Jan. 23rd, 2019

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There was no school on Monday due to MLK day, or -- as my smol son put it -- because Martin Luther King wanted everyone to be able to play on the same playground. It was pleasant to spend the day with my children but there was a bit of that itch underneath knowing that Tuesday I would be infinitely behind on things. As indeed I was, but I tackled the list and made enough progress that this morning I am sitting here in a bit of a fog of sleep-deprivation (children have nightmares, blankets get kicked off the bed, spouse turns the light on and off one two many times in the morning... the usual things contributing), more or less sufficiently ready for Girl Scouts today, and feeling a bit irritated at the universe that I have some free time and am feeling hazy and tired and not really Enjoying Myself. But writing almost always makes me feel better, so here, words.
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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.)

April 2019

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