Sunday, July 17, 2005


Yesterday, I purchased and then read the new Harry Potter book. The entire thing, all 650 pages. I know, it wasn't a very original way to spend the day, since I probably had a couple million kids around the globe as company. But I really do enjoy the Harry Potter books, and burying myself in it took me pleasantly back to childhood summer days. The public library had a "summer reading club," in which children who read a certain number of books over the summer got a reward - I don't remember what, but this was the public library, so I assume it was something simple like participation in a modest party, or getting your name on a big gold star on the wall. Cousin Flora has read 15 books! There were rules to ensure that we read age-appropriate books, so a fourth-grader couldn't crank through Go Dog, Go! and Curious George just to nail a gold star within a week.

Of course I never did it for the party or the gold star, I just loved immersing myself in books. It's been said many times, but there's nothing quite like the joy of giving yourself over completely to a really compelling book. Many summers, I would evolve a theme, not by design but organically, as something caught my interest and took hold of my curiosity. I can certainly remember going through more than one magic phase, starting with Mrs. Pigglewiggle and later progressing through all of the Oz books, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Half Magic series by Edward Eager. I remember a girl-power theme, with all the Pippi Longstocking and Harriet the Spy books. Of course there were mysteries, including the adventures of Nancy Drew and her plucky friends Bess and George. Long after I outgrew the Summer Book Club, my summer reading themes included French swashbucklers (Count of Monte Cristo, Three Musketeers, Les Miserables), Russian tragedies (Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamozov, Doctor Zhivago), English gothic (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, Rebecca), and then a curiously voracious addiction to biographies, with subjects as diverse as Marguerite de Navarre to Agatha Christie to Vivien Leigh.

So, curling up with Harry Potter for the day felt very familiar and comforting. It made me think of climbing the squeaky wooden stairs in the old public library of my home town, which was squeezed into a huge old, eccentric converted house, with shelves towering clear to the tops of the high ceilings. That library was replaced with a new, spacious, glass-encased building by the time I hit high school, but yesterday, the smell of wood polish and must came back to me, clear as a bell, and made me smile.

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