Saturday, April 9, 2011

Betty's Book Chat



An essential building block of Betty’s fascinating personality was her early reading habits. Let’s face it: reading when the brain is young and pliable allows for the building of the essential support towers for bridges that make the life of the mind an interesting journey for the rest of your life.

There was one book around our house that my four sisters and I loved. It was a thick book titled Story and Verse for Children edited by Miriam Blanton Huber, published in 1940. My mom had used in her early teaching career. It was a book geared toward teachers, but was chock full of all sorts of stories, poems, and excerpts from longer works, all meant to entice children to learn to love to read.

This book had a special place on one of the bookshelves in the dining room. In the wintertime, in order to save heat, we shut off all the rooms but that room and the kitchen. There we sat while the long Kansas winter did its thing. Cramped quarters? Oh yes. However, as long as I could reach for this book with its poems and stories, I had the space and the transportation to another realm that I desperately needed. I read poem after poem, fable after fable, and excerpts from books like Tom Sawyer and Swiss Family Robinson.

Because I was a voracious reader and because I was going straight through the book, I read not only the verses and stories, but also the background information on the different types of literature. In one section, there is a discussion of Puritan-influenced writings for children and describes a lovely woodcut that was included in a primer for children that shows the martyrism of John Rogers, a minister of London who was burned at the stake in 1554. I remember my eyes growing wide when I read: In the picture his wife and ten children look on at his execution. There follow six pages of rhymed advice left by Rogers to his which, of which the following is an example:

Be never proud by any means,
Build not your house too high;
But always have before your eyes
That you were born to die.


When you are a child, trapped in a small farmhouse that is surrounded by snow, starved for excitement, that’s good stuff.

My lovely niece inherited the book. She is a mom, a reader, a writer, and a lover of all things literary, so it is fitting that the book has a place in her house. Last summer, my four sisters and I visited her house and saw the book there. Just the sight of the cover sent us all swimming in a warm pool of memories. We started quoting from our favorite poems and stories. One of my sisters started to recite the poem “Mice” which was one my mom loved and recited to us quite often. It starts:

I think mice
Are rather nice.

Their tails are long,
Their faces small.
They haven’t any
Chins at all.

We all got stuck at that point and one of my sisters picked up the book to find the poem. Another one said, “It’s on page 94.” We looked at her in amazement. We flipped open the book and there the poem was on page 94. It had to have been at least 40 years since she had looked at the book and yet she had remembered the page number.

When I got home from that trip, I got on Amazon and E-Bay and tracked down five copies of the book. It had been reprinted many times, but I wanted ones that had the same covers as the one we had grown up with. I found them and had them sent to my sisters and one to myself. Mine had the added bonus of notations of a teacher who had used the book in her classes. I love looking at her notes in that familiar teacher writing we all remember from childhood.

Betty gets all misty-eyed when talking about books she knows and loves. This one is no exception. Fellow readers, drop the name of a book that influenced you as a child in your comment and join me my little moment of reminiscing. It will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and it will make Betty very happy and I think that’s what we all want. Isn’t it?

Your Faithful Servant,
Betty





61 comments:

Pk Hrezo said...

Hi Betty. New follower hopped over from Alex Cavanaugh's blog. Love the title Bossy Betty. And I love that verse about being born to die. Powerful stuff!

Nice to meet you!

Seams Inspired said...

I'm so glad you found the exact books for which you were looking! I'm still trying to track down my first 'Reader' that my Dad used as he instructed me to read.

Beautiful post this morning, Betty. Thanks for sharing your heart. Happy Saturday! :o)

EmptyNester said...

My dad's mother, GrandMoore, was the town librarian when I was growing up so I spent nearly every day in the library reading! I love mystery books like the Bobbsy Twins, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys. But I dearly loved the book Harriet the Spy!

Finding 5 copies of the book and sending them out to your sisters was so SWEET! Just wonderful!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

After the morning I've had this was just wonderful to read. Thanks Betty,

Have a good week-end;
Yvonne.

floweringmama said...

Good morning!! This was a great way to start my day.

There was a book I read often when I was a little girl that was my favorite. It had a recipe on the back using cranberries. I never knew what happened to that book until last Christmas. I was at my Aunt's house and mom had given the book to her for her children.

It now sits on my children's bookshelf.

Siv Maria said...

