My love of books and stories began at a young age. We had many books at hand—from Mother Goose to the classics, and everything in-between. My mother kept many of the children's books as she changed locations over the years—for use with her elementary students and, I suspect, for enjoyment by (future) grandchildren. Even with down-sizing in the past couple years as she released various possessions to her daughters, there were still a number of leftovers—many tattered and falling apart.
I recently helped my mother move to a retirement apartment—a charming space, but with little room for extras. As I stared at the soon-to-be-orphaned books at her old apartment, I thought, I’m a writer. A reader! I have to rescue them…and…and…I may have grandchildren someday. Who cares if I don’t have shelf space for them right now? I grabbed a box and started filling it. Here are a few titles:
1. THE TALL BOOK OF MOTHER GOOSE, with pictures by Feodor Rojankovsky (1942.) Held together with tape on the spine. Gorgeous illustrations that I remember well.
2. WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG, by A. A. Milne (249th printing, 1958.) A sweet book of poetry with delightful drawings. Its pink cloth cover is worn and frayed. It is dedicated to his son (I’ve added punctuation): To CHRISTOPHER ROBIN MILNE—or as he prefers to call himself, BILLY MOON—this book which owes so much to him, is now humbly offered.
3. LITTLE BLACK SAMBO, by Helen Bannerman. (This copy is a reissue, but the original story was written in 1921.)
I adored this story with its clever hero, and loved how the tigers turned into butter at the end.
4. LITTLE WOMEN; LITTLE MEN; and JO'S BOYS, by Louisa May Alcott. (Circa mid-1800’s)
I loved these classics as a pre-teen. There was no original publication date listed in these newer editions, but in Jo’s Boys, the author has included a note:
Having been written at long intervals during the past seven years, this story is more faulty than any of its very imperfect predecessors; but the desire to atone for an unavoidable disappointment, and to please my patient little friends, has urged me to let it go without further delay… L.M. Alcott, Concord, July 4, 1886.
5. BLACK BEAUTY, by Anna Sewell. (Paperback edition, 1968.)
I was obsessed by horses as a young girl, so this book was a great favorite.
6. LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
(14th printing, 1975.) We have a recent copy of this book, but I couldn’t leave this faded old friend behind. I loved all the books in this series, and lost myself in Laura’s adventures.
Reclaiming these precious books has sparked a sense of self-discovery: my gifts as a writer were nourished from a young age by a rich diet of words and stories. I have my parents to thank for that. Like us, these books have aged: broken spines, bent pages, fraying edges…well-worn; well-loved. Just like us.
Oh! Thank you, God, for a lovely day.
And what was the other I had to say?
I said, “Bless Daddy,” so what can it be?
Oh! Now I remember. God bless Me.
Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.
(Excerpt of A. A. Milne’s poem, Vespers, from When We Were Very Young)