That is part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.
If you would like to donate F. Scott Fitzgerald books to the library, check out our Amazon wish list.
I can’t remember an age when I didn’t have a favorite book. My earliest book memory was the colorful, brimming-to-the-edges, illustrated pages of Oh, What a Busy Day. I was 3, and my grandmother and mother and father (and whoever else I could pin down in a chair or on the floor) would read the clever text and rhymes by Gyo Fujikawa to me again and again and again. I never grew tired of that book. It didn’t get old, because it rang true to my experience. Children playing on a swing set. Children splashing in puddles on a rainy day. Children helping set the table. Children having an argument over who blew the larger bubblegum bubble.
By the time I had grown a bit and my experiences had broadened, the book was still a favorite — but in a new way. It was now an old friend. Those faces in the pictures had been with me for a good long while and I could go back and visit them whenever I wished.
This same dance (new found favorite becomes beloved old friend) would happen many times over my childhood with scores of books. Each one becoming relevant to my life as I saw myself in the pages (or saw something new!) and then informing my life in a new way as I returned to it. Books do that. They take us places we’ve always wanted to visit, but thought might be impossible. They allow us to meet people we might never have been able to know. Stories seep into our memories and become so vivid it’s hard for us to believe the characters aren’t real people, but just an author’s imagination. Books are amazing in that way.
The author, Anna Quindlen, is a wonderful writer and she adores books too. Several years ago she wrote a small, almost pocket-sized, tome entitled How Reading Changed My Life. I remember driving in my car and listening to her read portions of it aloud on NPR one afternoon and buying it that same day. It’s such a slim book, it seems to contradict the magnitude of its own title. But Anna Quindlen understands how reading changed her life and she does a masterful job sharing her story.
She describes her childhood and how books were integral to her education and delight. She tackles the dangers of book banning and the importance of keeping the classics in our children’s hands. She explores and celebrates what books can mean for everyone — everywhere. How they encourage, inform and delight us. Quindlen explains how books can help ease isolation, boredom, pain and even our own arrogance. And how books connect us.
Quindlen writes: “Reading has always been my home, my sustenance, my great invincible companion…Yet of all the many things in which we recognize some universal comfort, reading seems to be the one in which the comfort is most undersung, at least publicly, although it was really all I thought of, or felt, when I was eating up book after book, running away from home while sitting in a chair, traveling around the world and yet never leaving the room. I read because I loved it more than any other activity on
…It is like the rubbing of two sticks together to make a fire, the act of reading, an improbable pedestrian task that leads to heat and light. Perhaps this only becomes clear when one watches a child do it. Dulled to the mystery by years of STOP signs, recipes, form letters, package instructions, suddenly it is self-evident that this is a strange and difficult thing, this making symbols into words, into sentences, into sentiments and scenes and a world imagined in the mind’s eye.
The children’s author Lois Lowry recalled it once, ‘I remember the feeling of excitement that I had, the first time that I realized each letter had a sound, and the sounds went together to make words and the words became sentences, and the sentences became stories.’ “
I encourage you to find and read Anna Quindlen’s small but mighty tribute to books, How Reading Changed My Life. It is excellent. And I encourage you to browse your bookshelves and find a favorite book, one of your own old friends, today.
While the roof is being finished, the floor is being laid.
Literature has the ability to conjure a memory, or an image, unlike almost anything else.
As a boy growing up in the Midwest I gravitated to read adventure books. I would check them out at my local Mid Continent Library, and would consume them one by one, channeling every drip of adventure into the imaginary games I would play outside.
From these books I was thrown into a universe filled with survival, nature, and wonder. I dreamed of real-life experiences that might somewhat resemble the fantastic stories I read, and have become an avid outdoors man – giving credit where it’s due.
Thanks to books like My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George) and Hatchet (Gary Paulsen), nearly every time I see a hollowed-out tree, a rock overhang, or a stream flush with fish, I see the adventures of Sam and Brian, and immediately join them in the story.
This is progress. Strong beams that will hold up a stout roof to keep out the rain and protect the books. A building takes shape, concrete mixed with a shovel and a strong back, bricks laid one upon the other, beams lifted and set… and the neighbors begin to wonder, “what are you building?” With excitement the few who know only respond with, “Just wait! You’ll see!” and the anticipation builds.
Last week, I stood beside my seven-year-old daughter and watched as she carefully printed her name and address on an application for her first library card. She glanced at me nervously as the librarian slowly (very slowly) entered the information into the computer. I smiled reassuringly and squeezed her hand. She grinned back and started tapping her foot impatiently. At some point, I began to tap mine too. Finally, the busy work was finished, the card was signed and my daughter held it up with a triumphant smile. “It’s my own card!” she squealed (a modified, slightly squelched, library-safe squeal) and she skipped off to the children’s section to begin browsing.
We love books. We love reading. And we love going to our library! We visit every week. In the summertime, when days are lazy and the light schedule affords a surplus of uninterrupted reading hours, sometimes we get to visit twice. Each member of the family has a library bag, marked with their name and it warms my heart to see those bags filled to the brim and lugged home. As soon as we walk in the door, kids all scurry to favorite chairs or sofas and curl up with their library finds to read and relax.