Lovely post that brings back memories. All our childrens books were lost in a fire and I haven't thought about that for years. I had all the Nancy Drew books and Trixie Beldon. I love nursey ryhmes and fairytale books. I remember the beautiful pictures and the smell of the pages as if they were right in front of me now.

Madi and Mom said...

BB this is an amazing post....
your Kansas home was warmed by love. What a gift your parents gave each of you and what memories you sent to your sisters.
Hugs Madi and Mom

Brian said...

That really is a great memory fur sure. I didn't have any books growing up.

Gigi said...

Little Women was a book that I read over and over. I loved that book.

Leah J. Utas said...

The Canadian Reader IV. It was my dad's reader in school in the twenties/thirties. Same idea as the book you love, poems and excerpts.
Best book ever.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Isn't it great, growing up with a love of books and reading? It makes all of life so much finer. I recently wrote about my fascination with Greek and Roman mythology, even as a very young girl. We had a book, the title eludes me, that covered all the more common ones. My favorite was Icarus.

And, of course, like so many young girls, I almost drowned myself in Nancy Drew.

I love talking books, so thank you for opening up that line of thought this morning. It's a good one.

Daisy said...

Wonderful story, Betty! And how cool is that, that you got copies for everyone! What a thrill and such great memories.

As for me, so many books were my friends when I was a child I wouldn't know where to start. The "Boxcar Children" comes to mind. So does "Pippi Longstocking," "Beezus and Ramona," and so many other Beverly Cleary books. I remember a two volume set of the Brothers Grimm that I read over and over again. I also remember a Dr. Seuss Dictionary with Abigail, and her Aunt Ada, and Aaron the Alligator. HA HA HA! I could probably go on for days about books from my childhood. :D You stirred up a bunch of wonderful memories for me with this post, Betty. Thank you. Have a wonderful weekend!

Linda said...

Because I also grew up with a love of books, this post really struck a chord with me. When you were talking about that book, I was thinking how nice it would be for you to find a copy of it on e-Bay. Then you went on to say that you found, not just one, but five copies so that each of your siblings could have one. Isn't the internet wonderful sometimes?

I remember having a volume of fairy tales, but I don't remember the name of it. But the books I loved most, as I got a little older, were mostly animal stories, especially about horses. I read and reread everything by Walter Farley, author of the Black Stallion and Island Stallion series.

Retired English Teacher said...

I lost my first comment. Perhaps it shall show up again. I will summarize by saying, I loved this post.

I'm struck by the emotions that seeing a beloved book associated with childhood can conjure up in readers. I am also struck with the fact that examples of Puritan writing is found in the anthology. We would never see that in a book for children today. And yet, the selections were appropriate for you as a child and cause you to reflect deeply over what you had read.

I love that you found copies for your sisters and yourself. Perhaps I will look for a copy also.

My love of books no doubt started when my mother read "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew." I think she may have read us "Box Car Children" also. From there, my personal journey of loving to read most like started with "Heidi." I also loved "Girl of Limberlost." From there I went on to read, "Little Women." The love affair with books continues.

Thanks for this wonderful post.

Marlene said...

I loved my Nancy Drew books when I was a kid. :)

Entre Nous said...

Isn't Amazon the BOMB! (yupes, forgot that word in particular is not a good one to keep in the vocab these days....) I found the Complete Works of T.S. Elliot, looks new, for only six bucks, a steal.

ds said...

What an amazing memory, an amazing book, and yes Amazing Betty (to find five copies of the right edition--wow)!!
Yes, my mother read to us too--A Christmas Carol, poetry, Winnie-the-Pooh (she could even do the Capital Letters). My personal most favorite influences--which I reread even now--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Harriet the Spy. There are others, but the list would be too long.
Thanks, Betty. Have a wonderful weekend (and hope you get to read)!

Mamma has spoken said...

I oh so know what you are talking about! We had several books like that but the ones I remember most are the set of encylopedias. I spent several long winter days looking at the pictures and reading the information found in them.
Though I won't be looking for them on ebay any time soon. Dad gave me the set and after 20 years of them sitting and collecting dust, I donated them in hopes that someone else would find the love for them that I had.

Buckeroomama said...

That is so sweet that you tracked down copies and sent them to your sisters. :)

Oh, books! Mine would be " Pocket Book of Verse." It's a compilation of great English and American poems. I haven't been able to track it down on Amazon. When I moved out and when my parents moved house, my parents packed away most of the books and passed them on to my nieces and if there's one book I'd love to have back, it's that one. :)

Theanne and Baron said...

