Remembrance of Books Past

On one of my on-line writers’ loops, we recently got into a lively discussion of favorite books from our childhoods.  The women in this group are spread over a considerable range of ages, and a good librarian could probably sort us into graduating classes based on the books we mentioned.

“What was your favorite book as a child?” is one of those questions that tends to elicit lists rather than short answers, especially from a group of long-winded life-long readers, as writers tend to be.  My own list always starts with the Oz Books, not just the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but all of the long series.  L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen or fifteen volumes (a big file of them was the first thing I downloaded to my brand-new Kindle a year or so ago), and several other people followed in his footsteps.  I don’t know how many have been written, but I was still searching them out in used book stores when I was in college.  Sadly, I have no idea what happened to my collection.  I left them at my parents’ house when I married, and when they sold the house in south Florida and moved to my neighborhood in Texas in the 1970s, the books had long disappeared.  Possibly my brother’s children ate them.

I loved Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle books, although I don’t remember if I owned any of those or if they were library books.  When I poked around the shelves at Amazon recently, I was surprised to learn that recent editions have been bowdlerized, I suppose to protect innocent children from some of the words in general use in the early twentieth century.

I read Nancy Drew mysteries and Cherry Ames nurse stories.  I devoured the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley.  My mother, a voracious reader herself, enrolled me in a book club for kids, Junior Deluxe Editions, from which I remember Black Beauty, Bambi, and Pinocchio (all of them, as I recall, considerably darker than their movie versions), Treasure Island, Little Women, and many more.

The discussion got me to thinking about small images from books that I remembered for decades.  One of those was Robb White‘s The Lion’s Paw.  For many years the beginning of the book lurked in a back corner of my mind, the image of two orphans escaping from the place they called the EGANAHPRO, because they only saw the sign above the locked gate from the inside.  I vaguely remembered a connection with a sea shell, too, but that was about it.  When the memory resurfaced a couple of years ago, I could solve the mystery at last, thanks to the Internet and Amazon.

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only person who remembered that book.  It was out of print for years, but the late author’s family (White died in 1990) republished it in 2008, and it has since racked up 104 five star reviews on Amazon.  Many of those reviewers, like me, grew up in post-war Florida, where the book, written in 1946, is set.  We read the book on our own or had it read to us in school, a generation or two of Florida kids dreaming of adventure.  And now, to judge from the reviews, another generation has discovered The Lion’s Paw.

Once I found my mystery book, of course I ordered a copy.  What surprised me was how little of the story I remembered, beyond that vivid early image of the reversed orphanage gate.  The two children, thirteen-year-old Penny and her nine-year-old brother Nick, run away to avoid being separated by adoption, fall in with Ben, a fifteen-year-old boy with an agenda of his own, and make their way across central Florida in Ben’s missing father’s sailboat, the Lion’s Paw.  That journey probably hasn’t been possible for decades now, but it was back in the 1940s and 50s.  The book is short, 243 pages of fairly large print, and definitely aimed at middle school readers, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Is there an image or a scene from a nearly forgotten book that has stuck with you for decades?  If you’ve tracked one down, did it live up to your memory?


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gerrybartlett
    May 09, 2012 @ 09:34:59

    I read all of the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The descriptions of the Midwest riveted me. I couldn’t imagine living in such isolation. And moving so often! I grew up in Houston and lived in the same house from the time I was two until I left for college. Recently I drove to Chicago and back and saw those plains described in at least one of the books. Not so different from the flat lands around here. Funny, but I felt like that family was living in a foreign land.



    • Kay Hudson
      May 09, 2012 @ 10:46:17

      I grew up in Wisconsin, Gerry, where at least one of the early Little House books was set–but I was in the suburbs of Milwaukee, not much different (except for the weather, of course) from the suburbs of Houston.



  2. Trackback: Memory and Magic « Kay Hudson
  3. Linda Rudd
    Dec 23, 2014 @ 00:28:23

    I remember my Grade 5 teacher reading the book, that in my dotage, I thought was called The Eganahpro! I can’t get to sleep (as usual), so decided to look it up tonight! Imagine my surprise!



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