Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane...

... with books! Books that those of you of a certain age (can you say Boomer?) might very well recognize.

A while back I stumbled on a book in a library sale, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, in an abridged Random House Landmark edition, and it brought back fond memories of hours spent in the library as a kid. And I've spent a LOT of hours in the library, then and now. My mom worked in our local library as I was growing up, and I had the rare treat of being able to go into work with her and have the library to myself for a good half hour. Sheer joy for a kid who loved books!

The Landmark (and World Landmark) series of books were published by Random House in the 50s and 60s, written to a young audience (ages 9 - 15), centering on American and world history. I remembered reading a number of them when I was in elementary school, and I credit them with contributing greatly to my love of both history and reading, which I've carried through to this day.

So what did I do? I poked around online, learning more about the series, including the fact that it's apparently popular today with the home schooling folks. And I found other people who had fond memories of them, such as "The Boomer Child's Bookcase". And I corresponded with my brother and mother, both of whom remembered the series well. In fact, my brother (the first kid in the family) remembers having a subscription to the books as a kid... making me jealous in retrospect! So I decided to pick up a few of the books I remembered best, courtesy of Alibris.com, and it's been a lot of fun so far reacquainting myself with them.

One of the surprising things is how many of the images from the books I remember, both photos and artwork. The covers were particularly evocative, such as the one for The Flying Tigers, by John Toland. Which brings me to another remarkable aspect of these books... they were written by well known authors and historians, including Toland, William Shirer, Quentin Reynolds, Sterling North, Richard Tregaskis and others. And while they were clearly written to a younger audience, they don't read as if the authors are "talking down" to the reader. No wonder my brother and I grew up to be "book nuts" and history buffs. In fact, my brother even has a Master's degree in history, though he makes his living as a musician and music teacher.

So, how many of you out there remember this series of books? What era of history did you find most interesting? Due in large part to my dad's service in the Army Air Force in WWII, that era has been my focus, then and now, but I find any aspect of history fascinating. How about you? There's Gettysburg, by Mackinlay Kantor, and Paul Revere and the Minute Men, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher... or The Story of Atomic Energy by Laura Fermi and Exploring the Himalaya by William O. Douglas (associate justice of the Supreme Court and credited with preserving my beloved C&O Canal as a National Park). Please share any thoughts and memories you might have about these wonderful books.


bikelovejones said...

Best kid book ever:

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.

The illustration of Ferdinand about to sit on the bumblebee alone is worth the time taken to open the book.

John Pickett said...

When I was that age, my favorite books was "Captured by the Mohawks" by Sterling North. I had a copy with my name in it. My mother donated it to the library at my grade school. I was very unhappy. About 5 years ago my sister was sweeping out the garage at my mom's house. A car pulls up and a woman gets out, holds out my copy of the book, and asks if my sister wants it. She said "NO". Gone forever.

Tim said...

Beth - Ferdinand is a great book, I agree.

John - Ouch! That had to hurt when you found out. A second chance to have the book back, and poof, it's gone again. And now you've given me another book to search for. I really liked Sterling North's "Rascal", which I was introduced to recently. The story of raising a racoon... very sweet and heartwarming.