Friday, September 7, 2012
Collections - The Sentimental Value of Children's Books
Somehow, I accidentally own a collection of old children's books. Some were mine when I was a child; others given as gifts.
Some are in poor condition and some are nearly pristine.
The collection is not an investment, nor am I a collector who appreciates the value of old books. These are sentimental items. I love the illustrations and graphics, the adventure, and the old fashioned values. I appreciate how we've changed and old stereotypes seem far-fetched and absurd.
Often, children are drawn into the habit of reading by series books. For me, it was the Bobbsey Twins. This old copy of The Bobbsey Twins: Merry Days Indoor and Out by Laura Lee Hope (Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1904) offers a view of a bygone era when people rode in horse drawn sleighs and happy children yelled things like, "Hurrah!"
If you are not familiar with the Bobbsey Twins, they were two sets of fraternal twins with Nan and Bert the elder set, both sensible and adventurous; and Flossie and Freddie the younger, a bit silly and wild.
As I paged through the book, I found one page featuring Dinah, the African American cook who ran the house and assisted in all aspects of the lives of the famous twins:
"Well I declare to gracious!" she exclaimed. "If yo chillun ain't gone an' mussed up de floah a'gin!"
"Bert broke my boiler," said Freddie and began to cry. One must wonder - where is Mrs. Bobbsey and what is she doing? What the heck is a boiler and why is a kid playing with a boiler? And how 'bout dem eubonics?
The Bobbsey Twins at Home, circa 1916, is filled with chestnut hunting orphans, a staged train hold up for the "moving pictures, children lost in lumber yards (where they like to play), and grown-ups leaving 5 year olds to tend boiling sugar. Times were different then.
I remember reading an old Hardy Boys book to the boys where folks are shocked by the sudden appearance of a woman wearing pants. Villains were swarthy foreigners, and all the brats were red haired boys. The boys got a kick out of the way life was presented in the past. It gave them a little window into history, the way people looked at the world. Sometimes it was a wonderful world, where kids ran wild with a freedom most kids just don't experience today. Sometimes it was ridiculous.
I hold these books with tenderness. Many of the original owners of these old books are long dead, children who took these books to bed at night, or read them on the porch on a summer afternoon. Some of these books could not stand up to another read. They have cracked spines. They've been read to death. They've been loved.
Old children's books can be found for next to nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. They may be found in your grandmother's attic, or tucked away in a forgotten corner of your own home. They can be found in the way that you live as you suddenly find your favorite hobby or interest presented in one of these old stories. They can be found in your dreams. They live in your heart.