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[personal profile] rachelmanija had a post recently about the lost books of childhood, which made me start to think about my own. The most thoroughly lost one that I eventually found is Patricia Beatty's O the Red Rose Tree, which a kind librarian helped me towards in kindergarten when I was incredibly frustrated by the reading level of the books more readily available. All I remembered in adult life was that there were girls making a quilt, red was important, and there was a lot of ocean involved -- this last led me to assuming it was set in New England, since growing up in the Midwest that was the iconic far-away ocean. I found it as an adult through a lot of intensive library catalogue subject browsing (children's fiction with quilts, in all the catalogues I could find), and reread it and discovered to my delight that it's historical fiction set in late 19th century Oregon/Washington with a ton of excellent female characters and a focus on connection and community and welcoming strangers, whether they are seemingly mentally ill elderly women or immigrants from other countries who are being demonised by newspapers. I do not think I am quite ready to reread it, but I have just found it cheap for the Kindle and picked myself up a copy.

Two other lost books -- the first I have never found, it was about a boy and his burro and a quest for lost South American cities, with a climactic scene in which a city is found during a thunderstorm -- I remember the circumstances of reading it much better than the book itself, a very long, very hot summer's day, sitting in the edge of the open garage staving off boredom as our mother was hosting a garage sale. It was a dark blue-green paperback, with yellow lettering on the back, battered and torn, and I was reading it out of sheer desperation; I suspect it did not survive the sale. The other has possibly been easier to track down -- there were maybe druids and definitely stone and children time-travelling but what struck me most about it was the huge sense of despair I took from the book; mostly the children's portal fantasies I read ended on a hopeful note, but this one felt bleak. There is a Margaret J. Anderson book that I think might be it (In the Keep of Time), but when I read it a few years ago I could not tell for certain; I go back & forth in thinking that it is my book and I just do not react the same to it now, and thinking it cannot possibly be because of course I would immediately know.

I had to Google on Anderson to find the title of that particular book, and in doing so I found to my delight that she has made a number of them available as ebooks, so I picked up that one and also my favourite of hers -- Searching for Shona a WW2 historical with identity swapping; it has a lot of 'unhappy city girl thrives in country setting' which now that I think of it is a beloved trope of mine -- the best Margery Sharp I read in the fall (The Flowering Thorn) had that same character arc. Anyway, I picked them both up, and perhaps when I reread In the Keep of Time again I will come to some conclusion about it.

When I was a child I went through the shelves of my school library in alphabetical order looking for things to read -- I did not have the words for genres for a long time, but I wanted fantasy or historical books, nothing present day, nothing that was meant to be funny (although Ellen Conford was somehow an exception) -- I liked to browse shelf by shelf in adulthood, too, until my switch to ebooks made it so that I do not go through libraries the same way. But I digress, I was thinking about how in elementary school, after I ran out of Margaret J. Anderson I started right in on Mary Anderson, whose extremely creepy I'm Nobody, Who Are You? combined early-70s social problem fiction with overheated female friendship and psychic time travel -- I have no idea how it would hold up now. And somewhere in that mix was Mabel Esther Allan, whose name I misremembered as Maud for decades, whose very charming mid-century coming-of-age books were not on my school shelves, but her 1970s ghost stories were -- A Chill in the Lane has worked for me for years, and I am always quite sad when I go hunting for her and see that her books are still expensive and hard to find. (I tracked down a few of the mid-century ones through libraries, but there are so, so many I cannot get my hands on.)
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