People who grow up to be avid readers can usually talk for hours about the books that they loved the most when they were children, the ones that gave them that special magical feeling, that took them to another world, that sparked their imagination. There were books that I read over and over again, such as Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall and, later, Pern books. And Madeleine L'Engle, Beverly Cleary, Diana Wynne Jones (although she didn't have that many published back then) and the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the Black Stallion books, Marguerite Henry's horse stories, Lloyd Alexander, Judy Blume, Edward Eager, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, E.L. Konigsburg, and E. Nesbit.
There were other books that aren't available anymore these days, books I checked out over and over again from the library. I loved these books - sometimes when I was at the library, I just looked on the shelves to see if they were there, even if I didn't plan on checking them out. One of them was The Ghost in the Swing by Janet Patton Smith. It is out of print, and used copies run about $100, or they did the last time I checked. I'd been looking in used book stores for it, not to mention eBay and other online used book sellers, hoping to find it at a bargain rate. My husband finally bought me a copy for my birthday a couple years ago, and what a joy it was to reread that one after so many years. I'm planning on reading it to my children when the Halloween season rolls around, to see what they think of it. The other book I adored was called The Big Joke Game by Scott Corbett. That one is out of print, too, and is $50 or $60.
As part of my last course in library school, I'm doing a practicum in two school libraries, an elementary school and a high school. When I was helping a child find a book at the elementary school, imagine my shock when I saw, sitting there on the shelf, a copy of The Big Joke Game. It had been in the library, according to the stamps on the back of the book, since the year it was published: 1972! Not only that, but it was in pretty decent condition: a few dog-ears, yellowed pages, but the binding was solid. Compare this to the library books I end up throwing in the trash because they are so shoddily made that the bindings crack right in two within the first few months we own them!
Anyway, the librarian very kindly allowed me to check the book out, and I've read it to my girls (review forthcoming). I'm pleased to say that not only did it hold up wonderfully to my fond memories of it, but that they enjoyed it as much as I did! It was also interesting to me to see how linked my memories of the book were to the marvelous illustrations.
There's another one by Corbett that I'd love to reread, my second favorite of his, called The Red Room Riddle. I don't remember too much about it besides the deliciously creepy feeling it gave me when I read it - he managed to create a palpably haunting atmosphere. Maybe someday I'll run across that one, too.
What about you? What are the books that you wish you could reread that seem to have disappeared into the mists of time? Are there childhood books that make you happy, just thinking about them? Or are there any that you have vague memories of but can't remember the title or author? Favorites you checked out over and over again at the library? I'd love to hear about it!
The above image is by Bea Douglas. Click here to see more of her lovely images.