Memories: Books, Books, Books

 

As a solitary child, books were my best friends. I loved their friendship because they were quiet, fascinating, non-judgmental, and, as companions, they were always available. So I decided to honor my memories of my childhood books.

Money was tight in our household, so except for a tiny allowance, I rarely asked for spending money. To keep my reading habit alive, my mother would take us weekly to the Garden Grove Library, in those days a tiny building with a charming children’s book section. We were allowed to check out seven books at a time, which I easily finished before the week was out. At the library, I discovered that many books were written in series. Thus, I began my love affair with L. Frank Baum’s Oz books (which I wrote about here a couple of years ago). As an adult, I have only a fragmented recollection of the stories (although I remember many of the characters); instead, I loved the artist of many of the later books, John R. Neill, and have a small collection of those books.

I was a huge fan of books that ran in series, because launching into each book was like continuing on a delightful journey, especially those that were mystery stories: The Happy Hollisters and Nancy Drew mysteries. I adored fairy tales, too, like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I didn’t realize how popular several of the Grimm brothers’ stories were until I discovered in my research that they wrote Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstilskin, and Snow White.

As I was putting this piece together, however, I had a sudden memory of a set of books that were central to my childhood. My father used to work for Encyclopedia Americana and we ended up getting a set of encyclopedias. I don’t know if we’d have been able to afford them without his working there. We also received an “Annual” which we always raced to unpack for the latest updates.

But my favorite set of books was the Children’s series (pictured here). They were beautifully bound books, with brownish-red covers, and gold lettering. They were some of the children’s classics, including Hans Christian Anderson tales, Black Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Arabian Nights, Heidi, and Robin Hood. In studying a photo of the set, I was surprised to see Tales from Shakespeare! That was not in my set, although I wish it had been. They must have included it in early versions of the collection and removed it at the behest of customers (Shakespeare for children?) or upgraded the set with that volume after my parents bought ours.

Most of my books were checked out from the library, and on rare occasions, my folks would buy us books. The only book I remember buying on my own when I was quite young, though, was a real thrill.

My school held a book fair and, of course, I was in my glory, roaming through the many tables of books. It was, in fact, book heaven for me. My mother had given me a small amount of money to buy a book and it would only be enough money for one. I don’t remember the reason, but after much deliberation, I settled on Marmaduke the Magician. It probably wasn’t a blockbuster (since it’s not in print or available anywhere), but it was about a little boy who wanted to become a magician. Since I was entranced by anything magical, it was the perfect buy.

I’ve not kept any of those books, except some Oz books which I purchased as an adult. Those other books disappeared or were given away.

But I still have treasures to keep: my memories of my childhood books and the way they fed my imagination.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn: The Happy Hollisters

    I was a big fan of the Happy Hollisters.

    You kids and your Scooby-Doo. Feh.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: The Happy Hollisters

    I was a big fan of the Happy Hollisters.

    You kids and your Scooby-Doo. Feh.

    Huh? What does Scooby-Doo have to do with the wonderful Happy Hollisters?

    • #2
  3. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase
    @JimChase

    Lovely post, Susan, and one that set off a tangential trip down memory lane at the mention of Encyclopedia Americana.  Memories of sitting in the library, pouring over a variety of encyclopedia volumes from different publishers, stacked on the table while researching whatever school writing assignment I was faced with at the time (had to have minimum 3 sources, properly cited in the bibliography, of course).  Getting distracted by information on topics that had nothing to do with my assignment.  The weight and smell of those pages tease just at the tips of my recollection, even now.

    With the internet, I’m fairly certain there are kids all over who’ve never had to crack open such tomes.  It’s their loss, in my opinion.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Howard Pyle was an illustrator. A lot of his work went into books for young people. He was a pretty inventive guy.

    When you think of Robin Hood, does your imagination conjure up this?

    Thank Howard.

    Does this look like a pirate to you?

    Howard, again.

    Eventually, Howard ended up with more illustrations than illustrating gigs, so he started to write his own.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jim Chase (View Comment):
    With the internet, I’m fairly certain there are kids all over who’ve never had to crack open such tomes. It’s their loss, in my opinion.

    So true, @jimchase! I also remember the glossy photos that they included, and the illustrations. I used to flip through just to see those. Thanks for sharing.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Percival (View Comment):
    Eventually, Howard ended up with more illustrations than illustrating gigs, so he started to write his own.

    Fabulous pictures, @percival. And good for him finding a great way to share his work!!

