It’s All Karen’s Fault

I don’t remember learning how to read. When I got to first grade and we started learning phonics, I remember looking at the board and thinking to myself, “Well, of course it says ‘cat’! What else would it say? Is there anyone in this room that doesn’t know that?” And truth be told, I was such a little show-off, I probably leaned over to whatever unfortunate soul sat next to me and said all that out loud.

So I don’t remember actually learning how to read, but I do remember reading as a young child. I mean, reading a lot. And sometimes I would hide in some secluded spot (under my bed, in a closet, behind some random piece of furniture) (for what reason I could not tell you, it’s not like I was going to get smacked with a wooden spoon if someone found me with a book) (but I did like to be dramatic and hiding felt like a very dramatic thing to do, and this is the end of my parenthetical statements, I promise) and read for hours.

One of my favorite series growing up was The Babysitters Club. Do you remember those books? No? Perhaps a well-timed book cover image will jog your memory.


And then, after I’d read every book in the series, you know what happened? They came out with THIS:


I ate all those up just as fast as my mother could drive me to the bookstore. And there was one book in the Little Sister series that struck an especially profound chord with me: Karen’s Plane Trip.

In this super-exciting Karen adventure, little Karen gets on a plane (as you may have guessed from the title) and goes to visit her grandparents in Nebraska. ALL BY HERSELF.

I would be remiss if I described myself as anything other than INTOXICATED while I read about Karen’s plane trip. She got on that plane! All by herself! And she’s only seven years old! And I don’t even know where Nebraska is but I’m pretty sure it’s nowhere near Karen’s hometown of Stonybrook, Connecticut! And OH MY GOSH KAREN IS SO COOL!

The story of Karen and her Nebraska adventure stuck with me, and before you could say “Stonybrook isn’t real,” I was dreaming of getting on a plane by myself one day. Flying off to strange, exotic places like Nebraska. Maybe even Montana. I was DREAMING BIG, people.

(Incidentally, I would still really like to go to Montana. And heck, I’d go to Nebraska, too.)

By the time I hit high school, I had the travel bug bad – and I was finally old enough to fulfill my dream of getting on a plane all by myself! In the years that followed, I would get on lots of planes and fly all over the world. I would go to Trinidad, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Spain, Italy, The Bahamas, Portugal, Wales, Jamaica, and China. I would spend approximately fifteen minutes in Germany and maybe twenty in the Netherlands, both on layovers, and would secretly wonder if I could count those countries as having been there (the answer, I’ve been told, is no). Domestically, I would venture to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, anywhere and everywhere I could possibly get to.

I would become addicted to travel. It’s an addiction I still suffer from, actually, and as far as I can tell there’s no antidote. It’s all Karen’s fault and I completely blame her for every adventure I’ve ever taken.

Isn’t it funny how much books affect us as young readers? They can actually have a hand in forming who we become as adults. And if that isn’t a reason to write – especially for young adults and children – then I don’t know what is.

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19 thoughts on “It’s All Karen’s Fault

  1. Alicia B says:

    Ah, that brings back fond memories of my favorite book as a child…The Boxcar Children, The Black Stallion…and I always enjoyed whatever those adventure books were that Mrs. Farris used to read us in class. Come to think of it, it’s funny how my old book choices correlate directly to my current book choices. And I still love horses, yes, I am a dork.

  2. Elle Strauss says:

    There is something about travel. I love experiencing new cultures, but as I get older, I could live without the actual travel part–you know, the stuck in airports, and stiff legs and jetlag stuff…

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Uh, yeah. When we came back from Jamaica, we had to go through customs twice. Getting into the US is like trying to break into the Pentagon.

  3. Mary says:

    me too Anne… I LOVE LOVE LOVE to read!!! I began reading at a very young age and it remains my passion to this day. My home, strewn with the bent & broken-backed spines of hundreds – maybe thousands – of dog-earred books I have devoured, is a testament to my LOVE for reading. I cannot WAIT to get my copy of “The Clearing”!! It’s perfect weather for an outside read, so I’ll be setting aside a good Saturday for it. hugzz!! auntie m

  4. Alexandra Shostak says:

    I loved the babysitters club books when I was little! Strangely enough, they didn’t ever inspire me to want to be a babysitter. (I’m 22, and I have never once in my life babysat.) But I’m sure I read something like 100 of them. Maybe 150. I don’t remember how many there actually were.

  5. Heather McCorkle says:

    I completely agree! I think books do affect who we become, our likes, and dislikes. At that age I read The Black Stallion series and from there I moved into The Lord Of The Rings. I still love horses and fantasy to this day!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Me too! Although I didn’t really understand Lord of the Rings until I got a little older. But I still liked it. I also read Lord of the Flies. Then I had nightmares. Bad choice.

  6. Anna Seekins says:

    Anne, you and I were definitely cut out of the same cloth. I, too, loved the Baby-sitters Club. I used to walk to the bookstore after school and spend all my allowance on the books. And you know how I feel about travel!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Haha yep! Loved them! I used to buy three at a time and read them all in the same day! And yes, I know you’ve got the travel bug too 🙂

  7. Melissa Garrett says:

    If the first chapter books I remember reading were all written by Stephen King and Dean Koontz, what does that say about me? Eeks!

    My older sister read a lot of Sweet Valley High. Remember those? I read Sweet Valley Twins, but I never did read much of The Babysitters Club. Hugely popular at the time, though.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Yes! I remember them but never read a lot of them. I do remember being jealous of their blue-green eyes. My brown eyes were so boring. Sigh.

  8. Medeia Sharif says:

    I somehow missed this series. When I was young, I was reading books for older folks. Now that I’m older, I’m reading books for young people.

    Travel is exciting and I hope to do more of it.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Ha… I read a lot of books that were for older people, too. May I reference my “Lord of the Flies” comment above… I also attempted “Crime and Punishment” way, way too early.

  9. Jemi Fraser says:

    So true! I was a completely avid reader as a kid. I love the mysteries (Encyclopedia Brown, then Nancy & the Hardy Boys), the historicals – Anne with an E is still one of my favourites!

    My daughter loved the Babysitters’ Little Sisters books when she was younger too 🙂

  10. heather says:

    We read the baby-sitters club now. Lucky to find them on ebay and got most of the set at this point for Mary to read. She is just starting to read them on her own.

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