Amelia Bedelia, Junie B. Jones, Frog and Toad. The aforementioned books make up the Children’s books that I will remember forever. Along with walking and talking, reading and writing are a pair of the many fundamental primary steps that are made in a young child’s life, and certainly in my own life. The first “big” book, with the exception of the Holy Bible, I ever read—or remember reading—was Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. It was this book that developed me in both curiosity and mischief, but it opened doors to new worlds, even those not pertaining to English or any other art form.
I was five years old when my older sister, ERYN, returned from school with a new book from her first-grade teacher. Immediately, she approached me boasting over her new book. At first glance, it was rather thick—compared to my picture books—and on the front there was an illustration of a peculiar looking young boy in a Sherlock Holmes hat and trench coat.
What’s so good about that book? I thought to myself.
As if she had telepathy, she proudly stated, “It’s a chapter book. My teacher gave it to me because I’m one of the best readers in the class. Mommy reads chapter books like this—they’re only for people that are old or smart enough.”
I, being an impressionable youngster, was enthralled with the idea of reading a chapter book; of being more capable than the rest of the kids in my kindergarten class, of reaching this rite of passage, of becoming just like my mom. Because of this, a desire to read ERYN’s book began to sprout in me. It was as if the book was a passage into a new world of some kind of maturity. I, having learned to read from reading the Bible and from lessons taught from preschool, had no doubt that I, too, could read a chapter book.
Then, before I could open my mouth to ask to read her new book, ERYN said, “You can’t read it. You aren’t big enough.”
Incredulous of her reasoning as to why I could not read the book, I commenced to serve her with, what I believed to be, a saucy, smart-mouthed reply.
“That isn’t fair! You’re only one year older than me—”
“And, well, it’s my book, and I don’t want you to read it,” she interrupted. “And if you take it, I’m going to tell on you, and you’ll get in trouble for stealing, because God says stealing is bad.”
With that, ERYN skipped away with her new book in her hand, leaving me with a puzzled and upset look on my face. After crafting a portrait of the ideal adult, she snatches away this vision—my only chance of growing up. I was sick of reading the “baby” books that I read in my class. This was an infringement on justice. How dare she forbid me from reading her book, especially after dangling a carrot in front of me? What gives her the authority to tell me what I can read?
Indignant, I thought of solutions to the seemingly enormous problem. I did not want to whine to my mother because she wouldn’t understand, and I could not grumble to my father, or he would confiscate the book from both of us, so I resolved to take matters into my own hands. As I planned, I walked by the reading room, witnessing ERYN sitting in one of the big leather armchairs, immersed in the story, antagonizing me with every giggle. The curiosity and exasperation I felt only grew: It was compulsory for me to know what prominence lied within the pages of her book.
ERYN, however, was quite aware of my plans to usurp the book so that I could harness the power that she, apparently, had from reading it. For the week, she protected the book, using every moment in which I was in close proximity to pretend as if she was, still, enjoying the book. Nevertheless, I knew her persistence would dwindle, and she would, eventually, fail to bar her book from me. I, then, decided that my method of obtaining the book would be to wait, like a shark, and when she was too occupied to guard her book from me, I would strike and free the book of knowledge from her prison.
Not after long, growing bored of the childish scavenger hunt, ERYN resigned from purposefully hiding the book from me and retired from the book, and placed it on a shelf in the reading room. Unaware, I found this to be the optimal time to take the book. Like a raptor running from a tyrannosaurus-rex, I stole the book from the reading room and retreated to a private area. After settling behind the loveseat in the family room, I looked at the shiny cover with the same young detective with anticipation and excitement. At last, I obtain the knowledge and maturity I so desired.
I opened the book and read the first few sentences of the first page:
“My name is Nate the Great. I am a detective. I work alone” (Sharmat).
I flipped through each page with ease, softly giggling as to not alert ERYN. I was fascinated with the detective that took himself much too seriously and at his friend, Annie. Thoroughly entertained, I stifled my chuckles as I ascended the stairs and tucked the book back to where it was found.
The following week, I bragged to my friends about my ability to read chapter books; an ability that they did not yet have. I was on the top of the world, and I loved it.
The pride that I felt was almost immeasurable compared to any other accomplishment I have performed, and I owe it all to my curiosity. Because my sister disallowed me to read a book, I allowed a curious nature to manifest within, and it forced me to read my first real book. From that point forward, I craved answers constantly.
It is curiosity that has developed my mind into a persistent machine. It is the uncertainty of the future. It is the adrenaline of knowing the answer. It is the excitement over learning. It is the discovery of something new. It is the influence it has, and will have, on my academia, including my inability to abandon a challenge, my excitement over a math problem, or my receiving of the correct answer to the latter.
It is curiosity that has placed me into a large deal of trouble, from my desire to tinker with electronic machines—inevitably leading to the destruction of said device, to my experimentation with food—also, inevitably leading to the destruction of the kitchen.
It is curiosity that molded me into a state of rigidity, only accepting the concrete and proven; only accepting truth and turning faith into fact. It is curiosity that led me to accept Christ into my heart; that led me to turn and run into His arms when afraid, angry, or in need.
It is curiosity that introduced me to the clean and clear lines of ballet; that taught me creativity within structure, beauty within pain, strength within grace.
Perhaps, I am curiosity because I embody it.
And all of this personality I have discovered from a little book. Around me, I hear the claim that curiosity killed the cat, but I say, curiosity taught the cat to read, and to, quite possibly, conquer the world.
Sharmat, Marjorie W. Nate the Great. Simont, M. Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1977.