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Wednesday, September 17 2014

"There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry -
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the Human soul!"
Emily Dickinson

I was in the 7th grade. Scared. A new town. A new school. A new classroom. No friends. And then I met Emily Dickinson. And she was my friend. She understood the magic of books. The magic of words on a page. We'd just moved from a place that anyone would generously call "the sticks" into the outskirts of a college town and I was both exhilarated and terrified. My mother's first order of business had been to trot her children down to the local library and get us library cards. I shall never forget that building.

It had TWO STORIES! TWO! Imagine that! Two whole stories of books! (In hindsight I think it may have had three stories. I believe it had two levels for adult books and a bottom basement level for children's books.) Nevertheless, I shall not ever forget the wonder that rolled through me like sunshine the day I walked into that library. And the smell. Ah, the smell.

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books. Just waiting. Waiting for me. Like the drumbeats of Jumanji the books called me. They held secrets. They held the world. And they could be had for the mere punch of a library card. The library would let me take as many as I could carry. And as a country kid, I could carry a lot!

And so here I am today, a thousand miles away from that frightened child who opened up a textbook and found a new friend. Like Bilbo Baggins' book, "There and Back Again," my travels have taken me far. I have battled dragons and trolls, and like a hobbit, I yearn to return to my simple roots. And yet through it all, I have dragged my books. I have dragged some books for over 40 years. They move with me, old friends following along like faithful dogs.

We were poor, but on Saturday nights our family would clean up and go to "to town" to visit the news stand. This store carried magazines and some books. As children, we were allowed one magazine. If we wanted a book, my parents would 'match' our money. I shall never forget my first big purchase. I had saved $4 to buy the AKC Dog Breed Book. My mother matched it, so for $8 I bought a book that I've dragged across the country for forty years. My mother enrolled me in a Book-Of-The-Month club. National Velvet came from that subscription. I've carried it for over forty years.

The libary had an extensive collection of books by Albert Payson Terhune and Colonel S.P. Meek. I eagerly devoured these dog books and re-read them every few months. God bless the internet, for over the years I've collected many of the same books that fed me as a child, and I still drag them around each time I move.

As I see today's children absorbed in their electronic worlds of computers and video games, I cannot help but wonder. Do they read? Do they experience unbridled anticipation when they open the cover of a book? Old books are old friends. It's not about the story, it's about the spell, the memory of a child running her fingers across the cover and opening up the magic - the magic of words on a page.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  8 Comments  |  Email
Books have been my life. 45 years as librarian still working from home as an outsource cataloguer of foreign language books. Have seen SSSSO MUCH CHANGE in the library scene in that time. There is nothing like books and their smell. Restoring old leather bindings, collecting in fields of interest and owning some real gems. The emotion I felt visiting an Abbey library with the ancient strip catalogue cheek by jowl with modern computer [OPAC}
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust) on 09/17/2014 - 06:33 PM
Oh yes. And Thomas C. Hinkle's horse stories. And Black Beauty. Beautiful Joe. Bannertail, the story of a grey squirrel. All the children's animal books. Thank you for the memories.
Posted by Pat on 09/17/2014 - 07:17 PM
Did you read Marguerite Henry's books? They were my favorites. I was as horse crazy back then as I am dog crazy now. Wish I had more time for pleasure reading. I particularly liked dear readers and riders, where she answered questions about her books, animals and writing. Rebecca and Mojo (the Terv)
Posted by Rebecca on 09/17/2014 - 10:30 PM
Oh gosh, yes! I loved her books. I still have my very first one of hers - Album of Horses! And I absolutely LIVED on Walter Farley's Black Stallion series. When I was in kindergarten our classroom had his Little Black Pony series. I fell in love. Hard!
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 09/18/2014 - 12:15 AM
And who remembers CW Anderson's "Billy & Blaze" books?!!!
Posted by Forensicfarmgirl on 09/18/2014 - 12:19 AM
CW Anderson books were read so many times in elementary school I had them memorized. Then I moved up to Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry. I still have my first pb copy of "Misty". "Little Black" was my favorite bedtime story for years. Between Little Black and the Black Stallion I think that is why I love my black horses, Bum (1989-2013), Amos and Blue, now.
Posted by Pam on 09/18/2014 - 01:12 PM
I have a 10 yr old daughter. She reads non-stop. We restrict her electronics and I think that makes a difference. We go to the library weekly to keep her in books. We are very fortunate to have a library with wonderful programs for kids and a great summer reading program.
Posted by Beth on 10/02/2014 - 08:33 PM
You are wise. I fear that in the future Science will prove all this electronic stimulation is not as benign as we think it is. Books are definitely a safe form of travel for the imagination.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 10/03/2014 - 10:23 AM

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