Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Preferences

Stephanie B., at her blog Ask Me Anything, recently put up a Book Meme that was fun to do, so I have made it today's post. (For anyone who does not know, click for the definition of a meme, from The Daily Meme.)

1. To mark your page you: use a bookmark, bend the page corner, leave the book open face down? I do all of these, but which depends on the book and it’s value to me.

2. Do you lend your books?
Yes, I love giving someone a chance to enjoy the same books I do.

3. You find an interesting passage: you write in your book or NO WRITING IN BOOKS! I wrote in my textbooks in college and graduate school, but I can’t think of a reason I would write in a regular book that I have.

4. Dust jackets - leave it on or take it off?
Again it depends. If it is a book I really treasure and want to make sure the dust jacket stay in good shape I will take it off and leave it on the book case.

5. Hard cover, paperback, skip it and get the audio book?
I read hard covers and paper backs but have never gotten into audio books, especially ones that abridge the text.

6. Do you shelve your books by subject, author, or size and color of the book spines? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

7. Buy it or borrow it from the library later?

8. Do you put your name on your books - scribble your name in the cover, fancy bookplate, or stamp? I used to use bookplates until I learned they could damage the value of a book later. Plus, they seemed pretentious. So now I don’t put my name in at all.

9. Most of the books you own are rare and out of print books or recent publications? About one quarter rare books, one quarter out of print and the rest more recent.

10. Page edges - deckled or straight? Hmmm…not sure what this means. My preference? I have none.

11. How many books do you read at one time? It can be up to three.

12. Be honest, ever tear a page from a book?
Not on purpose. It would make me sick to damage a book.

How about YOU?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Found one! And then, the other!!

Out of curiousity, even though I had done this a dozen times before, I googled 'polio', 'ballet' and 'vintage children's book' looking for my little ballet book, mentioned in the previous post.

Up pops this FANTASTIC site, Loganberry Books. It is a marvelous bookstore, run by a mother and daughter, that features selected new, used and rare books. Sadly for me, it is in Ohio. But a special online niche is a book search, for people like me who only have the vaguest clues, called Stump the Bookseller.

Within two minutes I discovered the book I am looking for is called Little Ballerina and was published in 1958 by Rand McNally. Part of my past searches were probably impeded by the fact I put in 'polio' as a query. Apparently, the book doesn't mention polio, just that this little girl has weak ankles.

Five minutes later, my bid for it was in on Ebay. With luck, I can have it in two weeks.


Stump the Bookseller is like a smorgasbord of childhood memories, people just sending in the barest details about a treasured book they remembered. The success rate is astonishing, as high 75 % one year. There is a tiny fee of $2.00 if you have a book you would love to find but don't remember the title or author.

It is fun just to peruse the queries.

And then...

I figured just for the heck of it, I would put in 'french doll' on Ebay. And what do you know?

My other book popped up as if it had been waiting for me. A Doll for Marie by Louise Fatio was available with a Buy It Now option and buy it then I did. :) I should have it in my hands within a week.

I have to say it again. After all these years, amazing.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Missing Ones

First, I spent hours scouring used bookshops and book sales. Bliss! But time consuming and, sometimes, impossible with four little ones.

Right around the time they were domesticated enough to actually take them to these places without wreaking havoc, the Ebay phenomenon struck.

Now, I spent hours computer monitor.

I was in search of my Missing Books.

As I have said before, I did not have a tremendous number of books in my possession. The few I did have were cherished only by me. They met the sad fate of disposal, along with all of my childhood toys. Gradually, hardly noticed. But one by one, they ended up in the garbage. My mother is not a sentimental woman. I don't think it ever occurred to her I would miss these things.

Eventually, I had only one thing left that I had as a child: a souvenir painted miniature wooden shoe my father brought back from a trip to Holland.

So I did what any sane, well adjusted adult would do. I went onto Ebay, found all my favorite childhood toys and bought them.

Few were more than ten dollars. I found my plastic spinning wheel in it's original box. My pink plastic Showboat with it's drop down sets and movable characters for a range of shows in it's original box. Paper dolls. All my favorite Colorforms, Miss Cookie's Kitchen, the Ballerina, the Weather Girl (the model for which I actually knew in real life) and many more.

But best of all, I found many of my favorite childhood books, the same editions, the same art work that had captivated me years earlier and now carried me back to when I read these treasures again and again. Back to a time when I poured over each illustration, until every detail was memorized. Black Beauty. The Secret Garden. The Doll's House. Blue Willow.

