Friday, May 18, 2007

Remembrance of Libraries Past

I recently asked my 8-year-old son if he had remembered to return his library book at school.

"Yup," he said.

"Did you get a new one?"

"Yup. My Father's Dragon. We have to take out chapter books now," he said with studied casualness.

But I could hear the pride beneath the words--chapter books! Such a big boy endeavor. Graham had been furious when his older brother learned to read. He, at five, still couldn't, and it frustrated him beyond belief. I doubt he remembers that frustration now, but his joy in being able to interpret what were once inscrutable symbols is evident.

It made me remember my own grade school library--just a tiny place, and for many years my mother was a volunteer librarian there. When my class would march down for library time, then, my mom had already selected several volumes she thought would interest me (and she was always right). Through that teensy library I discovered, of course, Nancy Drew, but also Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, and Trixie Belden, and some series I can't remember about three stewardesses living in an apartment together and doing wonderfully independent things while enjoying the city. (I don't remember what city).

I discovered P.G. Wodehouse through a book for children called Mike at Wrykyn, and I never gave P.G. up after that; I also discovered a delightful book called Andrew, The Big Deal,by Barbara Brooks Wallace, which I found recently in a vintage book shop and bought at once, and I read it to my children now (but would read it to myself just for the pleasure).

The more I read, though, the more I read mysteries, and that was thanks to the wonderful plenitude of books by people like Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Velda Johnston. That genre helped me discover people like M.M. Kaye, P.D. James, Martha Grimes, Patricia Moyes. And on and on.

My mom and I still have book exchanges. When I handed her my entire Boucheron sample bag she was in heaven.

And my sons, hopefully, will have book exchanges with me. :)


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