Monday, January 25, 2016
Hello! Happy Monday. I hope your week is getting off to a good start. I want to talk about books today, specifically old favorites. I've always had a large book collection. I'm the kind of person who can read beloved books over and over again, without growing tired of them. It's good to have lots of books around the house, I think; you can always find something to do when you have a good assortment of books. They look nice too; I've always loved having bookshelves in the main areas of my home. We have three main ones for the Bear's books and my own, as well as another large one for children's books. They each have a bookcase in their bedrooms too, but those are more for board games and toys than books. The books stay out in the family room so they can both enjoy them whenever they want. I'm proud to say that both of my children are avid readers and both learned to read early. They read a lot and often want to discuss their books, which makes me really glad.
As much as I love reading and having lots of books around me, there have been many times in my adult life where I've had to unload some of my books, whether because of a move (our cross-country move in 2006 hit my book collection very hard), or because I really wanted to make room for some new books, clearing out the ones I didn't love so much anymore. I don't often buy brand-new books; I'd rather save money with a used copy if I can. There's also something about a book that someone else has written in; I like to read old notes and see what another person highlighted or underlined, what they found important as they read. In college, I bought used books as often as I could, to save money mostly, but I always found it interesting to see what previous users had found noteworthy. Sometimes it helped my studies too. I was a good student, not a perfect one.
Over the past few months, I've had the urge to replace some of the books I've jettisoned along the way. Not everything (I'll never have the room for it all; the whole place would be lined with bookcases along every wall), but a few really special books that I missed having in the collection. I started with Silas Marner last fall; I'd read it in high school and fell in love. It wasn't light reading, and in fact, I still find it slightly slow going even today, but I enjoy it very much. I re-read it as the seasons changed, as I normally do when I re-read it (large portions of the story take place around Christmastime and I like the feeling of reading a story in its season, if you will). For Christmas, I asked the Bear to replace a couple of other beloved books as gifts for me: Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Both are books I loved since I first read them in high school. I re-read them many times after that, but somewhere along the way, I needed to let go and they were donated.
I felt it was okay to replace them now; I've cycled through some of the other books I'd since acquired, there was more room on the bookshelves, and I was in the mood to re-read them both. But more than all of this, I just felt like having them again. I'm not a particularly acquisitive person; I actually quite enjoy paring down and having less, and I don't splurge very often. In fact, both of these are used books. I specified to the Bear that if at all possible, I'd rather have used copies. I like dog-eared pages, soft, floppy covers and loosened spines. He came through; there must be hundreds of copies of the Steinbeck book available used on Amazon. The Rolvaag was harder to find, and a bit more expensive, but we tracked one down. It's a less popular book than the Steinbeck, but it's fantastic. Have you read it? The story is about Norwegian pioneers on the American prairie and the trials they faced in their rugged life. It's gritty and wonderful. Both of these editions are decades newer than the ones I gave away, but they've been well-loved.
The Bear also gifted me with a third new-old book, The Cow Who Fell in the Canal by Phyllis Krasilovsky and Peter Spier. This was a favorite book when I was very little. Unfortunately, I was not able to take it with me when I moved away as a young adult (too many siblings, too many feelings, etc.), and I missed my cow book. I knew my children would enjoy reading it and really wanted to add it to our library. I thought about it for several years but never made a move to replace it. The Bear did, though, and I'm so happy to have this book again! Oh, I can't even tell you. My new copy is paperback, like my old one, but this new one is much smaller. It's a newer edition, 1997, versus my old one from the 70's (I believe this book is now out of print in the US). It came all the way from England, where the seller is located. You know how much I love foreign mail; so much the better if it's an unexpected surprise.
I want to show you a few pages from this sweet little book. It's a simple story, about a cow named Hendrika. She lives in Holland and she does the usual cow things: she eats grass, gives lots of creamy milk to make her farmer proud, and dreams of a life in the city, which she hears a lot about from her friend Pieter the horse.
One day, Hendrika is eating grass by the riverbank when she wades too far into the water and falls in. At length, she ends up floating aboard a raft all the way down the river to the city, where she is involved in a series of mishaps, which include running free in a marketplace, eating straw hats and cheese, and getting chased by market vendors. City life proves to be quite stressful for our friend Hendrika.
While she's on the lam, she encounters her farmer, Mr. Hofstra, who is not necessarily pleased to see her, especially as she decimates the cheese displays and gobbles hats. The city people are amused, but Hendrika soon realizes that the city is no place for a cow. The illustrations are so charming. I've never been to Holland, but I thought about it a lot when I was little. I loved the way the houses looked, and like Hendrika who had heard about them from Pieter the horse, I was fascinated by the idea of staircases on the roofs of Dutch houses. I also liked the wooden shoes and the round red and yellow cheeses. I've always been a fan of cheese.
Back home on the farm, Mr. Hofstra tightens security and Hendrika reminisces about her adventure. She has gained a lovely straw hat of her own, which she wears while she eats grass in the pasture. She has realized that the farm is just the right place for her and she is happy once again. Gosh, I just love this book. I'm so glad I can share it with my kids, who have also enjoyed it over the past few weeks. Yay for new-old books!
I saved a lot of the books I read in college; as an English major, I had great exposure to a wide variety of works, both classics and new literature. I kept most of them because I went on to be an English teacher and knew they'd be useful, which they were. They'll be useful here at home eventually too. I have a fair number of picture books from my childhood, which has been very nice, but I wish I had more of the "chapter" books I loved in childhood. I'd like to replace some of them, including:
All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor (and subsequent books from the series, which I loved in elementary school).
Veronica Ganz and Peter and Veronica, both by Marilyn Sachs
The Root Cellar, by Janet Lunn (my favorite book in fifth grade).
The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin (the LB would like this now and I just saw it at Costco last week, so I may need to pick up a copy next time I go).
The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden
Mitch and Amy, by Beverly Cleary (we have all the Ramona books, and I love them, but Cleary's non-Ramona books are terrific too).
How about you? Are there beloved books you would like to restore to your library?