by Alton Gansky
Years ago, I received an e-newsletter from Shelf Awareness. Shelf Awareness is about the book business and it contains news of interest to those of us who love books and publishing. This time it contained a blurb from a bookstore owner that got me thinking. Here’s the piece:
“He's Holding a Book in His Hand, and He's Shaking”
“About 20 years ago, I had an old guy come in here. He'd been living out here for many years and said he was looking for a book he'd had when he was a kid, so I sent him back to where the boys' books are. Anyhow, about 15 minutes later, he's holding a book in his hand, and he's shaking. He not only found the book, he found his name in it, when he was 9 years old. Can you believe that? He found his own copy, right on the shelf. The guy was actually crying. He was 80 years old or something, and tears were rolling down his cheeks.” (Bob Weinstein, owner of the Book Baron, Anaheim, Calif., in a wistful Los Angeles Times piece about his bookshop's imminent closing.)
Do you have a book from your childhood like that? As a child I read a great deal. I loved books. Mrs. Wells, my third-grade teacher held a reading contest. I was determined to read more books than anyone in class. She wrote our names on small, handmade paper rocket ships and my rocket would climb higher with each book I read.
Sigh, I came in second to Judy Reynolds. (The big cheater.)
Anyway, one of my favorite pastimes was finding a quiet place in the house and delving into a book. One of those still holds a special place in my heart. I remember how good I felt at the end of that read. The kind of feeling demonstrated by pulling the book to my chest and holding it like the treasure it was.
THE SHY STEGASAURUS OF CRICKET CREEK written by Evelyn Sibley Lampman and illustrated by Hubert Buel was written in 1955…long before my reading days. It would be a decade before I got around to it. Odd that a children’s book written a half-century ago should still be lodged in the gray matter between my ears. But who can turn a way from a story featuring brother/sister twins and a talking stegosaurus that lives on their ranch? Not me. I mean—a talking stegosaurus. It’s a fun yet sad story.
Evelyn Sibley Lampman, wife to a reporter, touched my life and stoked the coals of my imagination. The only place a talking stegosaurus can live is between the covers of a book. Evelyn—I feel comfortable calling anyone who leaves their fingerprints all over my brain by their first name—died in 1980. Pity. I’d like to thank her for the adventure.
What about you? Do you have a book from your childhood that won’t go away?
Alton Gansky is the author of over 40 books. He is also the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. www.altongansky.com