Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Library children's room holds fond memories

Saturday found me volunteering in the children’s section of my library.

As I returned books to the shelves, I was struck with nostalgia to view titles of books that I had read as a child: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary, “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster, “Ozma of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Some of these books had recently been handled, perhaps even read and enjoyed, as witness their place among the books that needed to be reshelved. I caught glimpses of others as I returned books to their places in the children’s room.

I have been a lifelong reader and these were my earliest finds.

Now these books sit side by side on the shelves among books by contemporary authors: the “Warriors” series by Erin Hunter, the “Inkheart” trilogy by Cornelia Funke, the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling and “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones.

A short distance away, the books for young adults include other works of imaginative storytelling: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” by Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini’s “The Inheritance” cycle and the “Bartimaeus” trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.

My life as a reader has led me to successive discoveries in young readers’ serial fiction — and especially in fantasy.

I frequently find young readers’ fiction to be more imaginative than that written for adults; perhaps it’s because the most imaginative adult fiction is separated out into its own “science fiction and fantasy” category, whereas I find young readers’ imaginative and realistic fiction shelved side-by-side on the shelf.

Sometimes I am not entirely sure what accounts for a book’s being intended for young readers or for adults. With separate editions, Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” was marketed to both demographics. So I place less emphasis upon where I am in the library and more upon whether or not a work of fiction interests me.

Maybe they speak to my Asperger’s “super-powers,” but I have recently been interested in novels that depict costumed heroes and villains.

I relate to the dilemma that many of these characters face, either of being expected to blend in among the occupants of “normal” society or of desperately wishing to do so. The secret ability or responsibility they carry places the superhero at odds with this need or demand.

I explain my fondness for serial fiction as having grown to relate to certain characters. When I like a character, I want to visit him or her again and find out what happens next.

Conversely, I’ve put down books that featured characters I dislike or whose motives I disagree with. I wouldn’t want to spend time in real life with people who treat each other shabbily or who indulge in shallow, self-absorbed pursuits, so why would I want to spend time in their company within the pages of a book?

During the years I’ve discovered many stories that captivated my imagination. The time spent on Saturday in the children’s room was a happy reminder of some of my earliest discoveries.

I’d encourage other readers of fiction to visit a children’s room at the nearest library and rediscover some of their oldest friends.

Published Nov. 1, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

No comments:

Post a Comment

Robust debate and even unusual opinions are encouraged, but please stay on-topic and be respectful. Comments are subject to review for personal attacks or insults, discriminatory statements, hyperlinks not directly related to the discussion and commercial spam.