But two have eluded me.

Both were picture books. One was the story of a girl who had polio and could no longer do things like run and play. But one day she started taking ballet lessons. Ballet strengthened her legs and, ta da, she could walk again. Not only that, but she was a great ballerina.

This story fascinated me because of the ballet connection. My father drove me from the Bronx to my aunt's in Yonkers every Saturday morning. For a while, I would sit and watch Saturday morning TV with my beloved cousin Stevie. Then I would go with my other cousins, Stevie's sisters, to ballet class.

I was an abysmal ballerina.

I was short and round and graceless. One little girl in our class, and I do mean little, glided across the studio effortlessly, pirouetting like Margot freaking Fonteyn. When asked to demonstrate the same performance, I wobbled all over the room and eventually crashed into the wall. My teacher's exasperated sighs couldn't make me feel any worse than I already did. All I really wanted was to be back sitting next to Stevie watching Howdy Doody.

I was chosen to be one of the Seven Dwarfs in our recital version of Snow White. Snow White was played by my lovely, willowy cousin Dorothy. I was excited and proud. I would be the smallest dwarf at the end. I was oblivious to the fact that my stage name, Dopey, did not bode well.

The curtain went up, Dorothy did her dance and the dwarves each did their thing, a little pirouette and the announcement of their name. I executed my serpentine pirouette and announced my name was Dopey. To my horror, the audience burst into laughter. I was shattered.

I would endure another two years of this torture before it became clear to everyone that my parents were wasting their time and money.

So a girl who became a success at ballet was fascinating to me. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of it or find any such book in an Internet search.

The other book I cannot find had been a library book. It was about a French porcelain doll named Marie. Naturally, that was riveting to me. A book character with my very own name. What a marvel!

But again, I do not remember the title or the author.

I keep looking. If these sound familiar to you, give me a shout!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


MAGIC. It is a loaded word, with perhaps negative connotations, or mystical ones or maybe considered just plain silly.

For me, opening a book and being transported to another life, another place, even another time, THAT is magic.

According to my mother, I have loved books since I was old enough to chew on them. Which, considering my perpetual battle to lose weight, seems incredibly apropos. Or incredibly sad, depending on your point of view.

The library was my main source for books. (Except for Little Golden Books, my mother refused to buy me books. Because she had received a book once as a gift when she was a child and had been disappointed. Sigh. Never mind that I BEGGED for books.) The library building itself was new when I started going there as a preschooler, in the late 1950's. We lived in the Bronx, on West 179th Street and the library was a few blocks away, on West 181 Street. They were long blocks, because of the way University Avenue curved around what was then the NYU campus (now Bronx Community College). The section where I grew up, University Heights, has suffered social and economic stresses in the past 39 years, but it was a great place to be when I was little.

In the library, all blond wood, fresh paint and hushed, there was a glass walled story room where we sat breathless and cross legged, waiting for our magic carpet ride with the Children's Librarian. No one read to me at home, so I was enthralled with this elegant young woman, her cool voice and warm demeanor. I always remember her in a tweed pencil skirt, her legs folded gracefully to the side as she read us Harry the Dirty Dog, Make Way For Ducklings, Blueberries For Sal and, best of all, Madeline.

Slanted stands held the new books that had arrived each week. The covers would creak as they were opened for the first time. I could smell the newness, feel the crackle of the pages under my fingers, tingle with anticipation at where I would go this time. I learned to read by myself quickly, so I could get there on my own.

Reading was an escape, a pleasure, an indulgence.

I did get a lot of books from my grandparents, books that were hand-me-downs from mostly my aunts. So I was exposed to a peculiar mix of oldish and new, giving me a quaint, skewed and out of time perspective on the world. In retrospect, I am so grateful for that. Along with compulsively devouring old movies, this reading gave me an education that has served me well in terms of having a very eclectic knowledge base. In other words, being a complete wise ass know-it-all.

As I got older, and into school, I would often get up in the middle of the night, turn on the light and read an entire edition of Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew or the Dana Girls. Written into books for teenage girls of the 1930's and 40's, these were characters my peers had never heard of. I loved them.

I went to the library almost every day. I bolted through the stacks alphabetically, reading whatever appealed to me, alternating between fiction, non-fiction and biography. Then I would start over to get any new books that I had missed.

It is such a joy to me to re-read and talk about books that captivated me when I was young. So that is how I will start this blog, by beginning at the beginning.

I will share the magic.

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