When I Grow Up . . .

careersBelieve it or not, our booksellers didn’t always want to be booksellers. Sure, we love our jobs now but when we were kids, we had lots of other ideas for what we wanted to do when we grew up. There is a great new book out that uses an infographic-style to take a closer look at the huge variety of jobs and industries out there (Careers: The Graphic Guide to Finding the Perfect Job for You, recommended for ages 13 and up). The book got us thinking about how we ended up at BookPeople and what sort of things we each wanted to be before reality, life, school, and perhaps fate, took us other directions.

Merrilee: Archaeologist ~

When I was 8 or 9, I read a biography of Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of ancient Troy (maybe!), and decided I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up. He fascinated young me – a poor boy who decided he was fated to find lost cities, so he spent years acquiring everything he would need, including fabulous wealth and the ability to speak more than 20 languages. My dream lasted through high school and the first few years of college . . . then I met a cute boy, dropped out, got married, and had a baby. And well, here I am. But! I remember being excited some years ago when I saw The Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy come in because I thought, “This could be it! This could be the book that inspires a new generation of archaeologists!”

Tomoko: Middle Grade Author of Mystery and Adventure~
From the first time I read Water Farley’s The Black Stallion and about Marguerite Henry’s Chincoteague ponies, I was firmly convinced that I wanted a large ranch of horses when I grew up. Technically, I wanted it right then. But my books had also taught me pragmatism – I knew I would need lots of money to afford all the horses I would have and the nickels I’d collected from entreating my parents to buy the paper airplanes I folded weren’t going to cut it. In the meantime, I could read more books.

That’s when I found a mystery book with a yellow spine and a girl with red hair riding a black horse on the front. That book was a Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of Shadow Ranch, and it jump-started my love of mysteries, secrets, and life-threatening adventures. I quickly devoured all my library had to offer, and my parents helped me build a collection of my own. My dad introduced me to Sherlock Holmes, who quickly took a warm and fuzzy, if occasionally gruesome, place in my heart. The Hardy Boys, The Boxcar Children, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators; all of these quickly became old and favorite friends on my bookshelf.

tomoko writer cardAnd while, initially, they made me wish I too could be a detective, I realized I could–in a book! They made me want to write! Complex mysteries that hinged on the collection of seemingly trivial clues by the brilliant heroine; life or death situations; rescue, daring, adventure! At 10 years old I knew that I wanted to be a writer (specifically of mystery and adventure) and it was perfect! With all the money I would make as a successful author, I could build that horse ranch!

Demi: Ballerina or Nancy Drew~

When I was a kid, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. There was just too much stuff! And there weren’t books about growing up to work in a bookstore, or I would have known way sooner what I wanted to be. Usually, when someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I gave them one of two answers: a ballerina, or Nancy Drew.

The Nancy Drew series was one of my first full collections: my mom and dad and grandparents got together one birthday to give me the entire set, books 1 through 64. I read all of them, some of them more than once, until I could give my parents the digested plot of any given book without hardly taking a breath. Now, I keep an overnight suitcase in the trunk of my car with a change of clothes and a pair of comfortable shoes, because Nancy Drew did, and I’ve needed it more than once. I didn’t quite grow up to solve mysteries with my best friends, but I definitely learned something!

I also stopped doing ballet when I was about nine, but I didn’t stop wanting to learn about it. This past year I read both Michaela DePrince’s Taking Flight memoir, about the teenage refugee from Sierra Leone who has taken the ballet world by storm, and Firebird, by Misty Copeland, a bright and colorfully illustrated book about following her dream to be a principal ballerina. I love learning about the journeys of ballerinas, about their hard work and long rehearsals, and I absolutely adore going to the ballet.

Maybe I didn’t become Nancy Drew or a prima ballerina. But I still have books, so it’s almost as good.

Ellen: Not a clue, maybe something with animals?~

This was never a question I liked because I never had an answer for it. Unlike my younger brother who always knew he wanted to be a pilot, I had absolutely no clue. Jockey? Ballet dancer? Scientist? Doctor? Artist? Equine veterinarian? Ocean explorer? Astronaut? I liked nearly everything as a kid, but especially animals, facts about them, and science.

Beyond horses – which were my first true love – I liked animal stories, both fiction and non, such as The Animal Family, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Great Ridley Rescue (about endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles), a book from my dad’s childhood that is now very outdated called The Clowns of the Forest about bears in Yellowstone, and Julie of the Wolves. James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small made me briefly consider being a vet. While not about animals, but humans, I also loved pouring over the intricate and busy illustrations of Peter Spier’s People. I learned more about the people of the world by repeatedly reading old issues of National Geographic, which in additional to people, exposed me to yet more animals, places, space, oceans, and made me want to travel and explore everything. In addition, I met awe-inspiring scientists through National Geographic – Jane Goodall, Eugenie Clark, Dian Fossey, Jacques Cousteau, Watson & Crick, Hawking, the Leakeys, Darwin. I also gobbled up monthly issues of 3-2-1 Contact and Ranger Rick magazines.

In college, things didn’t really become any clearer, although I had ruled out being a jockey by then. Part of the problem in college was that I liked so many of my classes and I wanted to continue exploring topics such as history, genetics, astronomy, marine biology, psychology, and forensic anthropology. I did graduate with a degree in wildlife & fisheries sciences, but about six months later, I found an opportunity in children’s publishing and I have never looked back. I love working with books, but discoveries and new frontiers in science will always continue to fascinate, awe, humble, and excite me.

Tommy: Lawyer~
So not for as long as I can remember, but certainly from the age or 8 or 9, I wanted to be a lawyer. Now, most people would think I was in it for the money, but my reason was I wanted to put the bad guys in jail. I never did get to be a lawyer, but I like to think I still have that sense of justice.

While there aren’t that many books about kid lawyers, and none that I remember as kid, I do know that I would have liked the Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer books by John Grisham. While he doesn’t get to actually practice law, he does dig deeper into cases all with the goal of bringing justice.

I also harbor a great affinity for super heroes. They basically do the same thing – catch and bring down bad guys while protecting humankind. A personal favorite is Green Lantern.

8 thoughts on “When I Grow Up . . .

  1. Lovely, but what bothers me is that the upcoming generation Do not read as much. TVs and the internet has made reading difficult and almost impossible for some… What can we do?

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