Great post! I was born wanting to read, couldn't wait to go to school to learn to read! I don't remember either my father or mother reading to me, but they certainly encouraged my desire to read and made books available for me to read. My favorite book is the dictionary, after that there are so many. One of my earliest books was "The Story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf, I love this story and even though my original copy was passed on, I found a "new" copy in a used book store and am able to continue to read it.

Ms. A said...

Such wonderful memories! How lucky are you to be able to find copies! The only book I can recall, was one I had to wait for, from our school library. Everyone wanted it. It was "All Dogs Go To Heaven" and much better than the animated version that came out.

Brian (not the cat) said...

Early on, I leaned more toward science, books about chemistry, rocks, nature, etc. We also had a Funk and Wagnall's encyclopedia purchased volume by volume at the supermarket, and my sisters and I often immersed ourselves in those omniscient pages. But Grimm's Fairy Tales will always hold a special place in my heart. Where else could a child get such great lessons in duplicity and cunning, not to mention twisted notions of courtship and chivalry?

Ginny said...

What a wonderful srory! Now I must go on Amazon and look for this book!! I have always been a huge reader, even as a little girl I looked forward to the weekly book review section in the paper. At one time, I belonged to over five book clubs at once. When I was a young mom, I read one book a day for many years, and the books ran us out of house and home. As a child, I seem to remember "A Child's Garden Of Verses.", which gave me my lifelong love of poetry. Also a big picture book about Mars and theories about how the cananls might have gotten there. As an adult, one of my favorites is "One Hundred Years Of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as I love the magical realism. "Like Water for Chocolate" is very good, as well. I also enjoy Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, poetry, the list is endless!!! I don't get to read much now though because I have several jobs.

Betty Manousos@ CUT AND DRY said...

Oh, so sweet memories! Cool that you got copies to everyone.

Wonderful story!

Hope you're having a lovely weekend~!

Betty

Mary Ann said...

I was a very early reader and read anything and everything in sight:) When I was 9 my dad took me to a bookstore - Coles - and said I could pick out any book and he would buy it for me...Tarzan the Ape Man by Edgar Rice Burroughs...my first "grown up" book. After that I read all of the Tarzan books and then Burrough's John Carter books. I was hooked on SciFi from then on.

Bouncin' Barb said...

I was a huge reader as a kid. Summer vacations were spent laying in a hammock with a Nancy Drew book or a Hardy Boys mystery. I just loved going to places in my head. Now one of my granddaughters reads like that too. I'm so happy. The other one struggles with ADHD so she's not fond of it as was her Dad. So good for kids.

Jayne said...

Oh I love that sisters scene! It's the sort of thing mys sisters and I do together, and there's always one who remembers the details. My father taught English so we always had books, lots and lots, in the house. I loved them all. Read Hemingway at a very young age, and remember it as the beginning of my desire to write.
(Read a lot of Agatha Christie, too!)
:)

The Words Crafter said...

Ohhhhhh, how wonderful! I was lost with you in nostalgia....

That's exactly what reading is supposed to do! I'm so glad you were able to find copies for all of you.

I'm going to see if I can find a copy for myself.

jenny_o said...

I always loved getting the big, thick, hard-covered English anthology the first day of school. After two or three days I had always finished it and had nothing to look forward to for the rest of the year except my weekly trips to the library :)

The book I most remember, and which I still have, was a collection of "Old Time Favorites" (Vol. 3 of "The Children' Hour"), which contained excerpts from Tom Sawyer, Heidi, Little Women, Hans Brinker, and others. But the story from that book that made the biggest impression on me was "Sara Crewe", by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Loved it then, love it still.

"Little Women" is a close second.

Thanks for a wonderful memory-jog, and it's so nice you found the copies of your special book and gave a bit of your childhood back to your sisters and yourself.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's great you have a book that all of you can share in the memories.

Ami said...

So awesome that you sent a copy to everyone and didn't leave yourself out. :)

I was given two college literature books as a 3rd grader. I wish I still had them.

I remember much of what was in those books... Flowers for Algernon, The Sniper, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Raven, Rip Van Winkle... my first exposure to big people books, really, although we had an extensive encyclopedia that I frequently dived into.

I'm feeling the urge to read.

citymouse said...

I loved this post. It almost brought tears to my eyes! I absolutely love that you hunted down copies for yourself and your sisters. What an endearing act of love.

