Saturday, May 18, 2019

Reading with My Sister

When I think of being caught reading, I think first not of where I loved to read as a child, or when, but with whom. I did all my childhood reading with my sister.

She and I are just a year apart in age - 361 days to be exact - and we spent our summers together doing nothing but reading. Back then the public library would let you check out only four books at a time, so we would walk to the library every two days, check out our four books, walk home and spend two days in nonstop reading, and then walk back to get four more. Actually, since we could each check out four books, that gave us a stash of eight titles to devour.

We loved - and still love - all the same books: the Betsy-Tacy books of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Shoes books of Noel Streatfeild, Half Magic and other titles by Edward Eager, the Adventure books of Enid Blyton: Castle of Adventure, River of Adventure, Island of Adventure, Sea of Adventure, Valley of Adventure, and so many more.

We kept returning to our favorites, but each favorite was initially discovered purely by chance. We found the Shoes books, for example, because one of us opened up Skating Shoes and found it had a character named Aunt Claudia. There aren't very many books about Claudias (The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is another). We poked into our first Adventure book and loved it for its British expressions: the children eat "tinned pineapple" and carry "torches" - it was only much later in life that we realized they really just eat canned pineapple and carry flashlights.

We loved the Adventure books so much that for these books alone, we decided it was unfair for either one of us to read a new Adventure book first. So we would sit side by side, in the shade of a big backyard tree, each holding one edge of the book, as we read silently. Because I am the older sister, and could read a tiny bit faster, I remember pausing at the end of each double-spread for her to be ready to turn the page.

Now we are all grown up, and my sister and her husband own a bookstore in the charming town of Nashville, Indiana: Fallen Leaf Books. The store carries new titles, but plenty of used titles as well, which my sister and I prefer. We want to read these books of our childhood in discarded library copies with the reinforced binding; we want that childhood experience repeated in every sweet detail.

Now for Christmas, when I open my presents from my sister, I often gasp with pleasure at finding a treasure that she alone knows I would cherish. Could it be... Circus of Adventure? Or Movie Shoes? Why, yet it could!

How lucky we were to have had a childhood spent reading together.

7 comments:

  1. I love this! I did most of my reading alone as a child, probably because I wanted to escape a bit from my big, busy family! But my siblings and I do connect a lot about books now that we're all grown up and enjoy reading.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. And it's sweet to think of reading as your own private escape, as well. So many roles reading can play in our lives....

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  2. This is such a cool connection you two have!

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    1. Thanks, Holly. It's given us our own "sister language" where we have so many book-related references and inside jokes that others are constantly mystified...

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  4. OO, this is a grand tribute to your sister, too! I love the name of her bookstore, Fallen Leaf. Thank you for this!

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    1. Thanks, Bobbi. I just got back from a visit to my sister, and every minute I spend with her is a joy....

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