Jan 14, 2014

The Magic of Literary Role-Models

I think a role model is a mentor - someone you see on a daily basis, and you learn from them.

Denzel Washington 

The more famous Denzel hits the nail right on the head with that quote. Role models are a constant presence in your life during the time that they influence you, and it's impossible to overstate how important good role models can be. Yet, let's be honest, sometimes people forget about some of the most important role models in their lives. The role models that are actually there every day, whether you're at school, or at home, or spending the weekend at grandma's. The character you come to know, love, and admire in the books you carried in your backpack no matter where you go. Join me as I break down a few of the best role-models I can recall from my childhood, and hopefully help pull a few of your fondest memories of these childhood heroes back to surface.

Ramona Quimby

Ramona is an extremely imaginative and inquisitive child, and one of the first truly childish children I was able to read about on my own. She's at times a bit annoying to all of the older children around her, but her imagination and curiosity made her impossibly endearing in the end. I was young enough to connect with her struggle to be more mature than she was, and it was through her books that I learned to just accept that 1st grade couldn't be skipped, and to just have fun with it instead. 

Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown

Encyclopedia Brown should need no introduction, but for the uninformed, he is the greatest child detective to ever appear in paperback print. He's also very honorable and charges a very modest rate (.25¢) to do things as amazing as catching dognappers. He introduced me to the pursuit of knowledge for fun and to be talented, and not just as a requirement for school. He's also the only reason I ever got into reading encyclopedias. So there's that.

Claudia Kishi

If you've ever read the Baby-Sitters Club series, you'll know that Claudia Kishi is a style deity. Nobody has a better grasp of clothing magic than her, and the authors use this to really drive home the beauty of personal choice and that it's not just okay to be different, but that it can even be great. But that's not the only reason she was such a strong role model. She also had an above average IQ, which is cool and all, but she was still not as much of a genius as her older sister. So at first, she's lazy and even does poorly in school, partially out of boredom and partially because she's afraid she'll never live up to her sister's achievement so why bother. As time goes on she learns that you don't have to be the greatest to be great, and that really resonates with a lot of middle-schoolers I imagine. 

But really though, her outfits were on point 24/7/365.

Henry James Alden

Henry is the oldest of the four orphans that comprise "The Boxcar Children", and as such has to be responsible. He's inquisitive, kind, and really good with his hands. Without a doubt, he's the best of the group at solving mysteries, although he's still no Encyclopedia. What really made me appreciate his character though, was his ability to accept that being the oldest, smartest, and biggest didn't mean he had to be the leader. He regularly let his younger sister Jessie take control, and followed her directions without any backtalk. I had never really experienced a person, or even a character, who really accepted that mindset yet, so it was a huge learning experience for me.

Let's be honest though, he was without a doubt a bit stylish himself. The patterned sweaters he seemed to love, or the time he wore a tux. He really made a lot of progress over the awfulness that was his blue polo and faded jeans look of the early days.

So, readers, what about you? Who are/were you literary role-models? Do things they said or did still help to guide how you interact with the world today?

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