we studied ships and at one point did a sleepover field trip to an old four-masted ship on the San Francisco pier. I WAS Charlotte Doyle for about three months afterwards.

8. I went through a brief phase where I wrote down everything about everyone in a secret composition notebook and pretended that I was Harriet.

9.  I have a big stuffed collie that my nana gave me when I was seven still sitting at the end of my bed who’s called Timmy. We went on adventures.

10. I was the girl who wore full on pioneer garb (bonnet, bloomers and all) to school most days during fourth grade. I didn’t have a lot of friends. But I had a lot of heroes.

11. One of the reasons I got an alaskan malamute as an adult was because of Rontu in island of the blue dolphins. #goodadultdecisionmaking

12. It’s entirely possible that I wrote erotic Laura Ingalls Wilder fanfiction when I was a kid.

13. In kindergarten my teacher used to read us The Boxcar Children, and my friends and I would play “Boxcar Children” on the playground. I actually was always Benny, which makes total sense now that I’m grown up but still dress like a 12-year-old boy.

14. My best friend in primary school and I used to play Saddle Club in the schoolyard at breaktime, we would ride imaginary horses over jumps made of sticks and the boys from the year above would make fun of us but I got to be Stevie so zero fucks.

15. The Secret Island was basically my favourite childhood book. I used to go out in the backyard and practice weaving the branches of trees together to make a house. I was pretty successful too.

16. I was a fan of Julie’s from Julie of the Wolves. I went through this wolf phase in elementary school, so I totally wanted to be Julie and be adopted into a wolf pack, even if I had to live in the frozen tundra.

17. Harriet the Spy inspired me to peer out of my windows with my crappy binoculars and watch people and write stuff down about them. This consumed most of my day.

18. When we read The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  book in school, my third grade reading teacher Mrs. Andrews turned our school into a fake Met. We had to hide from fake museum guards in bathroom stalls, and budget money and shit in the cafeteria. Most memorable school experience probs ever.

 

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Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

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128 Comments

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      I totally took a leaf out of Matilda’s book and dished out ‘punishments’ to my mum and dad when I felt they’d done something to wrong me. (Tbh this mostly involved watering down toiletries and hiding stuff, but still.)

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        For a while there I was pretty sure my Matilda-powers would start showing themselves any day now. Aaaany day now….

        And I may have tried animorphing. I may have tried it multiple times. And whenever I was in a run-down parking lot I’d gaze up at the sky and look for a crashing Andalite spaceshis.

        I still want to go to Svalbard one day. Because Lyra went there.

  1. Thumb up 23

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    made my parents buy me pet rats so i could dress them up in costumes and film it for a video project for my reading class during “rats of nimh.” then jim the rat got loose in our basement and my mom had crazy growing-up-in-the-city ptsd and gave me a 24 hour ultimatum to get rid of them :(

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    I was OBSESSED with the Baby Sitter’s Club “Little Sister” series to the point where I picked out two pairs of glasses like the main character, and assigned a character to everyone in my class and made them act out scenes from the books with me on the playground. It all came to a screeching halt when I tried to hold a wedding ceremony on the playground because I tried to marry a girl instead of a boy like the books. No fucks were given because it was my best friend and we’ve always been just chill like that with each other.

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      My brother and I set up our own Encyclopedia Brown inspired detective agency too! It was fun until he got himself stuck in a stupid tree and I had to get him down, and then our mom decided she “didn’t want us playing back there anymore.”

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    Oh thank God I wasn’t the only child with a wolf obsession. I talked about wolves so much that my Christmas presents that year were a wolf poster and a cassette tape of howling noises.

    But then again, I wasn’t attempting to emulate a book character, so maybe I was just weird.

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    My second grade teacher, who I idolized, gave me a book about Native Americans. Granted it was generalized because it was for kids, but the book discussed hunting and how to walk through the woods without making a noise when tracking animals. Perfecting my quiet woods-walking abilities kept me entertained that summer!

