One of the first books I remember being able to read all on my own is Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop. I especially liked the feeling I got when I mastered the two long words at the end: Timbuktu and Constantinople. My Dad even helped me find them on a map. I think that's when my desire to travel to exotic places first began. With those two words. Timbuktu and Constantinople. All because of Dr. Seuss.
Then, in the first grade, I fell in love with Hugo the Hippo by Thomas Baum. Don't ask me why. But I got it from a Scholastic book order and I read it incessantly that entire year. (Apparently, it was an animated film first...which I never knew until now.) I think I still have it in a box somewhere, a bit ratty and torn and yellow with age, but very well-loved. It's a story that takes place in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Two more words that are fun to say, and two more exotic places I've always longed to visit. All because of a children's picture book.
It was Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Frasier that led me to Edinburgh, and House of Rain by Craig Childs that sent me on a road trip to Hovenweep, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. And while I haven't been to Zanzibar or Timbuktu yet, I still dream of traveling to both of those places, just as I still remember those two books that started me dreaming in the first place.
Aren't books wonderful?