SheReads: School Day Favourites


There are some books from school and growing up that stay with us into adulthood. Can you name one? We share some of our personal favourites.

By Destiny Loeve

Did anyone else get super excited when September rolled around as a kid? Time to dust off (or if really lucky, shop for!) all the school desk paraphernalia: coloured pencils, ruler, calculator, pencil sharpener … All my little knick-knacks would be orderly and organized. I was ready to have my sponge of a brain soak up as much brilliance as it could. Or maybe just play with my friends at recess.

Anyhow, all these sweet little kids traipsing back through the school doors this week has got me thinking about the books and poems I remember most from my school days. These childhood stories have shaped my love for reading and have stayed with me, the characters still alive in my memory. Yes, I’ll admit the details of the storyline are now fuzzy (fuzzy tangent: anyone else eating exquisite glorious golden peaches these days?!), however, the memory of being moved by the story is still potent. So, I pulled deep from the recesses of my brain matter and came up with these five most memorable pieces of literature from my own school years:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee–Hands down my favorite piece of fiction studied in high school. Atticus, Gem, Scout and Boo Radley. Is it all coming flooding back yet? I am a bit nervous to offer commentary on such a well loved and studied book (since it’s been a few years and all) but I remember being moved by Atticus’ integrity and strength to fight for justice in a very unjust society. I remember Scout’s innocence and explorations and the lesson she learned in accepting the outsider. All so very good. It’s a treasure on my bookshelf to this day.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry–Set in a utopian, legalistic society, young Jonas is Chosen to carry the memories of the past. Through the chapters, he is repetitively exposed to memories of the old way, to truth. The truth shakes his perception of reality to the core and inspires a dramatic move on his part. I loved loved loved this captivating story in my childhood.

3. The Hobbit by J.R. R. Tolkien–This book shout-out goes to Mr Berger who took the time in class to read us pages and chapters of this imaginative tale, the precursor to the epic trilogy Lord of the Rings. Eventually the book was finished, and our imaginations sated with Bilbo’s adventures. Looking back, I’m thankful for his dedication to read to us energetic and rebellious tweens.

4. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry–The cover–red–features the haunted face of a Jewish girl and her Star of David on a chain. This (along with Anne Frank) may very well have been my first introduction to the horrific realities of the holocaust. I don’t recall the story precisely. I do know that literature surrounding the events of the 1940’s have, since these childhood introductions, continued to grab my heart.

5. “Do not go gentle into that good night” (poem) by Dylan Thomas–Poetry has not always been my reading niche. Yet, I always loved the classroom setting to help delve into a poem, unpacking meaning in words, lines and phrases. The line of this poem ‘rage, rage, against the dying of the light’ has been inscribed in my memory since we studied this specific poem. I suppose it was the urgency of the plea that resonated within my heart. This poem is about life, death, regrets, and living to the fullest. Honestly I don’t know why this one is most memorable among many poems studied. All I know is that when I search through the memory vaults, it’s an immediate stand-out.

My vivacious four-year-old, Ruby, is heading to her first preschool class this week. She has years and years of learning ahead of her–of books, stories, characters, and plots. It makes me smile just thinking about what stories she will come to hold close to her heart.

I asked some of our other SheLoves contributors about stand-out literature from their school years. Here’s what was most memorable to them:

  • Kelley Johnson-Nikondeha remembers: Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L’Engle

I loved reading early in life, but my most memorable book did not enter my life until my college years, courtesy of my rhetoric professor. Walking in Water by Madeleine L’Engle unlocked the door to my reflective thinking and, in retrospect, triggered my interest in how theology impinges on everyday life. She introduced me to concepts like the importance of naming, kairos time, story, incarnation and imagination. She said that she began to see “that almost every definition of being a Christian is also a definition of being an artist.” She taught me that there is a connection between faith and art–and this shaped me in college, through seminary and into today. Her words in this book set me off in a life-long direction of holding creativity, theology, story and love together.

(I had the honor of hosting Madeleine L’Engle for a glorious afternoon in Santa Barbara once. She was in private conversation the very woman she remains on the pages of her books. She is an enduring presence in my life, may she rest in peace and in the presence of The Incarnate & Imaginative One.)

  • Stefanie Thomas remembers: Macbeth by Shakespeare

When I was in high school, I took IB (International Baccalaureate) English, and I remember being grateful that I got to read and learn Hemingway, Steinbeck, Shakespeare–the good stuff. In my time at college and university, I was blessed to have professors who were passionate about literature, and their passion spilled over to inspire me.

When I entered third year at UBC, a friend recommended a certain professor who taught Shakespeare. I can still recall walking into his class on the first day, for a course called “Sex in Shakespeare” (an attention-grabbing name for a course, if I ever heard one–it focused on gender roles and sexuality in the works of Shakespeare). The Prof looked like a cross between Tom Cruise and Paul Simon, and he wore Doc Martins (uber cool in the day) and had a tattoo on his forearm. He loved all things Shakespeare and he drew us all into the material so that we grew to love it too. A part of me couldn’t believe that this funny, creative, tragic material with such carefully crafted prose had been written so long ago. I imagine that some people only read Shakespeare because they have to for school. I’m so grateful for teachers who made me realize I was lucky to get to learn the works of this literary genius. I enjoyed Shakespeare’s comedies, but the tragedies were more impactful. Perhaps the one that stuck with me the most was Macbeth, whether because my study of it was more in-depth or because I was struck by the imagery used to illustrate a guilty conscience and the reality that murder is irreversible. Lady Macbeth tries to wash the blood from her hands and cries: “Will these hands never be clean?”

On a lighter note, I loved Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, and its comment on the steadfastness of real love: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

  • Daniela Schwartz remembers: Garbage Delight by Dennis Lee, Illustrated by Maryann Kovalski

Two years ago, I was scanning through my son Owen’s Scholastic book order form and a title jumped out to me: Garbage Delight. I read hundreds of books as a child. It was a needed escape for me as we moved A LOT so in the process of settling, I did not form close friendships often. Thank God I had a twin sister as a permanent partner in my life who equally loved books.  Reading Garbage Delight today, I can see what captivated my heart. Pages of silly, nonsense poems with sweet illustrations to awaken your imagination. It was my first introduction to poetry and humour. It’s neat to see my sense of humour was already taking shape at the age of six. (Oh yeah, I also read ridiculously early!) Thought I would share one gem with you. Hope you enjoy it!

Half Way Dressed

I sometimes sit

When I’m half was dressed,

With my head in a sweater

And I feel depressed.


I’m half way out

And I’m half way in

And my head’s nearly through

But the sweater’s gonna win,


‘Cause the neck-hole grabs

Like as if it’s glue

And my ears don’t like it,

And my nose don’t too,

And I can’t stand sweaters

When they grab this way,

And they jump on a kid

And decide to play,


I’m half way dressed,

And I’m half way dead,

And I’m half way ready

To crawl back to bed.


So, SheLoves readers, I’d love to know:

  • What books/poems/essays stood out most from your school years?

Hope you had as much fun walking down memory lane as I did!
–Des xo

About Destiny

Destiny Loeve treasures most her roles as wife to one daring husband & mommy to three sunshiny children. She loves to see things grow in her garden, read great books, hang out at her church, meet all kinds of people & sit in her living room with friends. When not on maternity leave, she works as a pediatric nurse, and finds as many opportunities to volunteer in the community as possible.