By Kevin Guilfoile
My three-year-old son has a Laura Lippman obsession.
I'm not sure how or exactly when it started. Every morning we come downstairs and I go to the kitchen to make breakfast and then I come back into the family room to get him. Some months ago, while I was setting the timer on the toaster oven, he started removing Laura's books from the shelves and arranging them on the floor or on the couch or against the wall. Of the hundreds of novels within his reach, he's interested only in Laura's books. Sometimes I'll come in and he'll appear to be reading one of them, holding it open in front of his face, turning the page every minute or so, the way mommy and daddy do. (Or the way mommy does, anyway. His daddy doesn't read two pages a minute.) Oddly I've never seen him actually pull the books from the shelf. I've only seen him obsess over them.
We read to Max every day, but the only grown up books he's ever asked us to read aloud are Tess Monaghan mysteries. I'm not sure what's going on there, and he's too young to tell me. Someday soon I'm sure he'll pretend to read other authors. Probably the same day he starts to eat food other than waffles. In any case, I'm extremely happy that Max seems to like the aesthetic of books. He likes to hold them and open them and smell them, even if he's not certain what all the words say inside. He knows there's a good story in there somewhere and I think he's trying to discover how to pull it out.
When Max was born I asked a number of friends to give me the name of the first book from their childhood that really got them hooked. The book they were reading--probably around fourth or fifth or sixth grade--when something clicked in their heads and they understood what it was to get lost in a novel, to be transported into a fictional world, to believe in characters that someone else had invented. I received dozens of great recommendations (and many actual books with loving inscriptions) and I've started to build Max's library for the day when he really can read to himself. I had three older siblings and grew up in a house full of books that were just a little bit advanced for me and I want Max and his brother to grow up the same way. I want them to be able to reach out their hands any time and find a book that thrills and challenges them.
So I'm posing the question again here. What was the book that did it for you? The first novel you stayed up at night reading under the covers. The first book you ran home from school so you could get back to it. The first book you really became lost in.
I'll post my own answer in the comments. For Max, I think the answer will always be Baltimore Blues.