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    #4 – Being a fellow ginger, I felt a very strong connection with Anne. :) I used to run around the woods reciting poetry, wishing I could carry my lunch to school in a pail.
    To this day, I still call my friends Kindreds. I guess the Anne in me has never left… and I don’t want her to!!

    Great post! :) Glad to know I was not alone.

    Oh yeah! I also wanted to live with my brothers and sisters in a boxcar, start a baby-sitting club, and have an identical twin sister who was my crazy opposite in the Unicorn Club.

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    Can totally relate to having a secret spy notebook… I sat in my tree fort and watched the neighborhood kids and wrote in a code that I apparently thought was un-crackable pig latin. I am such a little IRL-GAY (yes, yes I am)

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    in 5th grade I read Tarzan of the Apes (three times), and for weeks I basically just ran around the house with a baby blanket tied around my waste (loin-cloth), climbing shit, tackling stuffed animals, and eating bologna like it was raw meat.

    I feel like 5th grade was maybe too old to be doing this…?

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      I was in 5th grade when I developed the severe urge to be in the Major Leagues.. maybe cuz of Casey at the Bat being read at school, plus I already had a wicked awesome right-field position in softball (altho I was thoroughly convinced that the catcher position would be key with the ladies.. kinda like being the drummer in a band. It’s a thing, I know it is.)

      Anyway, akin to your bologna fetish – I demonstrated my natural ballin’ ability by stuffing mini Tootsie Rolls down in my cheek then walking around spitting big gobs of the stuff onto my mother’s driveway like I was a badass.

      Boy did she not like that.

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    I did most these things, especially the dressed a a prairie girl with bloomers and bonnet one. Also “12. It’s entirely possible that I wrote erotic Laura Ingalls Wilder fanfiction when I was a kid.” AMAZING. My young adult erotica involved Tamora Pierce characters and Marie Antoinette and faeries, it was some wild shit that’s for sure.

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    My best friend and I ran around in the woods with capes on being hobbits. I had noticed the lack of female hobbits and made up a female hobbit name – Fara. We were 12-14 at this time.
    Also, I once converted all of my pocket money into dimes so I could have a sack at my belt that would clink with coin. Because all the books I read featured coin-based economies.

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    Also my bff and I (we even had the matching half heart necklaces, obvs) saved up all our pennies and after like, a year, we ordered the Babysitters Club start-up package to start our very own babysitters club. We were about 9 or 10 years old, so we planned All The Things so we would be ready to get started at 16 or whatever, and it obviously never actually happened.

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    I am currently sorting through everything in my room because I have to move and just the other day I found a wishlist for christmas that I had my stepmom write down for me when I was about five or six and one wish I have was “to travel to Sweden with the ship and search for Pippi Longstocking”

  12. Thumb up 8

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    glad that prairie dresses are a thing and not just me
    because of my childhood… I STILL wish I could go around in full on pioneer garb including bloomers and bonnets. Can we talk about the Kirsten books in the American Girl series? I just want to take up quilting and wear hair ribbons.

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      that was my quote! And yes, I did take up quilting, loved Kristen and wore hair ribbons. I even made my family celebrate st. Lucia (with the candles on the head and everything)because Kristen celebrated St. Lucia. I also refused to cook any thing unless it was from this “pioneer cookbook” that I had. My family put up with an awful lot from me.

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    In first through second grade I wrote my own blatant Nancy-Drew-ripoff stories about two crimefighting sisters named Zeana (I loved Xena Warrior Princess and didn’t know how to spell her name) and Sirena (I also loved Sailor Moon), who also had blatant Sailor-Moon-ripoff superpowers, complete with the transformation/costume-putting-on sequence, because I thought that was just too damn cool. During the same period I was convinced I was a superhero named “Gold Thunder” who was a weird amalgamation of Wonder Woman, Cheetara (I watched a lot of Boomerang, okay?), Lara Croft, and Sailor Jupiter. I also insisted on signing my last name as “Croft” on school assignments.

