Several years ago my family and I spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard at an old farm house. One afternoon while everyone else spent the day at the beach I rummaged through the house. There were two entire rooms devoted to books, floor to ceiling book shelves.
Charlotte’s Web has always been a favorite children’s book of mine. I remember reading it countless times growing up. Sometimes, when I find a book I like, I love to revisit it over and over. Charlotte’s Web is one such book. I can close my eyes and even now smell the barn where Charlotte spun her web. EB White was so gifted with his words that I was able to be in that barn along with Charlotte.
And Oh man, Wilbur the pig! Who could forget Wilbur?
Okay, so I bet you’re wondering where I was going with The Martha’s Vineyard story, weren’t you? Well it turns out that there was some relationship between EB White and that house, because what do you think I discovered in one of those floor to ceiling book rooms but a first edition of Charlotte’s Web and not just a first edition, but this particular book was signed by EB White. It took my breath away to be holding such a treasure from my youth. The only other children’s book that I resonate so deeply with is Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. These two books defined my youth and every time I see them, I smile inwardly and remember where I was when I opened the pages of those books for the first time. Those two books are ones I always wish I could read again for the first time. That’s how special they are to me.
Rascal, is another childhood memory. I didn’t realize until several months ago that this book is semi autobiographical. Sterling North actually DID raise a baby raccoon. I don’t know if some of the humor portrayed in the book translated to reality, however Rascal did find himself in some rather compromising positions. Published in 1963, a year before I was born I read for the first time around 1975 while I attended Branford Intermediate School (now Welsh Intermediate School.) I vividly recall reading the book as fifth grader then being shown Disney film with Billy Mumy. This book should be on the short list along with Charlotte’s Web and Tuck Everlasting of every grammar school and Middle school child.
To not have the experience of reading some of this classic children’s literature would be a travesty of the highest order.
The Cricket in Times Square
If you found it challenging to believe me previously when I said that I read everything, perhaps seeing this column today will convince you of the truth. I re-read all the books mentioned today within the past year. And while they certainly cannot hold the magic they released on the first reading, there was still enough power in them to hold me at rapt attention as I read every word. The Cricket in Times Square was just as magical upon this reading.
Chester, the cricket inexplicably gets caught on on a commuter train headed for New York City. Once arriving in the city he ends up befriending Mario Bellini, a young boy who helps his parents run a news stand. Chester makes several friends in Times Square, Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse to name two. A wonderful book that does what children’s books should do, ending on a happy note quite literally.
You’ll simply have to read the book to understand what I mean.
Until next time…
Turn the page.