“Icebreaker Games are a classic pastime at at boarding schools. I can’t even count how many icebreaker games I have played throughout my life as a teacher. I’ve always especially enjoyed “Two Truths & A Lie,” and invite the WMS community to play it with me throughout the year. I offer one truth about me, and I invite others to offer one truth in return.
BY CARNEY M. HEAVEY O’BRIEN, HEAD OF SCHOOL
Truth: I love books!
This past week someone asked me, “What’s your favorite book?” My response was, “Do I have to choose just one?” My parents—especially my mom—instilled in me a love of reading. She read constantly—everything from young adult novels to the Poughkeepsie Journal to pop mysteries to James Joyce—and she talked excitedly and equitably about all she read. I guess it’s not surprising the daughter of this woman also grew into a voracious reader: one who collected picture books as a teenager, who majored in English in college and whose first adult, full-time job was as a school librarian.
Reading fueled my very active young imagination, was a constant companion throughout my family’s many transitions as a child, and provided me an escape from the whirl and spin of my ever-expanding nuclear family. Books were a common thread for the friends I made as a young adult and an opportunity for snuggling when my babies were young and a source of generative debate, discussion and connection as my children grew into adults.
Each book (or essay, or poem, or article) has left its impression on me. It’s quite literally impossible for me to name one as a favorite. My brain begins to spin at the notion. Each has played its own important part in shaping the person I am today. Though I don’t like the idea of naming a favorite, I do enjoy reflecting on the books I’ve read and at what point in my life they were important to me. Following is list of titles that carry some importance for me. Please consider this list partial and subject to change!
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was one of the first bildungsroman books I read—over and over—as an elementary student enchanted by the connection with nature, drama, and intensity of emotions.
The adventure, discovery, and magic of C.S. Lewis’ Narnian Chronicles nurtured the creative aspect of my growing-sense of all things spiritual and the Jungian struggle of good vs. evil in my middle school years. This connection to the intellectual, spiritual, and magic of C.S. Lewis carried over to my adolescent years in which C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, along with The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, bridged my growing-up sensibilities and high-school book club debates back to my formative wonder.
This mysterious awe informed my attraction and return to children’s and picture books as I entered young adulthood and—eventually—had children of my own. Everything by Beatrix Potter, Robert Munsch, Maurice Sendak, Eve Bunting, the Ransomes, and so many other clever, thoughtful authors and illustrators captivated my imaginative will and helped me shape what would eventually translate into my love of literature and reading for my children.
Beatrix Potter’s Complete Tales defines the rhythm of my memories of being a new mom. The beautiful and tiny green volumes were a baby shower gift before my eldest daughter, Reilly, was born and I read them on repeat when she was an infant.
I discovered the literature of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books (related to the TV shows I loved as a child) when Reilly’s Montessori kindergarten teacher recommended the books for her “homework” to challenge her emerging and precocious reading skills.
Stephanie’s Ponytail, was one of the little known titles by Robert Munsch that resonated with my second daughter and rebel toddler, Quinn.
And then I bought 17 Things I’m Not Allowed To Do Anymore by Jenny Offill in 2011 when Quinn was 20 years old because the story and the illustrations reminded me so much of Quinn as a kindergartner and about a thousand kindergartners I had encountered as an educator after her.
The story of Ignus by Gina Wilson with illustrations by PJ Lynch about a little dragon who could do just about everything EXCEPT breathe fire resonated with my thoughtful little boy, Seamus. Seamus was always fascinated by allegory and myth and often requested classic stories of Mythology at bedtime.
My youngest daughter, Connolly and I would read the American Girl stories together at bedtime and when she was in high school I bought her Kobi Yamada’s picture book What do you Do with an Idea? as she grappled with her exploding creativity.
I have so many visceral memories connected to books and reading! What memories do you have from books you love?