The anonymous author of the NYC Palimpsest Project revealed her first bedtime stories in a series of ephemeral chalk graffiti. I spent days tracking down these scrawled messages to assemble the stories they describe.
The artist’s first tales at bedtime were all about a girl whose name matched her own—only backwards. This backwards girl lived on the ceiling. She ate pork chops for breakfast and cereal for supper. Her reversals led to all sorts of hijinks and escapades.
She might tell us more, but we’ll have to wait for the sidewalks to clear.
Bradley Beaulieu, author of The Winds of Khalakovo and co-author of Strata (with Stephen Gaskell), tells us this:
Unfortunately, I came from one of those households that didn’t read books much. I don’t recall any being read to me when I was very young. The first ones that I do recall—and I read them myself—were the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. I can’t remember what particular books I read first. The Tower Treasure? Perhaps. The Secret of the Old Clock? Could be. Since this is a bit of revisionist history, I’ll choose The Sinister Signpost as my first book, if only for the silly yet somehow cool cover.
This brings up an important question: If you could choose your first and most formative bedtime story, which one would you pick?
Sarah Prineas remembers this:
When I was a kid my dad worked very long hours, but now and then he was home when I went to bed, he would tell me this same story. I haven’t thought of it in years, but he probably told it to me hundreds of times. Next time I see him, I’ll ask him to tell it again. It was an adventure that culminated with me being captured by a witch and imprisoned in a dark cellar. I called out in this tiny voice, “I want my daddy! I want my daddy!” And then my best friend at the time, Johnny Schomp, rode up on his horse (accompanied by riding music) and rescued me, and took me to my dad. The end!
Sarah’s newest novel Winterling just arrived at a bookstore near you. Here’s Jenn Reese on why you should all read it.
Rachel Swirsky, like Kelly Link, remembers Goodnight Moon. Maybe it was the background painting of the bunny catching a merbunny with carrot-bait that turned them into such magnificent writers of unrealisms.
Rachel also remembers Merilee Heyer’s The Forbidden Door and Audrey Wood’s King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. Both books are richly illustrated. Here’s a video clip of someone reading King Bidgood, and they do the voices. Here’s Marilee Heyer’s website, where you can marvel at her art.
Jane Yolen vividly remembers two children’s books: The Story of Ferdinand (which has withstood the test of time) and The Pleasant Pirate (not so much).
Her son and occasional co-author Adam Stemple claims to have repressed all bedtime story memories. According to his mother they sang many a ballad and folksong together. As a direct result, Adam often played “highwayman” on the playground, accosting peers and siblings with “Stand and deliver, for I am a bold deceiver!“