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: The Happy Hollisters

    I was a big fan of the Happy Hollisters.

    You kids and your Scooby-Doo. Feh.

    Huh? What does Scooby-Doo have to do with the wonderful Happy Hollisters?

    For some reason I seem to remember that there were “spooky” HH stories where the malefactor turned out to be a person, not a ghost. I read these 50 years ago, mind, but they were still fresh in my memory when Scooby-Doo hit the screen.

    • #7
  8. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    My parents also had the Encyclopedia Americana which I enjoyed randomly browsing through.  Your post reminded me of the many books I read when young including the Tom Swift series which I thought the best!

    But you also made me remember something I haven’t thought about in many years.  When I was young, particularly when sick and abed, my mom would read to me and my favorite book was A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and the poem from that book I loved best was The Land of Counterpane.  I just looked up the verse and was reminded why I enjoyed it so.

    Thanks for sparking that memory.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    For you, and others, Mark:

    The Land of Counterpane
    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    When I was sick and lay a-bed, 
    I had two pillows at my head, 
    And all my toys beside me lay, 
    To keep me happy all the day. 

    And sometimes for an hour or so 
    I watched my leaden soldiers go, 
    With different uniforms and drills, 
    Among the bed-clothes, through the hills; 

    And sometimes sent my ships in fleets 
    All up and down among the sheets; 
    Or brought my trees and houses out, 
    And planted cities all about. 

    I was the giant great and still 
    That sits upon the pillow-hill, 
    And sees before him, dale and plain, 
    The pleasant land of counterpane.

     
    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    In my youth a traveler I was.
    From world to world I’d skip and fly
    With friends I met along the way.
    Every world on a bookshelf nigh.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    In my youth a traveler I was.
    From world to world I’d skip and fly
    With friends I met along the way.
    Every world on a bookshelf nigh.

    Love it, @arahant. Yours?

    • #11
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Yes. Off the cuff and not terribly good with inverted syntax, but mine.

    • #12
  13. MichaelKennedy Member
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    My father, who was no fan of books,. disappointed me by refusing to buy a set of encyclopedias.  Eventually, my mother accumulated a set of Comptons Pictured Encyclopedia by buying them one at a time in a supermarket (such as they were in the 40s and 50s). My favorites were Richard Halliburton’s “Complete Book of Marvels.”

    https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Halliburtons-Complete-Book-Marvels/dp/B002212Y7M/

    My grandchildren are not nearly as interested in books.  My youngest daughter was not interested in the series I bought for her, “The Redwall Series.”

    https://www.amazon.com/Jacques-Redwall-Mossflower-Mattimeo-Salamandastron/dp/B003ZJAZRQ/

     

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):
    https://www.amazon.com/Jacques-Redwall-Mossflower-Mattimeo-Salamandastron/dp/B003ZJAZRQ/

    The covers alone are terrific–how could you not pop them open??

    I’m so sad that kids are not interested in books. They’d rather scroll on their iphones or pcs. There is a whole world they will never discover. And bless your mother, buying them one at a time.

    • #14
  15. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    When I was growing up, we would spend anywhere from a week or so to the entire summer at my grandparents house.  There were a couple of book shelves with books that my uncles had read.  They ranged from Tom Swift to Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan plus others) and Shakespeare.  I read them all and loved them.  

    I used to love libraries when I was growing up.  I would start looking up one thing in the card catalog (remember them), stumble on another and end up with the entire day disappearing.  

    These days, I read mostly on a Kindle, since it is easier for my eyes, but I love the tactile feel of a solid book

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    These days, I read mostly on a Kindle, since it is easier for my eyes, but I love the tactile feel of a solid book

    I still love libraries, too, @willowspring. I buy most of my books on Kindle mostly because I have almost run out of space to store them! The bound books I buy are usually on religion and like you, I love the feel of a book in my hands.

    Wow. Card catalogs!

    • #16
  17. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Wow. Card catalogs!

    That’s what internet has become for me now.  

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    A lot of the old artifacts, such as card catalog cards and the old date cards are now going into art projects. Some are the more modern art projects. Others are more folk art, such as Christmas ornaments.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    • #19
  20. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Wonderful memories. I,too, got into reading series. Nancy Drew, of course, but Freddy the Pig, Little Houses, and others I can’t remember right now. I still like to start with the first book by the author and continue on from there. Currently reading through all the A Christie’s, Nero Wolfes, Daniel Silva’s, etc. Heh no wonder I have a ever-expanding, never-to-be completed in my lifetime reading list.

