Book Review: I want to grow hair, I want to grow up, I want to go to Boise by Erma Bombeck

This book was given to me in a box of my own works that came to me from my late uncle. I was curious as to why he had it: either he or my grandmother had purchased it on May 28, 1992 (I know because the receipt is still in the book).

My uncle, as a child pedestrian, was the victim of a car accident that left him permanently disabled, and I wondered if perhaps he or my grandmother bought the book seeking a connection to a life-altering childhood experience.

The book was written by famed columnist Erma Bombeck in the late 1980s. During this time, as the book explains, science was making groundbreaking strides in fighting childhood cancer, giving, for the first time, hope to those diagnosed. Thus, it was the first time a need for such a book arose.

I honestly didn’t expect to finish the book. I only planned to skim the first few chapters to get the gist of the book, then move on to fiction, my preferred genre, for my summer reading. But the book was a fast read: its largish font and easy writing style made the pages fly by, and it was the perfect thing to read while supervising a toddler.

It did not go into the painful depth that I thought it might: Bombeck chose not to dwell on those details. It certainly acknowledged the challenges and heartbreak of childhood cancer, but it focused more on the positives, as told through small snippets of individual stories. The children in the book are the stars of the show, displaying maturity and resilience but also a hope and positive attitude that many adults do not have anymore. They are able to confront their disease with humor and honesty.

Bombeck also mentioned the parents, suggesting the difficulty they must face when going through such a challenge, but again, she did not dwell on the negative.

It appears that the book at the time of publication was original. Today, I can see more depth being put into one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, with contributors seeking an audience. This book was written during a time when not everyone was a writer or contributor: Bombeck traveled the country and worked for two and a half years to track down enough contributors to tell their stories. It’s a light read and obviously outdated, but the ultimate lesson to take from it is that humor and positivity can go a long way. As mentioned several times in the book, we are never promised tomorrow, regardless of our actual health. It’s best to keep worries to a minimum–because what good do they do anyway? And it’s best to keep a positive spirit.

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