I don't know if there were any books that shaped my childhood in such a way, but I have very fond memories of reading Caps for Sale, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Where the Wild Things Are. My grandmother worked for a printing press and these were some of our earliest books. My younger brother and I reminisced and laughed about those stories once we were adults.

Old Kitty said...

I love that you have passed this precious book to the next generation!! That makes it priceless and very precious!

But yay for discovering other copies of this same book for you and your sisters to have treasure too!!

I loved all the fairystories (Grimm's fairystories, Aesop's fables, greek mythology for children!) and remember absolutely adoring the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series too!

Take care
x

faye said...

How exciting that you found the book
and got them for you and your sisters..

I started reading at a very early age. thanks to being the youngest of four..

and the librarian at the Public library
always let me wander through the stacks and read whatever interested me at the moment.. Agatha Christie was and still is a favorite.

One day this week I am posting photos of the library from my childhood which
was originally an 1888 Jail.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

what wonderful childhood memories. We owned so few books but I continually checked out 'Bambi' from the school library. The original tale wasn't exactly a children's story as Disney made it.

Pat said...

What a great post! I, too, love to read. I read many, many books growing up. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden. I don't know if I could name a favorite....To kill a mockingbird or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn maybe!

Love your new header picture!

Brian Miller said...

nice...i love books...i go through about 3 a week...my favorite smell is the smell of books...if you could bottle it i would wear it

NotaSupermom said...

I have a Nook and use my phone as a Kindle reader, but they will never replace books in my heart.

The smell, the feel of the paper. Ah!

Ann said...

Lovely story and great that you were able to track down that many copies of the book. I don't recall any one book that was special but I do remember having a mother goose nursery rhyme book that I was rather fond of. In school I think I read all of the boxcar children stories and then moved on to the Nancy Drew mysteries.

Munir said...

I have a lot of books that I read in Hindi even to this day in my head and influeced me a lot. We could borrow them from public libraries. We were careful in how much money we could spend. I was awarded with an English novel "An Old Fashioned Girl" by Louisa M.Alcott, I read it and passed it around to my friends. They all enjoyed it. We were taught the hard core literature ie William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, and poets like Long Fellow. How ever English "Novels" were not popular among grown ups and every thing we read had to be approved by our grown ups.

Out on the prairie said...

Amazing story Betty.

Susan in the Boonies said...

Dear Betty,

I loved your post today on warm, fuzzy childhood memories evoked by books. I'll give you two: one involved a beat up book of Uncle Wiggly stories. I read them now, and barely recognize them, but when I was a child, and either one of my parents read me an Uncle Wiggly story, I was transported to a magical place where animals really did talk, as I knew in my heart of hearts that they did. My best loved stuffed animal, who saw me through dark, scary monster nights, was a chick I received one Easter, whom I named Arabella Chick Chick, after, I think, Arabella Duck from the Uncle Wiggly stories.

I was also in love with a Book of Riddles by Bennett Cerf, which I still own. My father adored puns, and now I do, too, and I think Bennett Cerf might have helped me down that road.

This is NOT a riddle, but a question for the ages: "Why don't animals really talk?" (as I suspect they actually do, behind our backs).

Tracy said...

Betty,
We didn't have a great deal as children with five children and a single parent but we did have books; my mother made certain of it. I remember a story of stories and verse that included Little Black Sambo and I loved that story. I have a number of books my mom had as a little girl upstairs in a box and tomorrow I am going to get them out and go through them...I'll keep you posted!
thanks for a great post down memory lane!

LittleSilkDress said...

Hi, BB! Love this post. It had me thinking about my Nook. Love my E-Reader, but lately I have been craving the feel of a real book. I found one in the back of a closet that I have yet to read. It is next on the list. There is just something about turning a page. The feel of it sliding between your fingers. The smell of well-worn paper and ink greeting you. Yes. I need to read a real paper book.

Eve said...

What wonderful memories..I love your blog Betty! I don't know the book you were talking about, but I still have a couple of books that I got when I was 4 (I'm 50 now), they came with a set of encyclopedia I believe and they're called Junior Instructors. One is yellow and one is red. They are very colourful and full of pictures of grown ups at work, families doing their thing, animals, fairy tales, nursery rhymes..my brother and I spent many hours going through each one cover to cover...are you doing that a-z challenge? I am. Please visit me! www.bcbuddie.blogspot.com

Joyful said...

