Love Letters to Books from a Librarian
Book Buzz is a blog produced in collaboration with neighborhood librarians from Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library and the Bellaire Library.
Dear Reader, I graduated. On May 12, 2018 I walked across the stage at Texas Woman’s University and accepted my diploma (okay, actually, a piece of paper stating my diploma would be mailed to me at a later date) that declared me a real live degreed librarian! In celebration of this accomplishment, I take inspiration from the fabulous book Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence and celebrate some of the titles that for better or worse set me on the path to librarianship and proud bookworm-ness (bookwormery?):
Dear Ramona Quimby,
Ramona the Pest was the first chapter book I ever read - or at least the one I have the clearest memory of at the age of seven. I grew up with you, Ramona. I cheered as you matured from the tag along little sister to your own person with likes and interests and a very distinct personality. You weren’t perfect. You had ordinary stick straight brown hair (like my own) instead of golden curls. You liked mud puddles and worms. You mispronounced words. You sometimes fought with your family and best friend. You were a terrible speller. You had imagination. You were a revelation.
If this is a love letter to you, it’s also a thank you to your creator Beverly Cleary - who had the simple but profound desire to write books for ordinary children, the sort of boys and girls she saw everyday working as a children’s librarian in Yakima, Washington. Mrs. Cleary, you gave such respect to the inner lives of children. You never talked down to them. You never mocked them. You understood all the little hurts and injustices, arbitrarily being told we’re too young for something, a classmate who copies our work, being worried about finances or when our parents fight. As of this writing, you are still going strong at the age of 102 and I’m convinced that your long life is owed to the fact that you never forgot what it meant to be a child.
Thank you and much love to you as well as Ramona, Beezus, Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse and all your other creations.
Dear Babysitters Club series,
For a while, you were my world. I gorged on your books. I was a veritable encyclopedia of character facts and plot details (weirdly enough all these years later I still retain this information but can never remember my passwords for work.) But . . . I outgrew you. My mother, also a librarian, objected to my addiction to what were essentially the literary equivalent of potato chips but would of course never censor my reading material. So, the compromise she devised was that for every BSC book I read I had to also read one "real" book and discuss it with her. The heady combination of being exposed to classic literature and one-on-one time with mom where my opinions on books was given weight and value did the trick. I’m sorry but, after reading Jane Eyre your charms began to wane. It didn’t help that when I turned 13 myself and I wasn’t suddenly running my own business, solving mysteries, getting glamorous makeovers or jaunting off to New York City that I came to the reluctant realization that maybe, just maybe, your premise was a tad bit unrealistic. I may have left you behind as part of my childhood but, we’ll always have Stoneybrook.
Dear Edith Hamilton,
Fifth grade. There it was, at a Scholastic book fair: Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Plain black cover with two Greek statues cast in shadow, a black and white author’s photo of a regal grey-haired lady who gazed down at you imperiously as if to say "Buy me or not, I don’t need your approval." How did you even end up there, mixed in among the Boxcar Children and Wayside Stories? Maybe you were waiting for me. Maybe we were kismet. I took a chance and thus, my love affair with mythology was born. Your book wasn’t the cleaned up for the kiddos sanitized versions of the myths I’d read before. It had all the bloodshed, betrayal and general bad behavior of the gods and goddesses and I ate it up. You weren’t a traditional Classics scholar. Your background was as a teacher (the best kind of teacher who has obvious passion for the topic) and it showed. You wrote in clear language and put things into a broader context with discussion on the sources you used and why a particular translation was the best - which then led me to the likes of Ovid, Homer and Sophocles. I became a Classics major in college and comparing notes with many of my nerdy compatriots, I discovered that you were the gateway for many of us.
Thanks for connecting me to something timeless and for all the Jeopardy categories I’ve been able to sweep because of you.
On the lookout for a book that will inspire (hopefully positive) strong feelings and change your life? Don’t know where to start? Ask your friendly librarian!
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