Children’s Books: The Gateway Drug

Posted: November 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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I hear marijuana is a “gateway” drug.

After a few “harmless” puffs, you soon experiment with prescription uppers. Then, you move one to harder street drugs. Before you know it, it’s nine a.m. on a Tuesday and you’re smoking crack in the alley behind Whataburger.

Suddenly, you’re a meth tweaking, rufie gobbling maniac who hallucinates about killer unicorns.

All because of a little “harmless” fun.

I kinda think books are the same way. You read a few books as a child, and suddenly…you’re a book freak on a leash.

So what if those childhood reads are a little kooky, a little subversive?

For example, one of the first “Gateway” books I remember reading is The Lonely Doll. I scored this checkered beauty by conning my parents into buying it from Weekly Reader.


I should have known the book would ensnare me. Anything written by a siren named “Dare Wright” is bound to be narcotic. (Say that name in your best throaty movie trailer voice. Dare. Wright. See what I mean?)

Then I opened the book. Such adventures. Such intrigue.

The Lonely Doll, Edith, pines away in a big empty house. She prays with all her heart to meet a special someone.

Two forbidden strangers appear on her doorstep. Mr. Bear and his sidekick, Little Bear.

Does Edith say, “Who are you? Get off my porch, you fuzzy freaks!”

No. Edith claps her hands with Joy. “You must have found me because I wished so hard,” she cries.

Mr. Bear swoops in and takes control. He watches over her, coerces her to do her lessons, scolds her for getting dirty or venturing too far from home.

LonelydollstalkMr. Bear stalks Edith.

And when he leaves for the afternoon, Edith sneaks into the Big Girl’s boudoir and plays dress up. She puts on makeup, slips on high heels and scrawls lipstick on the mirror.

Mr. Bear comes home. He takes Edith over his knee and spanks her. See how little bear covers his eyes? He can’t bear to watch…


So, then Edith tells Mr. Bear to get out of her house, right?

No. Of course not.  “Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Bear!” cried Edith, hugging Mr. Bear. “I do just love you…please, will you promise to stay forever?”




A little subtext goes a long way, dear ones. Curse you, Dare Wright.

At age four, The Lonely Doll became my “Gateway” book.

At fourteen, I read Wuthering Heights. Heathcliffe makes a nasty Mr. Bear.

At twenty four, I read Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy makes an irresistible Mr. Bear.

At thirty four, I read Twilight. Edward Cullen makes such a sparkly Mr. Bear.

It took Breaking Dawn to push me over the edge. I hit bottom with that one. After a quick stint at Literature Rehab, vapid, controlling stalker types no longer haunted my bookshelves.

So, dear ones, what about you? What were your “Gateway” books? I’d love to hear which books influenced you the most as a child.

Well, gotta go. Mr. Bear (erm…I mean Mr. Martin) will be home soon.

Hungry for more?

I’ll leave you with my recipe for Hot Stuff Chocolate Cake. It’s Narcotic. So sinful, but so easy to bake.

Hot Stuff Chocolate Cake:

Get a box of Duncan Hines chocolate cake. Bake in a 9 by 13 pan according the directions. Remove cake from the oven. While cake is still hot, poke holes all over the cake. Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk over the top. After the cake cools off, spread Cool Whip on top and sprinkle good stuff on top. (You can use choc. chips, nuts, toffee bits, chocolate syrup and/or caramel syrup.) Binge now, or allow to chill. The cake gets even better after a day in the fridge.


  1. moderndaystoryteller says:

    Might sprinkle some magic mushrooms on top off that Chocolate Cake. The Lonely Doll looks freaky which so explains your warped sense of humor, Ms. Scarlet Whisper, International Jewel Thief. My gateway book? Frankenstein. First in comic form, then the real thing. Killed me both times and seems to have dictated my taste in men. Aargh!

  2. Jemi Fraser says:

    Your book and moderndaystoryteller’s book are cool! I read a lot, some might say obsessively, as a kid. Anne of Green Gables was my gateway book for deep, long books. I don’t remember the earlier books much – certainly nothing so far back as a picture book 🙂

  3. jmartinlibrarian says:

    Oh, goodness. Both of you picked some of my favorites, too. I read an adapted version of Frankenstein in fifth grade. It became the gateway to Stoker’s Dracula and Victor Hugo books.

    Anne of Green Gables. I heart you, Gilbert. 🙂

  4. Jean says:

    Gateway books–I love it.

    There were many in my youth, from Garfield to, well, some weird one about ghosts in Toronto. Oh, or how about ‘Sweetgrass?’ That one is a gateway. Learning about other cultures, oh yeah.

    Then I hit my teens years and there was a real YA gultch. Damn 80s. I dried out.

    In my 20s, my now-husband handed me Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Robber Bride.’ Wow. I was hooked on books again. Now I’m an addict.

    Love the post. 🙂

  5. jmartinlibrarian says:

    “Sweetgrass.” Now that sounds like a real “Gateway” substance. Smokin…;)

  6. Belle says:

    The Lonely Doll sounds like quite a read for a four year old. From an older perspective, there are definitely some rather warped bits to it! I love the idea of a gateway book. I think for me, that was probably Betsy & Tacy (but Joe didn’t come along until years later when Betsy was older). I moved from that to Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon and Meg in Wrinkle in Time …

  7. Jean says:

    I’m totally making this cake for my friend (her birthday). Right now. Yum! Yum! Yum! (I’ve been thinking about it all week. Your blog is going to make me rolly polly!)

  8. Jean says:

    Yes, that cake was all that and a couple of Skor bars. Yum. Thanks for sharing the recipe. It made my friend’s day. I’ll be making that one again!

  9. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I made turtle brownies today. Thought of you. No mercy for those chocolate covered critters.

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