Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Revisiting childhood books

I'm a lover of books... always have been. It runs in the family, actually, as my mother has always been a book nut as well. When I was about ten years old, she returned to work, after having stayed home to raise five kids for many years. The place she ended up working, after a short stint at fast food, was the local library. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the library growing up. And like many of us, I had my favorite books.

Among the earliest I can recall is Little Toot, the story of a young tug boat in a city harbor. Yes, one of those stories where a machine has a personality, which were rather popular back when I was a kid. Maybe they still are. Anyway, the tug of the title is young and only wants to play games, and is therefore looked down upon by the older tugs. In the end, an event occurs where he redeems himself and saves the day... just the kind of book a kid would like, where a youngster performs an act of heroism.

Well, a few months ago, I heard on NPR that a new edition was coming out, with the artwork restored to it's original, vibrant colors. Apparently, over the years since it was first published in 1939, the colors had lost their luster. So the publisher and the daughter of the author (Hardie Gramatky), got together the original plates and some other work of the author's and restored it. I told my mom about this, and when Christmas came around, she gave me a copy. It was a delight to re-read it again after all these years. A bit hokey, granted, but it made me smile, and brought back that wonderful feeling a kid gets from reading a favorite book or hearing a favorite story.

Which reminds me of another Christmas gift from my mom a few years back... a CD version of a recording of Julie Harris reading Stuart Little, the story of a plucky young mouse-boy. I'm guessing more folk are familiar with the book than the recording, but I listened to that endlessly when I was a boy. I probably drove my mom half crazy with it. Anyway, that was another lovely gift, and visit to days gone by, and many happy times reading or listening. There were so many good books in my childhood... and adolescence... and even now as an adult. I've always loved reading, and I'm grateful to my mom for encouraging it.

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