On Childhood, Lost Books, and the Generosity of Strangers
A little over a week ago, I tweeted about the loss of one of my favorite books. I've loved that book since childhood, when I first checked it out of my elementary school library and then renewed it again and again (and again). The librarian gifted that copy to me upon my graduation with the checkout card still tucked into the pocket. I had been the only person borrowing it for almost two years.
After I lost my book, I discovered that the author's entire (and prolific) bibliography was out of print. I was gutted, not only for myself, but also for all of the lovers of folklore and fairy stories, young and old alike, who would never experience the same rush of wonderment and delight I did when I first turned those yellowed pages.
Today, I received a package in the post. A fellow fan of Ruth Manning-Sanders' work found my tweet and sent me a used copy of that very same edition of A Book of Ghosts and Goblins I fell in love with so many years ago, beautiful dust jacket and all. As if that weren't enough, he also included two more Manning-Sanders books I've never read. The copy of A Book of Ghosts and Goblins has an inscription on the flyleaf, scrawled in crooked cursive by a previous owner, a little girl named Jennifer. The other two books are both school library books borrowed by generations of children, checked out as early as 1974 and as recently as 2006. All three feature Robin Jacques' magnificent and beautifully detailed illustrations.
It feels only right that all of these books are used. They were read and owned and loved by so many other people before they fell into my hands. It feels only right that all of these books are gifts, just like that first copy from my librarian, given for no reason other than, as the sender wrote, "Sharing books is one of the things that makes me happiest." Now that her books are no longer in print, there's something beautiful about sharing what we do have, "helping others discover ... or rediscover ... her."
It feels like coming home.