I was given this lovely book by my sister on my 18th birthday back in 1978. Published in 1977 by Webb and Bower (England), it is a facsimile of diary kept by Edith Holden. It is a love story of one very talented woman’s love of nature. Her artwork, while being realistic and with a keen eye for detail, is full of life and whimsy which separates it from many other artists renderings of nature. Along with exquisite watercolor illustrations, it is chock full of poems about the wonders of the natural world and daily reports of the flowers, trees, birds etc… that she had seen on her walks and journeys.
Born in 1871, she lived in England , went to art school, and became an illustrator. At the age of forty she married a sculptor. She died at the age of forty-nine by drowning in the Thames. The book jacket says that she had been collecting buds from chestnut trees.
Of the many books I had to leave behind when I moved to a smaller space after my husband died, never for a moment did I contemplate leaving this one. It is a treasure and I never cease being grateful that it was discovered and published.
“Caps for Sale” was probably my favorite children’s book growing up. This book was also responsible for creating a love of monkeys in me. This past Sunday, I had the pleasurable fun of seeing it come to life at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. After traipsing through the heat and humidity and seeing lions and tigers and bears (and some beautiful and graceful giraffes), I entered the air-conditioned primates exhibit. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but spider monkeys! There seemed to be at least fifteen of them swinging from tree to tree and scampering about and chasing each other.
I stood entranced as I imagined them stealing the peddler’s caps and copying his motions. The years fell off of me as I regained my child’s heart.
The pages of this beloved book had sprung to life. I was under a spell of enchantment. I found it incredible that these monkeys were acting like the monkeys of my imagination. I don’t know how long I stood there watching under their spell. My friends (that I had come to the zoo with) spoke to me, reminding me there was a lot more to see. And there was. But nothing was comparable with the magic that the spider monkeys had held for me. I always knew that books enrich life but now I saw how life enriches books.
One of my favorites was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This was in the late 60’s before it became so popular or was made into movies. I remember first finding it in my grade school library. I would peruse shelves of books, just looking at titles and covers one by one. Suddenly, I stopped. I saw a picture of a dwarf holding a flask (older copy of book). Hmmm.. this looks interesting…I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up as my excitement built. I took hold of the book feeling it’s promise in my hands. I think this is the best way to find a book — to feel it calling you. And to find it on your own — not on a best seller list, or as a present. It seems more personal, as if it is a secret shared between you and the author.
I’d like to hear about other people’s favorite childhood books, so please write in the comment box if you feel like sharing.