Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Desperate Magic of Memory and Books

There are certain books from childhood that haunt me like old friends. I want to see them, to hold them. To laugh and wonder at old memories. To remember.

Recently I've been going out of my mind wanting to see my red fairy tale book (No, not the one by Andrew Lang). I couldn't remember the title, but I could describe almost every illustration. Sadly many of my old books are still at my parents house. It isn't clear yet where they will eventually go. My mom, who adores children's books, seems to think she'll keep them for when she has grandkids. I beg to differ. I suspect that Melissa and I will have to have some sort of epic street fighter tournament to determine who gets what books.

Or, you know, we could try to get another copy.

So my mom called today with the title of the book: The Big Golden Book of Fairy Tales by Leete-Hodge and illustrated by Beverlie Manson. I immediately found it used on Barnes and Noble and ordered two copies (according to Mom, ours is a little too well loved, so I though it best to have a backup.) I feel so relieved, knowing it will soon be returned to me.

Another book that I obsess about it A Day in Fairy Land by Sigrid Rahmas. My Nana kept it in her house and let us read it when we were little. I love that book more than I can say. However, so does my lovely cousin Black Jack the Pirate Queen, and seeing as it was her mother's book, she of course should have it someday. So it's up to me to procure my own copy.

It's harder than I thought. Sadly it's popular and old. But that's okay. The worst was when I couldn't remember the title. I felt panicked. It was terrible. Now at least I feel like I will find a copy someday. I can wait. I'm patient (sometimes).

Isn't it beautiful, the way a book can make us panic like that? The desperation we can feel when we can't remember a particular book. That's why I try to embrace the Internet's role in the book world. At least it helps the poor souls find the books they've lost.

Which brings me to a wonderful Web site I discovered, which helps people figure out the title of books that are nothing more than a blurry memory. It's run by Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, OH and I'd go there today if I didn't happen to be in Vermont. Check it out here.

It's entrancing to read the way people describe these books, what they remember and how badly they are seeking them, like talismans or portals to the past or to some magical world to which they can no longer return.


  1. I have two special books on my shelf, one is the first book I ever finished reading by myself. My kindergarten teacher gave me a little post-it with a congratulatory stamp on it. The other is my slim, pink copy of "Is there Life after Sixth Grade?" I received and read it in 4th grade and it so exactly illustrated my feelings of awkwardness and shyness. (Although I knew, and thus never tried, I'd never get away with cutting up my clothes.) I couldn't wait for 6th grade.

    They were some of my early milestone books.

    My mom had a story much like yours, too. The Lady from Colorado by Homer Cro--? (I forget the last name). She read it shortly after moving to the US and loved it. Then she mentioned it to my sister and I, and we went hunting for it online. My sister found it. My mom was ecstatic when she opened that gift.

  2. That's awesome, thanks for sharing those books and memories!

    I thought for a moment that I'd also read Is There Life After Sixth Grade? but it turns out it was another book, I think about sixth graders. I distinctly remember the cover: there's the main character redhead; the tall, athletic blonde, and the shy Native American. And I also remember the cute love interest Nick. Anyone out there know what book I'm talking about?