My love for books started on our family bookshelf. That’s right…shelf. Just one. It was part of the fireplace mantle and it held two sets of books: The World Book Encyclopedia and the Childcraft series, copyright 1960. All I’d have to do is take the “A” World Book to the pink carpeting (it was the 70’s) in the family room, open it to animals and take a ride on an elephant! I never knew you could actually ride an elephant and who knew there were three types of them? I thought, as I have Henry say in The Good Dream, that there was “only one flavor of elephant”. While in the A book I read about Africa and even Asia, where over thirty years later my husband and I would visit on two separate occasions bringing home our daughters. Long before household computers and the internet, those World Book Encyclopedias brought the world to me on that patch of pink carpet in northeast Ohio.
While I adored the pictures of places and animals that I’d likely never see in my lifetime, my favorite book on that shelf was the #3 Childcraft book: Folk and Fairy Tales. My father worked second shift at a steel factory over thirty miles away so I’d start my evening by climbing into his side of the bed while my mother read to me The Little Red Hen, or The Shoemaker and His Elves, or Jack and the Beanstalk. When she’d get tired I’d take over and read The Steadfast Tin Soldier or Rapunzel to her. I’d look over minutes later and she’d be fast asleep and I’d think, “Why are you so tired?” I’d read The Three Billy Goats Gruff or The Real Princess to myself and somehow magically wake up in my own bed every morning!
I loved that #3 book so much that at some point I wrote in black marker on the inside flap: Donna. Underline, underline. Do not destroy in any way!! Thank you! My parents must have trembled at the thought of what I might do if they gave the books to Goodwill or to a family with young children because the set remained on that shelf until a few years ago when my mother opened #3 and said, “Here. It’s time that you take them.” Time and again I reach for #3 and read The Emperor’s New Clothes or Goldilocks and the Three Bears or The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse to my three children. Yes, they’ve heard them dozens of times but the door to childhood is open only for a brief time and I can’t imagine any childhood without the classic fairy tales. Years later, maybe long after I’m gone, something will rise up out of the dimness of my children’s days, maybe a voice on the playground or a picture at the bottom of a shoebox or a video of a long-forgotten birthday party that will make their heart ache a little and their eyes to mist over and they’ll long to open that doorway once again. No matter how old they get they’ll never outgrow the child within and they’ll remember, though briefly, our time together gathered on the bed each night, reading one story after another.
When I started writing novels I wanted to write books that I would want to read. When I had children I changed that motto to writing books that someday they would be proud to read. In the same way, I read books to them that I would have wanted read to me and that will always include Childcraft #3, a book that I carried with me through my own doorway.
Today we’re giving away a copy of Donna VanLiere’s latest novel THE GOOD DREAM. Just leave a comment on this post if you’d like to be entered to win.
1950 Tennessee, a time and place that straddles the past and present. Ivorie Walker is considered an old maid by the town (though she’s only in her early thirties) and she takes that label with good humor and a grain of salt. Ever since her parents passed away, she has hidden her loneliness behind a fierce independence and a claim of not needing anyone. But her mother’s death hit her harder than anyone suspects and Ivorie wonders if she will be alone forever.
When she realizes that someone has been stealing vegetables from her garden—a feral, dirty-faced boy who disappears into the hills—something about him haunts Ivorie. She can’t imagine what would make him desperate enough to steal and eat from her garden. But what she truly can’t imagine is what the boy faces, each day and night, in the filthy lean-to hut miles up in the hills. Who is he? How did he come to live in the hills? Where did he come from? And, more importantly, can she save him? As Ivorie steps out of her comfort zone to uncover the answers, she unleashes a firestorm in the town—a community that would rather let secrets stay secret. The Good Dream is Donna VanLiere is at her absolute best.
About Ariel Lawhon
Ariel Lawhon is the co-founder of She Reads, novelist, blogger, storyteller, and life-long reader. She lives in Texas with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.