by C.J. Daugherty
I was obsessed with reading as a child. I was shy and found my own life unsatisfactory so I sought a new one in the pages of books.
I can remember going to the library with my mother who (foolishly) told me to “…pick as many books as you like.” When I walked up to her 30 minutes later holding a stack that reached to my nose, she and the librarian burst out laughing.
After that I was given a book limit.
Still, when I was 12 I won an award for “Most library books read in a school year”. I’d read 150. These included everything from Don Quixote to a Man for All Seasons to books on SELF DEFENCE and a battered 1950s edition of Connie Francis’ Beauty Secrets.
What that last one was doing there, I have no idea, but I’ve splashed my face five times with cold water in the morning ever since.
I preferred old books even then – I liked the beautiful colours, the yellowing paper. How they felt in my hands. The way they smelled.
Neither of my parents read much, and at times they worried about me; my nose was always buried in a book and I didn’t have a lot of friends. They went so far as to take books away from me and order me to go outside and play. “Make friends,” they’d implore. “Be a normal child.”
My grandmother was a reader, though. My co-conspirator. She gave me all her old books and books my aunts and uncles had read.
So I immersed myself in the Cherry Ames series, by Helen Wells. Written in the 1940s it tells the story of about a young American girl who joins the Army during World War II and becomes a flight nurse.
Then there was Polyanna, a book written in 1913 about a little girl who stays positive even when she loses everything. I’ve wondered ever since what calf’s foot jelly is. I still don’t know and I’m not sure I want to.
I adored The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – a turn of the century series about a family living in “little brown house” who struggle to survive but always love each other. Their whole world changes when they are taken in by a wealthy benefactor.
I have no idea what other children my age were reading at the time. Because I was reading my grandmother’s books.
And I still have that award from the library on my wall.