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    Oh shit, I didn’t follow directions. Nancy Drew spun off into TV shows . Alright, do-over: I used to force my older brother to play Calvinball with me; I kept a secret spy/detective notebook and was obsessed with becoming a lady detective when I grew up, because of Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy; I also forced my very long-suffering brother to play Animorphs with me, and wore all black for months when Rachel died in the last book of the series.

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      I was totally obsessed with American Girls. I had Felicity and Addy, because they were my favorite characters (because their time periods interested me the most…what a nerd/history buff in training) but the dolls mostly collected dust while I obsessed over the books.

      Also I had the American Girls playwriting CD-rom, where you could write and act out plays involving the characters. Mostly my little sister and I used this to demonstrate our cutting-edge sense of humor by having Jiggy Nye (the bad guy who hurts horses in the Felicity books) twirl around in a circle while singing “I pooped in my pants.”

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    I was obsessed with The Famous Five books for the better part of my childhood and one thing that was characteristic of those books was that they would describe the foods they ate in great detail, so when I was a kid and I was eating I kept imagining I was having delicious meat cake or golden ginger soup or whatever they were having. Also one of my favourite books had them discovering some old house that had like a treasure in it or something, and there was this really old, nearly demolished house near to the house where I spent summer. It was just old and green and full of branches everywhere and it was by a river and basically I was obsessed with it.

    Plus I have had very vivid and detailed dreams about playing Quidditch, escaping from death eaters and defeating Voldemort. Am I the only one?

  16. Thumb up 6

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    Heads up: Netflix recently added Harriet the Spy (the Nickelodeon movie) to instant play. I’m guessing you all already noticed this, but I decided to share, anyway, because nobody in the real world seems to be appropriately excited about it.

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    My sister and best friend and I played Babysitters Club with all of our baby dolls. We then turned it into a game of orphans and protecting the babies from kidnappers via American Girl History Mystery Books.
    This was honestly played at least once a week every summer for years during my childhood.

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    I stood up on my desk one day when I was ten and loudly declared that my Mum didn’t understand because she was a muggle. I then tried to levitate the desk, which unfortunately failed. It was only years later that I realised that levitating something that I was standing on would have violated Newton’s law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

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    i’ve spent more than half my life pretending to be/own a horse. my sister and i used to pretend that our bikes were horses, and then our swing set also turned into horses, and i still TO THIS DAY sometimes catch myself pretending that my dad’s snow mobile is a horse NO REALLY

    eventually my parents let me take riding lessons and i remember at one point having this INTENSE rivalry (in my head at least) with a girl in my group who owned a beautiful arabian horse, i was entirely convinced that she was abusing the poor thing (she clearly wasn’t) and made plans (really bad ones) to rescue the poor horse from her evil ways…luckily those plans stayed in my head, don’t think my parents would’ve been thrilled

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    I spent quite a bit of time in my life pretending to be a detective because, you know, Nancy Drew. I *loved* those books. I also searched our entire house (which was only like 10 years old) for ancient secret panels and shit. When we moved, I hid clues for the next owners to find. Because I care.

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      Definitely did the same. Nancy Drew was my girl (I also read an inordinate amount of Agatha Christie).

      I was convinced there was a secret passage behind the giant wooden toy box in my closet that led to the bookshelf in my brothers’ closet. Never could figure out how to open it though.

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    when i was going through my obsessively-reading-all-the-laura-ingalls-wilder-books-over-and-over-again phase i used to roll as far as i possibly could to one side of my bed and make myself really small and pretend that i had to share with my sisters to stay warm in the cold prairie winter.

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    I read the whole Secret Seven series when i was about 8 and I really wanted to set up a secret society. Alas, none of my friends were as enthusiastic as I was.

    I also walked around with a notebook for 2 months cause I had just read Harriet the Spy.

    Also, the Saddle Club! Yes! I had the biggest babydyke crush on Stevie. Her and her bandanna. *Sigh* I always felt like the only reason they gave Stevie a boyfriend was to stave off any potential lesbian rumors.

