Monday, June 20, 2011

My new collection

I love children's books.

I could go on and on.  I love young adult fiction, too--in fact, a little dream percolates about writing it someday--but there's a soft spot in my heart for the really young adult fiction: the Cliffords and Madelines and Berenstain Bears.  My own collection is still with my parents: the tattered, dog-eared, mangled pages.  I got my first copy of a favorite childhood book last week, and then struck gold over the weekend, in a separate incident.

The book I bought last week was A Chair For My Mother, which is about a family who regroup after their apartment burns.  (Typing this out makes it sound like a surprisingly mature theme.)  The mother works very hard to rebuild financially, and she and her daughter save their spare change in a big old jar to someday buy a comfy chair for the mother to sit in after her long shifts.  Anyway, I've preserved the image of the chair that they eventually buy (see, a happy end!) as one of the most truly beautiful pieces of furniture I could ever see in my life.  Is it?  Looking at the picture of the chair now, I'll spare you the truth.  But part of my love for these books is because my interpretation of those stories and characters were completely frozen back in the late '80s, so I get a little peek at how I saw the world at that age. As an aside, after I bought that book, Amazon suggested Miss Rumphius, another major childhood classic in my home, so I should probably let them know that something in their recommender algorithm is working real well.

So I added A Chair For My Mother to my bookshelf just days before Sunday, when a gigantic garage sale set up shop in our neighborhood--and what's even kookier, it was advertised as free, free, free.  (I guess that just skips straight to the point that somebody's junk is usually still, well, junk even if it gets a new home, right?) Obviously, it called for investigation. 

The usual assortment of weird stuff was present (I later learned that my brother claimed the prize of a new doorknob) but right in the middle were cardboard boxes full of children's books.  Oh, it was wonderful!  I knelt down to check out the scene, and mixed with fabulously outdated sports and cultural tomes were some of my old favorites: a Clifford, a Little Critter gem called Just Me and My Little Brother and James and the Giant Peach.  The best one, though, is a book known in our family as "Mr. Plumbean" (after the main character) but actually called The Big Orange Splot.  This book, upon modern review, was written in 1977, presumably by a total hippie.  It's about this guy who teaches his neighborhood to appreciate diversity and individuality when he chooses to paint his house totally wacky colors, and his neighbors eventually follow suit with their own zany paint jobs.  My family loves this one.  Daniel Manus Pinkwater, if you stumble across Miles and Laurel in your own leisure reading: two major thumbs up.

I also went home with this gift, a piece of literature that seems decidedly not for children based on the preview I read on the inside cover:

What's that sound? Oh, it's just "Freshman Scandal"
sidling past actually good books in my summer queue.
Later, I moved on to admiring Stacey McGill's fashion sense and Elizabeth Wakefield's journalism skills, wondering if my life in high school would be like theirs.  (In a word: no.) But for lots of nights of bedtime reading, I just admired Mr. Plumbean's neighborhood in The Big Orange Splot: "Then all the people would say, 'Our street is us, and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.'"


  1. Could we get even more alike?! I don't think I've ever brought up my own habit, but it's there, as strong as ever!

  2. I LOVE Miss Rumphius. Classic at my grandma's house in Maine.

    Oddly, one of my favorite books from the library at my elementary school was called Mr. Pine's Purple House, and had much the same storyline as The Big Orange Splot, which I had never heard of.