Monday, August 13, 2012

My Favorite Line by Grace Burrowes


I have a lot of favorite books. As a kid, I loved the Uncle Wiggly series, mostly because my dad read it to us at bedtime, and seemed to enjoy the Skillery-skallery Alligator more even than my brothers did. Dad also referred to my mom, a registered nurse, as Nurse Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy, which probably endeared the series to us further.

I adore certain passages of the Bible as translated in the King James version. Regardless of any theological inclinations, this is beautiful, vintage English employed in the expression of some beautiful sentiments.
I first grade, I read about Dick, Jane and Sally (though I always wanted more stories for Spot and Puff), and was soon reading every horse story the school library contained. I quickly moved on to anything Hardy Boys, some Bobsey Twins, and a smattering of biographies.
 Then, in third grade, we had a story hour one day over in Mrs. Sofranko’s room, and that is when I learned the meaning a “favorite” book. Mrs. Delores Sofranko was cool. She’d done a Peace Corps year in Nigeria, she was pretty, and she had a smile that said every child she ever met was a wonder to her. The lady could teach.
 The book she chose to read to us that day was simple, not even a chapter book, though her audience had reached the venerable and smug age of eight. I mean, this was a children’s book, but I gobbled up every word of, “The Dot and the Line.”
A tall, dark, relentlessly straight Line, falls in love with a carefree, happy-go-lucky Dot. She thinks he’s serious, dull and not worth a second look—the mad Squiggle is ever so much more fun— until the Line realizes he can… bend. With some effort and imagination, the line bends to form an angle, and then he contorts himself into increasingly fascinating geometric shapes. As the book progresses, so does the romance, until at the end, the Dot and the Line realize they can live happily ever after.
Put them together as illustrator and author Norton Juster did at the end of the tale, and you get an exclamation point! In the movie version (there was one), the tagline is: To the vector go the spoils.
The subtitle for the book is, “A Romance in Lower Mathematics.” I loved it. When we were given an art assignment to draw a scene from the book, I drew the Dot and the Line eating popcorn on a park bench. They didn’t quite sit next to each other, so we know the scene was from the first half of the book—right?
I loved the cleverness of the book, the utter impossibility of two such different characters finding a way to be together. I loved that the Dot had to realize that the Squiggle was silly and disorganized, while the Line had purpose and creativity. These characters had arcs, they had to risk changing their self-concepts, and they found their Happily Ever After.
When Jo Bourne won her RITA for the Best Historical Romance of 2011, she used her moment at the microphone to thank her teachers. I didn’t start writing romances until I was in my late forties, but my enthusiasm for the genre traces back to that day 45 years ago, when I heard an inspired teacher read a simple book, “The Dot and the Line.”  

What’s the first book that stuck with you? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of the Grace Burrowes book of their choice.

18 comments:

  1. Great post, Grace! Last of the Mohicans. I loved the story when I was a teen! Like you, I didn't begin writing romance until much later, but I love HEA and can't get enough of them!

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  2. I already love Joanna Bourne, but her Rita acceptance speech elevated her to heroine status for me! The first book that stuck with me was The Black Stallion. I read it in first grade and loved it.

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  3. Terry, I have to wonder who doesn't love a HEA... and why? Nicholas Sparks writes a fine book, but when he kills off one of the protags and leaves the other sadder and wiser, I want to bellow at him, "You re-write that ending!"
    Except then some of the books wouldn't have much of an arc.

    Shane, Walter Farley wrote my every fantasy: I save the magnificent troubled horse, the horse grows to love me on our island paradise, which I will not leave without him. He trusts me enough to strike out into the world with me. We conquer the world together. A kid's book or a romance?
    My horses hadn't read the same book, but we conquered the world anyway.

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  4. I wish I could remember the first book I read. I don't remember not reading. But the first romance I read was A Girl Called Hank. It was the all American teenage story where the fifteen year old girl had a crush on the older blond, blue eyed boy next door. I think I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time nad I've loved romance books ever since.
    Amelia

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  5. Books were always like little miracles to me. Once I learned to read there was no stopping me. I escaped into such wonderous worlds. I am not really much of a rereader - usually only series that are so far between I need to refresh my memory. I know there are just so many books just waiting to take me with them and I want them all. When my children were young we would visit the library and take out the maximum amount of books like I did as a child but they also have a huge library of their own too.

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  6. For me, it was LITTLE WOMEN. I so wanted to be Jo.

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  7. I can't remember the very first book that caught my attention but I do know that once it was caught, it didn't ever want to leave. Books were my escape, my treat and my lifeline to worlds that in my station in life, I did not figure I would ever see.

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  8. The Velveteen Rabbit. Have loved it since the first time I read it.

    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  9. Hi Grace,
    One of the first books that stuck with me is Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." It remains one of my favorite books of all time.

    janie1215 AT excite DOT com

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  10. Amelia, My first YA brush with romance (if you discount The Black Stallion) was A Wrinkle in Time. Who'd have thought Calvin could be a hot name?

    Catslady,I feel the same way. A good book is like a fairy godmother, able to make all the hard, bad things go away.

    Mia, I wonder if every author has a latent Jo inside her. Not sure the Professor would have been my idea of a romantic hero, though.

    Carolyn, ditto, except I'm still in the present tense: Books ARE my escape, etc.

    Lil, oh Yes! And I say that knowing that much of my once luxurious, plush fur has been loved right off. Big Sigh.

    Jane, Pretty sure I can recite WTWTA word for word. My daughter adored it, and I still come out with "Let the wild rumpus begin!" frequently. People either get it, or they're to be pitied.

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  11. I loved Black Beauty as well, but read a book called Gift of Gold by Beverly Butler that influenced my career choice.

    nisethusfarAYyahooDOTcom

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  12. The book that I always think of that stuck with me was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I loved that book so much and I made sure I introduced my son to the book too.

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  13. Pride and Prejudice

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  14. I love the lines from Pride & Prejudice with the whole every man with a large fortune must be in need of a with. Mr. Bennett has some good one liners too. I also love Emma and the line where she is talking to knightley about them not being brother and sister and knightley goes "indeed we are not." That always puts a smile on my face.

    Fabulous topic.

    countessofmar(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  15. Oh it was definitely Pride and Prejudice for me too! I became kind of obsessed with the remakes done for tv or movies after reading that story! I think that book is what tipped the balance for me to start reading more romance.

    yadkny@hotmail.com

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  16. Nise, that's all you're going to tell us? Not the why? Not the career it guided you too? Now I will look up the book and find out if you became a geologist.

    Barbara, I'm a Wrinkler too. Had some trouble falling asleep thinking about The Man With the Red Eyes, and always wondered what Aunt Beast looked like.

    Melody--Hear, hear for La Jane. Her touch with irony is unmatched to this day. And oh, the movies that have resulted...

    Yadkny, you're not the first person I've heard say that, and it's a short hop from Austin to Heyer (whose birthday falls this month). They both had a sly smile to the writing sometimes that's scrumptious even all these years later.

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  17. The first book that stuck me is love awaits by johanna lindsey that's why i'd collected all Johanna's book :)

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  18. Like Ms. Marlowe, I have to say that the first book that really stuck with me was Little Women as well! Then later it was Pride and Prejudice :)

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