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        Really? I read all of those- probably because New Zealand is part of British Commonwealth. Enid Blyton was the reason my sister, various friends and I spent many hours in the back garden, building forts, wishing our pets were more anthropomorphized and striving for idyllic self-sufficiency. Sadly our parents were never quite as absent as the ones in Blyton’s books so we were never allowed to sleep outdoors, but I’m sure they appreciated the many hours we spent pretending to be orphans/neglected. I can still remember our collective disgust when we realised that the “tongoo” sandwiches Blyton’s characters seemed so keen on were in fact made with potted lambs tongue. Gross.

        I think I liked the Adventure Series best, which was also later made into a rather bizarre television series. The best one involved the children finding a secret uranium mine and not succumbing to radiation poisoning, in spite of many hours locked in a cell full of uranium.

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    I was obsessed with Julie of the Wolves as well, one; because I loved wolves and two; because I am also a Julie. I remember we had to do some writing prompt in first grade and naturally I made it all about the arctic and hunting and mostly I just remember my teacher being inordinately impressed that I could spell the word ‘caribou’.

    Also Harriet the Spy is now on Netflix (!) and I watch it about twice a day.

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    I read a ton of books with Native American characters and themes, so I was obsessed with bows and arrows from a tiny age. I carved my own arrows and sharpened rocks to be arrow heads and carved a bow and stole string from my dad’s stuff to complete it.

    Also when I wasn’t hunting imaginary mountain lions, I was Hermione; bushy hair, bossy attitude and all.

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    I put up sheets to turn the lower bunk of my bunkbed into a boxcar, and played “Boxcar Children” with my stuffed animals; I was either Jessie or Benny (figures).

    also I read a LOT of historical fiction as a kid, so other pretending games included “Pioneers on the Oregon Trail”, “Native American pushed West by Pioneers”, “Orphaned Pickpocket in Dickensian London”, and “Refugee”. I, also, didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had awesome grades in history.

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    In First Grade someone came into read Boxcar Children to me too. On weekends I would try to sleep in my father’s car (a big Lincoln) and pretend it was a Boxcar. I would pretend to hide cartons of milk behind a “waterfall” to keep it cool.

    When I read Johnny Tremain I would take my mother’s tongs and a hammer and pretend to be forging things with my legos.

    When I read the children’s friendly version of Oliver Twist (with 70% less antisemitism) I would often “steal” food from the kitchen and pretend all of my cereal was gruel. I also started wearing vests all of the time (so gay).

    When I read Secret Garden I would lay in bed and pretend to be an invalid. Sort of took the wrong message out of that one…

    I read a children’s friendly version of Hucklberry Finn when I was about seven and took our air mattress out of the garage and blew it up on my bedroom floor. I would only sleep on that and pretend I was on a raft. But I still pretend I am on a raft if I am on an air mattress.

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    i was always calvin (of calvin & hobbes)

    i still have scars on my belly from the time i was spaceman spiff and tried to leap over a rock and slide down a hill to escape some aliens (when really i just scratched myself up sliding down the hill)

    (i was wearing ski goggles at the time, that’s why i was spaceman spiff)

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    On my eleventh birthday when I received no Hogwarts letter, I cried. I also tried to convince my mother that it was a good idea for me to have a pet owl and tried to cast spells on people/things and morph into a cat at will.

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      OH MY GAWD YES. I never finished it either, among a shamefully long list of others, because I was always reading twenty at a time. The list of shame includes Little Women, The Great Gilly Hopkins and Harriet for-fuck’s-sake the Spy. And you’re absolutely right, the cover IS weirdly sexy.

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    We re-constructed pretty much the entire setting from The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder in my friend’s crawl space, including altars to four different gods/goddesses. It was incredibly elaborate and it went on for years and years… absolutely one of my fondest memories!

