A Trip Down Literature Lane

The annual book fair at my elementary school was one of the highlights of my school year. When the big day finally arrived, round and round I circled the tables looking for the perfect paperback or two. Being a nostalgia packrat, I still have most (all?) of my purchases.

I’ve blogged before about one of my fair favorites (Factual and Fabulous).  Posted below are three additional fair gems.  (Do any of these strike a chord with you?)  Later this week, I’ll be blogging about one of them—merging a bit of the past with the present.  In the meantime, enjoy this trip down Literature Lane.

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Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
pictures by Garth Williams
published by Scholastic Book Services

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For The Love of Benji
a novelization by I.F. Love
from the family film by Joe Camp
(The charm of this book is in the glossy, 16-page photo spread in the middle.)

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American Birds: Birds of North America in full color
by Roland C. Clement
published by Bantam Books/Ridge Press

Scenes of Christmas: Memories of Christmas Past

I’m a nostalgic old sap pretty much year-round, but what better time to reminisce than at Christmas?

My two sisters and I, (and my mother, too!), spent a lot of time with our noses in books. Many were borrowed from the public library, but a respectable number bore our names and graced our two built-in bookcases in the basement. Among our personal stash was the 15-volume Childcraft–The How and Why Library.  My favorite volumes were Volume 2: Stories and Fables, (it had a beautiful two-page spread of a pink fairy!), and Volume 9: Holidays and Traditions.  The latter volume contained colorful pictures of Santas around the world.  Santa Claus.  Father Christmas.  Frere Noel.  The volume also contained a picture of the nativity and a brief explanation of “the shining star” that led the Wise Men (the Magi) to Jesus.

Childcraft--The How and Why Library, 1972 Edition

Childcraft–The How and Why Library, 1972 Edition

Factual and Fabulous

Which state has a statue in honor of a bug? [1] … Who was the first woman elected to the United States Congress, and which state did she represent? [2] …  In which state were the most Revolutionary War battles fought? [3]

You’ll find the answers to these burning questions and more in Fabulous Facts about the 50 States.  Written by Wilma Ross, with illustrations by Bill Cummings and maps by Frank Ronan, the book is currently in its 4th revised edition.

My Fabulous copy, which was published in 1976 and purchased at a Scholastic Book fair for a whopping eighty-five cents, is well worn and well loved.  (In fact, it should have rated in my Insights into the Soul post, but alas there are too many good books in my life to list!)

Fabulous Facts is packed with tidbits about our 50 great (and united) states of America. The states are presented alphabetically. But that’s not all!  What follows is a map of the 13 original colonies (with notes indicating that what is now Maine was owned by Massachusetts, and what is now Vermont was claimed by New Hampshire and New York).  The book concludes with a flurry of adhoc “More Fabulous Facts.”

Growing up, I was eyewitness to many of the states up and down the east coast, thanks to Dad’s keenness for educational summer vacations.  The states that we didn’t see in person, I went to in my imagination courtesy of the facts, illustrations and maps exploding from the pages of Fabulous Facts.

Obviously, the population information in the book has changed since my edition, which was based on the 1970 (yowza!) census. Nevertheless, the book is still delightful because it serves up a hearty helping of American history, fact by fabulous fact.


[1]  Alabama; [2] Jeannette Rankin, Montana in 1917; [3] South Carolina

Planes, Trains, and Reading Mats

“Wow, Lala, a train!” my sister remarked almost breathlessly as we stepped out of the car this morning following a jaunt to Bean Traders and Harris Teeter.

“We haven’t heard that sound in the longest time!” she added. She was right.

I was transported to the lazy days of our youth. Frequently, my two sisters and I could be found sprawled out on reading mats in our sprawling back yard. Airplanes jetted across the sky, leaving white tracks that faded into nothingness before our tender, watchful eyes. And on the breeze, the melodic whistle of a freight train bore witness to its passing by the feed mill a couple miles down the road.

There’s not a cloud in the sky today, and the breeze must be just right for bringing to ear and to mind the memories of a simpler time. Some people look for the cure for nostalgia. That seems downright silly to me. Instead, I find it delightfully amazing that a mere sound can lap up the miles and chug through the hills and valleys of life to bring a memory to one’s doorstep.