It sounds like your memories are a lot like mine where reading is concerned. What a wonderful place books have held in my life. Thanks for sharing your great memories of early book loving ;-)

Miriam in KS said...

What a wonderful memory!

One of my favorite memories is going with Dad to enroll him in summer school (probably work towards his Ph.D.) and he allowed me to pick out one book at the book store. The book was "Harriet the Spy". (I read my original copy to pieces.) I was especially fascinated by the dumb waiter elevator in one of the places Harriet went to spy. When I suggested we install a dumb waiter in our 1882 era house, Dad told me we already had one. It took me a minute to catch on...and I wasn't particularly pleased. Yet today I cherish the memory of his smirk and barely contained laughter in teasing me.

My favorite collection of books is a set call "My Bookhouse". It contains nursery rhymes, poetry, essays, short stories, etc. I would spend hours and hours reading and re-reading favorites from between the covers of those books. When we sold that old house, "My Bookhouse" came home with me.

slommler said...

My fav as a child was The Adventures of the Bobsey Twins and Heidi!!! So many books I loved and read as a child. I have always had a love of books...as far back as I can remember. I now have a decent library in my living room and it comforts me just looking at all the titles. I do use Kindle on my Droid but books will always remain my love!
Hugs
SueAnn

Hilary said...

What a wonderful post. I love that you were able to track this book down and acquire multiple copies for you and your sibs. Gotta love the internet for something like that.

The book that I read over and over again, as a child, and later to my own children was The Magic Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton.

Sarah said...

"Peter Pan" and yes, books are the most fascinating, and the cheapest, tool to transport one's mind to a wonderful world.

Baby Sister said...

I need to look for that book... "The Hobbit" is the book I can most remember from my childhood. Papa Smurf would read from that book to us every night and that series is now one of my favorites of all time.

Jules said...

Great post, that I needed to read today. My Mom last week returned my first Bible and I had made notes :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Cake Betch said...

I can't really think of one single book to list, but I read and read and read as a child. My fourth grade teacher traveled the country encouraging children to read and participating in book fairs and she called my mom one day after school. She told her it absolutely broke her heart to tell me to put DOWN a book because I would continue reading under my desk after reading time was over. Lol. I still see her every so often at my parent's church and we still talk.

jenny_o said...

Did you know that your posts stick in my head for days at a time? :) While mulling over this one, I've thought of another book that is in my heart forever - Anne of Green Gables (and all the rest that followed).

VM Sehy Photography said...

My favorites were the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. My Grandma gave them to me. I couldn't believe how people used to live. It was very interesting to me and had a strong influence in my love of history.

Lazarus said...

Bossy,
We read a book in third or fourth grade about an adventure in a rain forest that I found riveting...but I can't remember the name. Our teacher read it to us in installments. Other than that, I'd say "To Kill A Mockingbird." The first real novel I'd read. Great post by the way, I'm sure it launched everyone who read it into nostalgia mode.

Sara said...

"Mystery in the Night Woods" is the very first real book I ever read (thanks to my mom for teaching me to read early!). I still have it in my bookshelf, and whenever I see, it makes me so happy and proud :)

Pat Tillett said...

You've really got my head spinning right now. So many old books in my head. Great post BB...

Voices in My Head said...

I have so many books that continue to tug at my heart. Sometimes it's the words. Sometimes it's the memories of the people who shared them with me. I still have books inscribed by a certain aunt on my bookshelf.

Shan said...

One book? Sheesh! Alright, the first one that comes to mind is, "What Katy Did." It was a four volume series in one book. Maybe two inches thick. Might have taken me a week per inch, but maybe less.

As I read this I was thinking about books from my childhood... not particular books, but those semi-tangible memories of the feel of pages (why are they different now?) and the scent (where did that go?). My grandparents house always smelled just like the library, and well it should have. In their San Diego home (the one they had for my first 19 years), walls were lined with bookshelves my grandfather had added. When they moved to St. George, the shelves stayed in San Diego, but the books and the scent came with them. I have a *lot* of their old books. For now many are in a closet in my room. Part of me wants to always keep them in there so I can open the door, walk in to the dark, close the door and go back to my grandparents at will.

The Adorkable Ditz said...

There was this one book at my grandmother's house about the red hen fixing a cake or something with the fox and other animals not helping. I don't remember the name but I would read that story all the time.

We also had a Madeline book that I would read over and over, and this Tomboy short story, a version of The Little Mermaid...Dr. Suess...

The usual. :)