Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Childhood Books

  I remember discovering the public library in Albany, NY. It was located amid the shabby splendor of Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood, in a 3-story Victorian-type house, where the wooden floors creaked and the air smelled like books. The children's room was on the second floor, in one of the towers. I remember bringing ten books to the desk to check out the first time and thinking they wouldn't let me borrow them all.
   My first obsession was Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie. These books were exciting adventures based on a real life. I soon owned all of them.
   Next came the Bobbsey Twins, the adventures of a bunch of well-to-do kids named Nan, Bert, Freddie, and Flossie.
   After that, I discovered Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. I read the first few mysteries and ended up getting them all through the years. I loved how Nancy and her friends just plunged into danger.
   Then there was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, which I pulled off the shelf and opened to the illustration of the witch about to stab poor Aslan on the altar. I put it back on the shelf because it looked too disturbing. I read it a year later and the wardrobe in our house became the source of much speculation.
   A fascination with England, my mom's birthplace, led to Paddington Bear by Michael Bond. Paddington seemed a bit more sophisticated than Winnie-the-Pooh and led to my love of orange marmalade.
   Next was Edith Nesbit's The Enchanted Castle and The Magic City, more books in which English children dealt with magic.
   I found The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett at the library and read it in one night. I bought that and A Little Princess at a school book fair a few months later.
   I didn't read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland until I found a pretty, illustrated version of it in the library. The same with Peter Pan. I thought Alice was hilarious and Peter Pan made me afraid to leave my window open.
   I wish I could remember the other books I fell in love with during those years of discovery. There was the one about the ballerina, set in the 1940s, and another about a girl befriending the weirdest person in her school. There were books on mythology and fairy tales, science fiction, and biographies.
   I miss that magical round room in a tower, where I discovered new worlds.

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