During the November CBW-LA critique session last year, one of our members, Michael, brought several pages of his wonderfully whimsical poems. I remarked that his work reminded me of my favorite book when I was a child.
The Golden Book of 365 Stories written by Kathryn Jackson and illustrated by Richard Scarry was a book I literally loved to death. I had gotten it as a present (can’t remember if it was a birthday or Christmas gift) when I was six.
Back then I wasn’t much of a bookworm, but I remember being enamored by the colorful illustrations of cute characters and their various adventures. As I grew older, I began to appreciate not only the drawings, but the stories that went with it. The book had one story or poem for every day of the year.
At first, I thought I’d follow the rules and read one story a day. But as I began to develop an appreciation for words, I grew greedy and decided I’d read as much as my little mind could take. Pretty soon I had finished the whole book. But it didn’t matter, I still carried the book with me everywhere.
I always stayed my grandma during the summer months. We lived in an old provincial barrio, where cable was a luxury for the rich. My grandma always carried the only radio in the house. She listened to soaps while she worked in the garden. I was often left to my own devices, and my imagination was all I had to keep me entertained.
The Golden Book of 365 Stories kept me more than entertained. It became my sole companion and my only escape. Every time I felt lonely or bored, I would open the book and flip to a page. I’d picture myself as one of the characters or as one of their friends. Sometimes I’d imagine what happened to the characters long after their stories had ended.
I flipped through the book so many times, that eventually, the binding came loose and some of the pages began to disappear.
The last time I held the book, the cover was limp and dirty, and the book only had half the pages left. I was thirteen at the time, and I remember feeling sad at the book’s sorry state, and regretting that I hadn’t taken better care of it.
As I grew older, I encountered and read hundreds of new books. My favorite childhood book soon receded in my memory until a few years ago, when my love for children’s books pushed me into writing. Feeling nostalgic, I had looked everywhere for a copy of The Golden Book of 365 Stories. It had gone out of print and I couldn’t even find it online.
At last Saturday’s critique, Michael surprised me with a copy of the book. He remembered me raving about the book and decided to look for it online. He found a copy for 93 cents and bought it for me. My childhood copy had a white cover, which I remember very clearly. The book Michael gave me had a blue cover which I had never seen before. But when I opened the book, I saw Richard Scarry’s dear illustrations and Kathryn Jackson’s delightful stories. I was instantly six years old again. I would have read through the whole book again had it not been for the fact that I had to facilitate a critique session. I reluctantly put the book away.
As soon as I got home however, I began leafing through the pages. I had on a goofy grin the whole time. It was like getting reacquainted with an old, beloved friend.
Incidentally, yesterday (Feb. 10th) was my Granny Mommy’s birthday. She would’ve been 92. I’ve missed her dearly for the past 10 years, and this book somehow makes me feel closer to her. I have Michael to thank for gifting me with a time machine that can instantly transport me back to happy childhood days spent in my grandmother’s house.
I’m still going to love this book to death. But this time, I’ll remember to be more gentle on the pages. I want this book to last a long, long time.
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