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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Talking Dinosaur!

by Alton Gansky
Years ago, I received an e-newsletter from Shelf AwarenessShelf 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.


  1. I'd have to say the Trixie Belden series. I read every single one that was out when I was a kid. They fled my imagination, which didn't need a lot of fueling. After I'd finished one of the books, I'd make up my own story. I didn't write them down back then, but I played them out with my dolls.

    Another book was The Blossoming of Patricia the Less. It had been my mother's favorite book as a child and I read it over and over again.

    Thanks for a trip down memory lane, Al.

  2. In grade school I got an illustrated version of Black Beauty for Christmas that I still have to this day (and that was a lonnnggg time ago). I loved every single one of The Black Stallion books by Walter Farley. And one that haunts me - makes me cry to even mention it - is Comanche of the Seventh about a war horse.

  3. Ane, I, too read all the Trixie Belden books! And many Nancy Drew... A Wrinkle in Time was also a favorite, as well as all the Little House on the Prairie series..... Mark Twain....And then on to many adventure novels. Reading was a wonderful way to escape from the stresses of an ill parent. And Thank The Lord for encouraging teachers!

  4. Alton,

    My most favorite childhood books won't go away because they're tucked safely into my book closet. What are they?

    My favorite stories from Walter Farley's The Black Stallion series and a horse story by Thomas C. Hinkley.

    There are others I'd love to get my hands on, if I could find good copies, namely the Golden Shape book Bambi, and a pocket guide to the constellations. I can still see the illustrations and remember the cold winter nights in Michigan, standing out behind the barn, gazing up at the night sky. Alas, if I could only remember the name of the book!

  5. My kindergarten or first grade teacher read us a story that had a girl with boing-boing curls. I didn't know the name of the book, and somehow I missed reading this series until I was an adult. I was thrilled to find the girl with the boing-boing curls in the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary!

  6. I'm sure I became a writer because of so many wonderful childhood reads. The Yearling broke my heart but I loved every second of it. I stumbled accidentally upon the Little House books and devoured them many times over. Eleanor Estes, with The Moffats, was a perennial favorite. I could go on and on. I have a strong love of children's books to this day. I've actually looked up some of my old favorites on ebay and Amazon and re-read them, but I discovered something sad in the process: Reading a book that was magical at age 12 doesn't deliver the same magic as an adult. It's like trying to go home to where you grew up. The house may still be there, and may even look the same. But you can't go back!


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