A trip to the library makes me feel rich. For those who treasure books like some people treasure fine jewelry, the act of walking in, selecting any gems you think are pretty, and then just walking out with them feels luxurious — almost brazen.
I remember when I was my daughter’s age, I was acutely aware of when a new found favorite was due back. If it was a shorter book, I might try to read it two or three times before that red date, so cleverly stamped on the library card, came around. I remember asking the librarian if I could please check it out again and listening to her as she explained I could renew the book for another 2 weeks and feeling as if I’d won the lottery.
I played librarian like some little girls play house. I’d busy myself, dragging all my favorite picture books into the living room and set them up on end tables, the coffee table and our old piano bench. I’d sprinkle in some of our World Book Encyclopedias for the reference section and my mother’s Bible (seemed like a good book to offer the patrons). I’d pilfer old garage sale sticker tags from our kitchen junk drawer and stick them on the spines of the books, marking them with my own child-like Dewey Decimal assignments. Then, using library cards (cut from plain card stock with my rounded safety scissors) and my library card dating machine (just a re-purposed crayon box — the vertical kind that holds 48) I would pretend to help people find books and then run behind my desk and pretend to check them out. I would shove the cards into my crayon-box and make the satisfying “ka-chunk” sound myself and then slip the card into the book and smile warmly at the imaginary person waiting — knowing how much he or she was going to enjoy that particular title.
My daughter is enjoying her new library card. These days, they give you multiple cards. She has the large one tucked inside her Hello Kitty wallet. And the smaller, key card, she put on her swim team lanyard and she wears it like a necklace. I don’t think she’s been without it since we picked it up last week. I asked her why she is so thrilled with what is really, just a piece of plastic. She looked at me with wide eyes, almost hurt by my pedantic description of her treasure. “Mom, it’s not just a piece of plastic. It’s a library card! This card helps me get any book I want to read. This card is the coolest thing ever!” I couldn’t agree more.
This week’s Cover to Cover highlights several stories from Mexico but if you can only read one thing please take the time to read the following op-ed from the New York Times. A timely reminder about the need for a library. Essential Reading: The Country That Stopped Reading.
In other news:
- The Mexico Paradox: A discussion on how Mexico is painted in two extreme and opposing views.
- Illegal Immigration as Art: A reminder that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are first and foremost people.
- Fifty Years of Mexican Crime in Photographs (NSFW)
- Why a library is essential: Reading, the Key to Development and Community Worldwide.
“Necesito, por lo tanto me imagino.”
“I need, therefore I imagine.” -Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes was a famous Mexican novelist and essayist. Before his death in 2012, he wrote many prolific novels and was considered by many to be Mexico’s most celebrated novelist. If you would like to add titles by Carlos Fuentes to the Pan de Libros library, check out our Amazon wishlist.
As a child, I often lived in an abandoned boxcar in the forest outside my city. I had three siblings and we were on our own against the world. We didn’t have much but we had each other, our dog and our imaginations. No matter what difficulties life threw our way, we could face them – together.
These are some of the vivid memories of my childhood because of my favorite book, The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner. It is a treasured book of mine for many reasons. First, the book I own is one of the early copies like the one in this picture. It was my dad’s copy from his childhood and he passed it along to his children. Second, I read this book repeatedly. I fell in love with the story, the kids, the adventure, the happy ending. Somewhere along the way, I became a member of the Alden family and to this day, when I see a boxcar, I want to check inside to see if this was the one where all the memories were made. Just maybe, I’ll find a leftover trinket from our time there. Just maybe, I’ll find a secret note they left for me, the family member they never met.
Books take us places we might never go on our own. I would never have imagined making a home in an abandoned boxcar. I would never have imagined four young kids being able to survive on their own. I would never have imagined how certain items from a trash heap could become useful treasures. But I can imagine it now because I was shown a new world in this amazing book.
A few years ago, this book was brought back to life and they created an entire book series (130 books!) based on the Boxcar Children. I’ve never read any of those books. I’m sure they are great stories but for me, my journey with the Alden children in the first book is more than enough. I want them to remain just like I left them in my childhood – living a new life, reunited with family with our beloved boxcar near by.
Just as a house is not a home, the building going up in Anapra isn’t a library without books and policies to encourage and support reading and learning. While the building has provided tangible evidence of progress, the behind the scenes dreaming and planning happening within the community holds the true dream.
As previously mentioned, the community’s desire for a library is a key component to the timing and progress of the project. Chatting on the phone this week, E put it best, “I just can’t believe the excitement Kate, just so much interest and excitement. I can’t even believe it.”
This past weekend around 50 youth and families gathered to talk about expectations and hopes for the library. The meeting was scheduled to last an hour, it lasted three.
Three hours discussing library policies. With teenagers.
And from that meeting we have a list of requested books, check-out and membership policies, a library name, staffing volunteers, etc. but more importantly we have community collaboration.