Note: This post was orginally published here in July 2015.
As a child I was a horse fanatic! When an unpleasant trip to the dentist led my Mom to offer a well-earned reward of a grocery store story book, I choose this gem–The Little Horseman by Mable Watts. “Alan loved horses very much….” I could probably recite the rest of it–that’s how much I loved this book! I collected (and still have) Breyer horses, picture books of horses, loved to watch the Kentucky Derby and the other Triple Crown races and jumped at any opportunity to ride. We had our own horses until I was in first grade. From second thru fourth grade we had friends in town who let us ride any time we wanted. I dreamed of taking riding lessons like Alan in this story. In sixth grade a friend got to take such lessons and I wanted every detail of the lesson every week. In between kindergarten and first grade I got to ride our horse in a small horse show at a summer camp. For years my riding shirt was my favorite item of clothing–in fact, my Mom still has it!
At the school Book Fair in 2nd grade, my one and only art prize–designing a poster for the show–gave me to a free book pick. I picked a Little Golden Book on a pony, but Mom went behind my back and switched my pick to this magnificent volume–All About Horses (Deluxe Edition) by Marguerite Henry which went on to serve the needs of not only my love of horses, but that of my niece and my cousin’s daughter.
My mother was a great believer in reading aloud at bedtime. My brother and I grew up loving the REAL Mary Poppins. My Mom was given this beautiful book in Brazil in the 1947 by another expatriate. Whether it was “Miss Lark’s Andrew” or “Miss Andrew’s Lark, we both loved these stories.
The Scholastic Book club has introduced legions of kids to great books. My favorite from that source is the Littles by John Peterson. This was way before they hit tv though. I liked all of the characters. It reminded me so much of the Christmas story my Dad always read me from HIS mother’s Christmas-gift book of stories. That story was “Christmas in the Mouse Hole,” and the Littles lived similarly.
These photos show a family heirloom–the book with the “Christmas in the Mouse Hole” story I just mentioned. You can see my Great-Grandfather’s inscription to his youngest child–my paternal grandmother–is dated 1925.
I have always been a cat person. As a child my Dad told me stories of his childhood cat, Blue Eyes, at bedtime–he even gave me a stuffed animal that looked just like her. My Mom made a shrewd purchase one day at a neighborhood garage sale–the all-time best Little Golden Book……The New Kittens. Kathy and her cat, Tina, enjoy Tina’s first litter of kittens. They are cute, cuddly and into trouble. One gets “lost,” but of course good Mama cat Tina finds him. It’s a wonderful little book and I liked it even more because it is illustrated with photographs of real cats and real girl.
Maybe if you were a little girl in first grade at a school on an Army or Navy Base in 1966-67 it wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow that you checked out this book at library time–Soldiers and Sailors? What do They Do. In my case it got a swift reaction from both the teacher and the librarian. “That’s a boy’s book.” I have no idea what I said or did, but I went home proudly with my book. Now, had the teacher and librarian know that even then I was military-obsessed or that my older brother and I played with G.I. Joe [the original, Barbie sized one] and “The Cowboy,” almost daily, the might have understood. It didn’t phase Mom a bit and she patiently let me read it aloud to her and didn’t complain when I checked it out as often as possible.
One of the first real chapter books I remember loving was this one–A Room For Cathy. I was probably attracted to it since she had a horse picture on the wall! Something about the tone of that story has stayed with me all these years. After the 1st Grade I had my own room, but at the time I read this my memories of sharing a room with my big brother were still clear. Unlike most, I liked sharing with him–I was the younger and he was my hero. This book likely still rings as “true” today and has those sweet illustrations.
Dorothy Hamilton was a legend in Delaware County, Indiana, when I was growing up there. She was a local author who wrote interesting books for late elementary age children–many set in the local area.My Mom encountered her soon after we moved to Indiana at some event and bought me one of her books which Mrs. Hamilton graciously signed at the event. I was tremendously encouraged by her! Even as early as fifth and sixth grade I wanted to be a writer. A friend’s mother knew Mrs. Hamilton and invited both of us to dinner at their home. Mrs. Hamilton signed a copy of her then newest book for me and encouraged me so much. Somewhere, I still have a letter she wrote me–possibly after this meeting as I’m positive my mother, channeling no doubt My Great-Grandmother, would have required me to write Mrs. Hamilton a sincere thank you note! Lest you think I was a singled out in some way, Mrs. Hamilton was constant presence in the local schools volunteering to help with school writing workshops, reading aloud from her books and encouraging children to read and to always aim high in life, but to do it the right way.
Like most of my friends I avidly read many of her books. She understood young people, had strong faith and excellent moral values, was not prejudiced and was remarkably sensitive to the trials and tribulations of middle school aged kids living in the real world. Unlike “relevant” literature today though, Mrs. Hamilton always sought to bring her characters up and out of moral dilemmas–she did not compromise her values just to sell books. There was no profanity and other delicate subjects were covered without prurient details. Reading her books felt like being lovingly embraced by a great-grandmother. Her books were published by a small Christian press so they are not always as easy to find as those from larger publishing houses, but still are well worth the search to find. My favorites were the Quail, the Kildear, Rosalie, and Mindy. Rosalie was a departure from Mrs. Hamilton’s norm in that it was set in the earlier part of the twentieth century. It also took on a subject that still rears its ugly head in the area–the KKK and prejudice of all kinds.
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