    • #20
  21. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    When I was about 11 or 12, I sneaked a Nancy Drew mystery in to church, and I opened a hymnal and put the book inside, and my mom caught me reading it during the sermon and grounded me haha. I was a sinner from an early age.

    • #21
  22. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This story sounds very familiar, lots of overlap with the experiences of my sisters and me. That illustrator’s touch calls to mind already older hard bound editions of Ivanhoe, the Man in the Iron Mask, Treasure Island… Yet, the illustrator I most remember is Maurice Sendak, from the Little Bear series, to The Golden Key, to his own fun projects like Where the Wild Things Are. About 30 years ago, I was delighted to find a newly discovered Wilhelm Grimm faery tale, Dear Mili, had been translated and then illustrated as only Sendak could do.

    This post was offered within December’s theme: “Memories.” Thanks to everyone who chipped in; the month is filled. If you have not been following these posts closely, do stop by the handy guide to monthly themes and browse a bit during the 12 days of Christmas!

    January’s theme is up, so stop by and sign up for “Winter of Our Discontent.”

    • #22
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Yet, the illustrator I most remember is Maurice Sendak

    I remember Howard Pyle and his student, Newell Convers Wyeth.

    • #23
  24. MichaelKennedy Member
    MichaelKennedy
    @MichaelKennedy

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Wonderful memories. I,too, got into reading series. Nancy Drew, of course, but Freddy the Pig, Little Houses, and others I can’t remember right now. I still like to start with the first book by the author and continue on from there. Currently reading through all the A Christie’s, Nero Wolfes, Daniel Silva’s, etc. Heh no wonder I have a ever-expanding, never-to-be completed in my lifetime reading list.

    My mother started reading to me when I was small.  The Mother West Wind series was the first I remember.

    https://www.amazon.com/Thornton-Burgess-Five-Minute-Bedtime-Tales/dp/048647111X/

     

    • #24
  25. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Yet, the illustrator I most remember is Maurice Sendak

    I remember Howard Pyle and his student, Newell Convers Wyeth.

    Andrew Wyeth’s dad. Jaime Wyeth’s grandfather.

    • #25
  26. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Yet, the illustrator I most remember is Maurice Sendak

    I remember Howard Pyle and his student, Newell Convers Wyeth.

    Andrew Wyeth’s dad. Jaime Wyeth’s grandfather.

    Yep.

    • #26
  27. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    When I was about 11 or 12, I sneaked a Nancy Drew mystery in to church, and I opened a hymnal and put the book inside, and my mom caught me reading it during the sermon and grounded me haha. I was a sinner from an early age.

    One of the reasons I loved the grade school my kids went to is that with most of the teachers they had an agreement that could read quietly to themselves when they were done with whatever they were working on.

    Son #1 demanded that I take him to see his third grade teacher before school started as he refused to read any of the books on her suggested reading list. He wanted to do his book report on Jurassic Park, which he’d read that summer.

    • #27
  28. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    @susanquinn : I’m sure you visited the main Torrance Library on Torrance Blvd?

    That was the baby of my then good friend and neighbor, Russell Crowe. What a character …

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Annefy (View Comment):

    @susanquinn : I’m sure you visited the main Torrance Library on Torrance Blvd?

    That was the baby of my then good friend and neighbor, Russell Crowe. What a character …

    Oh my gosh, @annefy–I don’t remember! By then I was in high school–I must have gone there, but I’d outgrown Nancy Drew. And we only lived in Torrance for two years. Are you talking about the Russell Crowe? Wow!!

    • #29
  30. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Annefy (View Comment):

    @susanquinn : I’m sure you visited the main Torrance Library on Torrance Blvd?

    That was the baby of my then good friend and neighbor, Russell Crowe. What a character …

    Oh my gosh, @annefy–I don’t remember! By then I was in high school–I must have gone there, but I’d outgrown Nancy Drew. And we only lived in Torrance for two years. Are you talking about the Russell Crowe? Wow!!

    Hah! Freudian slip on my part. His name was Russell West and a larger than life character in Torrance. He was in charge of the main library; everyone in town knew him and loved him. It was the first library I ever visited which had a terrific children’s section; Russell had insisted upon it. Which meant I could go to the library with a brother or sister and dump them there.

    My mom, God love her, had bought some encyclopedias, but they were God awful. So trips to the library were frequent events.

    What were those horrible green books that you had to look stuff up in when you needed a current periodic reference? Main, I hated those. But I sure knew my way around the Dewey Decimal System …

    • #30

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