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    Oh dear. Well – I read Nancy Drew and Famous Five and Secret Seven, so I liked mysteries a lot and had a fondness for pretending to be a detective. And I had my friends and me start a secret club, except we weren’t as many as seven but still.

    And I had us play Red and White roses, like in the Kalle Blomqvist books, if you know which ones I mean. It was great fun. Basically, we just ran around and tried not to get caught by the other group. And when we did, we had to be prisoners, but could try to escape which worked about half of the time. I think it started to bore people when it didn’t go much further than that though – there were no negotiations, just people being trapped and trying to escape, and others either arguing for release or refusing it. It was fun while it lasted though. XD

    And okay, so yes, I waited for my Hogwarts letter around the time I turned 11. And I had invisible!Fluffy as a pet dog. T_T What? I liked him in the book. ^^ And it made me less afraid of the dark when I was alone. *shrug*

    I think there’s lots of other things, bit I can’t recall it all right now. Oh well. :)

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    I learned the Elvish writing system from the Lord of the Rings. I still use it to take notes for my classes sometimes. I, um, am a senior in college. Possibly this is stretching the definition of “children” a little too far.

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      Um… totally passed notes written in Runic, the ancient underworld language of the dwarves. Also learned the prayer of the Boondock Saints by heart and still use it to this day to shamelessly impress women.

      No shame! I’ve always managed to attract baby nerds who like whiskey, so I’m I’m pretty set ;)

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    In third grade I started writing in cursive because of this one scene in A Little Princess where Sarah is writing a letter to her dad in cursive. Still write in cursive to this day. NO ONE can read my handwriting and it’s too late to turn back…

    …also I didn’t find out until recently that Sarah wasn’t mixed like me. Because her dad was white just like my mom, I assumed that her mom was OBVIOUSLY a person of color. Because duh we were the same person. Turns out she’s actually white. I figured that out last year..

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    I have a card from my uncle thanking me for the entertainment after I upended a bowl of cereal on my head, inspired by Pippi. Also, I remember that I used to enjoy climbing onto our neighbour’s garage roof and dancing and singing inspired by Pippi but I don’t remember that it was raining or that I was naked…contrary to family legend. There’s more but I think that’ll do.

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    I’ve only just figured out a pattern in my games inspired by The Secret Garden and Heidi. Both stories involved themes about getting out into the wilderness (if you can call an unruly, neglected, locked, taboo, neglected garden wilderness) and finding oneself, being healthy.
    I loved the characters of Heidi and Sarah, both wilful and outdoors loving, who encourage and inspire Klara and Dickon, to be outdoors folk and become more well.
    I too loved the overtones of Sapphic friendliness between Heidi and Klara, Anne of Green Gables and name escapes me, Trixie Belden and Honey Wheeler in the Trixie Belden series (I didn’t mind being either Trixie or Honey as long as they were together), Laura Ingalls and her arch enemy ?Nancy? – the tv show Little House On the Prairie encouraged a lifelong interest in pioneer garb, outdoors settings and David Hamilton-esque Sapphic pervertedness in me.
    Also, I loved the story of Hiawatha and I was obsessed with making a canoe out of a Birch tree and taking it down a long lazy river.
    I always wanted a pet raven like Mortimer from Arabel and Mortimer.
    I wanted Elizabeth to have love affairs with other sexy girls in Sweet Valley High. I believe that I read these books purely for the two hot blondes on the front of every book!
    Overtones everywhere.

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    When I was 7 my best friend and I (in spite of being a year too old) tried to see if we met the criteria for being fairy children in No Flying In The House. I took not being able to fly pretty hard tbh.

    I also memorized the chant from The Changeling (I definitely need to re-read that, I have vague memories of there being something sapphic going on between Martha and Ivy) and I think a lot of my fantasy headspace in elementary school was heavily influenced by all of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s books, as well as Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series.

    And when I was ten my cousin and I read Jurassic Park and spent the next summer playing Jurassic Park in my grandparents’ backyard. The velociraptors and brachiosaurs were mine, of course.

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