Sunday, July 29, 2012

Retro 80s Flashback: What I Read "Back Then"

Ah, 1985. You gave us Garbage Pail Kids, "We Are the World," and Windows 1.0. I started fifth grade in 1985, and this was the first year I really, really got into reading. I read a ton of paperbacks in fifth and sixth grade.

By the time I got deeper into middle school, I was reading a lot more adult books, practically skipping the entire YA genre altogether. How ironic that, though I passed over YA literature as a teen, I read YA almost exclusively as an adult. I did not list the adult titles here, but for the record, I read a ton of Stephen King and V.C. Andrews in middle school.

Also, be sure to check out this hilarious post from Retro 80s Kid about the Scholastic catalogs in the 80s. I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. The entire site is actually just too funny to miss.

I really had to dig deep to remember some of these titles!

Who's Reading Darci's Diary (Martha Tolles)
Gasp! Darci's beloved diary has gone missing! Could Travis (the cutest boy in 6th grade) be reading it? Oh, no!

This one was published in November 1985, which would have made me a fifth grader when it came out. Like many of the books on this list, I ordered my copy through the Scholastic Book Club catalogs.

The Sara Summer (Mary Downing Hahn)
I had NO IDEA this was by Mary Downing Hahn until I wrote this post! It was her first novel. My mind is seriously blown right now.

The Sara Summer was my first introduction to the term "Teen Queens." I remember this one really vividly because I read it TWELVE times in the summer before 6th grade.

The cover at left is not the one I had. Mine had a girl in braids (Sara) swinging in a hammock and a blonde girl (Emily) looking on skeptically. I couldn't find an image of my copy. :(

Hey, Remember Fat Glenda? (Lila Perl)
"A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips."

I sometimes still think about this quote when I want to eat something fattening. From about 4th grade to maybe 8th grade, I was a plump little girl. It was more puberty/baby fat as I was pretty active in sports, but it definitely bothered me. I loved reading books about other fat girls. Fat Glenda is won't be the last "fat chick makeover" theme on this list.

Me and Fat Glenda (Lila Perl)
I read the sequel (Hey, Remember Fat Glenda?) first, and it inspired me to read this one.

These girls look about as real as they come. The one with the shorter hair was me in 5th grade--I even had a striped sweater just like that. I picked it out from the DAV Thrift Store (my favorite place to shop!).

The Computer That Said Steal Me (Elizabeth Levy)
Don't remember much about this book except they played computerized chess and Dungeons and Dragons, which I had never heard of at the time. I remember thinking the chess game was some kind of magnetic talking chess board.

It was published in 1983, but I read it two years later, when I was in 5th grade. I remember checking it out from the school library.

Sweet Valley High series (Francine Pascal)
Oh, how I LOVED this series! Porche-driving bad boy Bruce Patman was, like, sooo bad! I read up through number 12 (the one where Steven's girlfriend Tricia dies of leukemia) before I got tired of the series and moved on.

Some of the books in this series have been updated to include new technology (cell phones, computers) and new front covers. I have the first five in my middle school library and recommend them often.

Will I Ever Dance Again? (Lurlene McDaniel)
I'm pretty sure Will I Ever Dance Again? has been reissued as Last Dance, although I would have to read Last Dance to be certain. The storyline sounds exactly the same.

I read this one while spending the night at my friend Susan's house in 6th grade. Read it all in that one night. Reading at a sleepover? What can I say except I have been and always will be a big ol' book nerd. At least Susan was a reading nerd, too.

The Cat Ate My Gymsuit (Paula Danziger)
Another "fat girl" story loved by this former fat girl. To this day, I still write my cursive letter Ns and Ms in spiky humps, just like Nancy did in her note to Marcy in the book. I also read and loved the sequel, There's a Bat in Bunk Five.

Like Sweet Valley High, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and There's A Bat in Bunk Five have gotten cover facelifts and are still in-print. I have Gymsuit in my library (recommend it often), but I have had some difficulty getting Bat for some reason. I've ordered it twice but still don't have it. Will have to look into that.

Behind the Attic Wall (Sylvia Cassedy)
I don't remember much about this one except I read it in 5th grade, I got it in a Scholastic catalog, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. The girl talks to dolls. Creepy, but not very scary.

Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade (Barthe DeClements)
I think I read this in 4th grade because I remember the girls in the story seemed so grown-up to me. I seem to remember a fat girl named Elsie--she's the one in purple on the cover, kind of sitting off by herself. What's up with that name anyway? Why is the fat chick named after a cow?

The Ring, The Sword, and the Unicorn (James M. Ward and Jeff Easley)
My first (and only) Choose-Your-Own-Adventure! I got it for Christmas in maybe 5th grade and read all the adventures multiple times. What a cool concept!

I'm not sure why I never read more in this book series. I really liked this one! We have a few of these and the Choose Your Own Destiny series (Liz Ruckdeshel) in my library, but they don't get as much checkout as they did when I was at the elementary level.

Bummer Summer (Ann M. Martin)
My dad let us get a new kitten in the summer before sixth grade, around the time I was reading Bummer Summer. I liked this book so much that I named my new kitten "Simon" after Kammy's kitten Simon. Simon was part of our family until until he finally died 11 years later. I was 22.
Rumble Fish (S.E. Hinton)
Kind of strange, but I checked this out from our school library because I liked fish. Yep.

I loved this book! As a girl growing up in the scenic serenity of the Appalachian Mountains,  the urban/gang atmosphere was really something different for me. Rumble Fish is still in print, and I have it in my MS library today. With the eighth grade novel study of The Outsiders, all of Hinton's books get a good bit of checkout.

Wren (Marie Killilea)

If it weren't for this book, I would know almost nothing about cerebral palsy. I read it in 5th grade.

Wren is about a girl whose younger sister is born prematurely and has cerebral palsy. Excellent for introducing kids to children with disabilities.

Got some 80s favorites to add? Please comment! I'm sure I've forgotten some good ones!

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  1. Since I was spending my junior year in college abroad in 1985, I have nothing middle grade to add to this list, but it's fascinating. Later in the 80s, a friend made me read a lot of Cynthia Voigt, which I thought was pretty depressing, and Jacob Have I Loved. I do have fond memories of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, which was really new when I read it! Fun!

  2. I don't think I've ready a Sweet Valley High book in my life! I didn't read that much YA and middle grade books back then. I read Matilda, The Witches and other Dahl books, The Worst Witch and the odd Judy Blume. I did start reading Point Horror, Christopher Pike, then Richard Laymon and Stephen King. I did read a lot of books that were made into movies like Pump Up the Volume and The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer...

    Loved the 80's!

  3. I haven't read any of these, but the style of these covers! They're so 80s! It's so distinct - the kinds of illustrations, the font used!


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