“That” Book

In What’sHerName Episode 3: THE BOOK MISSIONARY, Katie and Olivia discuss how, as children, many of us had “that book” — the first book you connected with on a gut level, that made you feel that you were not alone, that changed everything. We thought it would be fun to compile a list of our guests’ “that book” and share them with our listeners.

We hope you enjoy these unexpectedly-influential works of literature as much as our guests have. Maybe you’ll even share them with some young readers in your life!


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From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Katie’s “that book”

“It showed me that adventure on a grand scale was possible, and that kids could determine the course of their own lives.”



Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
Olivia’s “that book”

“I think it was the first book I read that had a female protagonist who did stuff instead of just having feelings. She was brave, and she bossed the boys around… it changed the way I saw myself, the way I saw the world… it changed the way I thought about being a girl.”

Little Women
Sharlee Glenn’s “that book”
Episode 3 Mary Lemist Titcomb

“I was completely enraptured with Jo March, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to be a writer. Jo was a writer, Louisa May Alcott was a writer… [Standing at Alcott’s grave] I said, aloud, without really having planned to do this, “Thank you Louisa. I do what I try to do every single day because of you.””

“There Was a Little Girl,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Gina Colvin’s “that book” (well, poem)
Episode 4 Te Puea Herangi

“It told me that we could be different if we wanted to. We’re not fated to be anything. That if we change the way we think, we can think ourselves into new being that has a different set of consequences.”


Little Women
Jamie Melissa Wilms’s “that book”
Episode 5 Margaret “Molly” Brown

“I got lost in the story and the sisters. I read it every year. I feel very much like Jo in wanting to explore and discover and learn the world around me. “


Number the Stars
Rachel Robison-Greene’s “that book”
Episode 6 Margaret Cavendish

“This book introduced me to the idea that doing the right thing can sometimes involve great personal sacrifice. I wanted to be the kind of person who would be willing to put myself at risk in the interest of justice and compassion.”



Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People
Carol Bash’s “that book”
Episode 7 Mary Lou Williams

“It introduced me to the beauty of poetry. And it opened a whole new world of words and ideas of black women writers (because they were NOT teaching this perspective in my junior high school). I thank my parents immensely for getting this incredible, groundbreaking book.