Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Magic

The cover was stained and faded, and the pages were tattered. The book I flipped through at the library book sale was clearly at the end of its life. I almost put it back. was a story about a car making its way home, and my son, a toddler at the time, was crazy for cars, trucks, trains, tractors--any kind of vehicle that moved on wheels or tracks. It cost next to nothing so it would more than pay for itself if my son enjoyed listening to the story and looking at the bright illustrations even once. Into the bag it went with the rest of the books.

The book I'd almost left behind quickly became one of my son's favorites. The pages that had seemed too shabby were clearly just well-loved. We read it again and again, gently turning each already-tearing page. Repeated readings led to memorization. Soon my son could fill in the missing words whenever I paused and pointed to the text. He was in the early stages of decoding the symbols on the page that spelled out every word in every story we'd ever shared. He was beginning to read.

The book? TRAFFIC: A BOOK OF OPPOSITES by Betsy and Giulio Maestro.

Our kids have been showered in books since birth. Many were library books, many were used, and many were new since even our tightest budgets seemed to loosen when it came to books for the kids. New or used never mattered; what counted was what came between the covers. Different books sang to each of them at various ages.

That's the way it is, isn't it? You discover a book that's just what you need or want at the moment. It touches a part of you, somewhere between your head and your chest, and it's as if someone created it just for you.

It's magic. Book magic.

My son is now a teen. He's taller than I am, and the tiny hands that brought me treasured stories to read aloud now dwarf mine. He reads faster than I do, texts better, and knows way more about computers. He has zero interest in reading stories together. It might seem hard to imagine that he's the same person as the little guy who counted the eggs with me in Margaret Wise Brown's BIG RED BARN and lit up every time I pulled out that faded, worn out book.

But he is the same person.

Today I'm dusting his room. It's long overdue, so I need to really dust--you know, when you actually pull everything from the shelves instead of skirting around books and knickknacks.

Removing items from his shelves, I travel through time. To the left of the t-ball trophies, beyond the middle grade novels, above Wired magazine and the Kindle...picture books.

I take one from the shelf and set it down extra gently. The cover is stained and faded, and the pages are tattered.

Betsy and Giulio Maestro...You don't know me, but back in 1981, when I was still a child, you had a book published. You created it just for my son. Thank you for the magic.


Barb Davis-Pyles said...

Oh, Dawn -- how this one hits home! My baby boy is a teen now, too. His first book love was "Vroom, Chugga, Vroom-Vroom" by Anne Miranda and David Murphy. And yes, it's still there on his shelf... waiting for that lost pair of chubby, sticky hands to take it down.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

If you haven't read The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, I think you might like it. One of the heroines has books that follow her around. It's true book magic on a grown up level. Happy New Year.

Steven J. Wangsness said...

Books really can work magic, can't they?

Dawn Simon said...

Barb, I love it! Sounds like a title we might have devoured. And you always have such a way with words! :)

Pen and Ink, I don't know that book, but I appreciate you telling me about it! Happy New Year to you, too!

Steven, definitely!

Jennifer K. Mann said...

I know we have a few similarly magic books on overloaded shelves that I have been to !@#) lazy to dust!!! You've inspired me to consider peeking---but it's a slippery slope....!! If next time you see me I am coughing and sneezing, you will know I took the leap.

Dawn Simon said...

Jen, I'd love to hear which books captivated your kids! (And for the record, I put off dusting as long as I can. As a regular visitor to my house, you may be aware of this.)

Anonymous said...

In the apartment I grew up in the last renter left a bunch of books. Also, the neighbors would leave boxes of books outside the garbage chute, which I'd look through. When I was a teen I found some gems at library book sales and flea markets. It's like these books, tattered as they may be, are waiting for us. It is magic.

Old Kitty said...

Awwwwww - what a great read, thank you!!! Love this pink and perfect book!! Love how it found a home with your and your boy! Yay for libraries!!
Happy happy New year! Take care

Dawn Simon said...

Medeia, what neat memories! It is like they're waiting for us!

Hi, Old Kitty! I agree: Yay for libraries! :)

Faith Pray said...

This is so beautiful, so touching. I love it. Thank you for giving us this tender glimpse into your tough teenager. Book magic - I love how each of us is touched uniquely by it!

Dawn Simon said...

Thank you, Faith! And he's not tough. He's just growing up. :)

Melissa Sugar said...

Books are magical and you clearly found a treasure for your son, that day. They grow up too fast, dont' they

Jackee said...

Such a sweet tribute. I just read a book like that with little son. Only he is just starting to read and read it to me... how it made me notice the fleeting feet of the years!

Thanks for sharing, Dawn! I'll have to keep my kid's favorite books to remember those hours snuggled up together when they don't want to anymore.


Dawn Simon said...

Melissa, they really do!

Jackee, it's so exciting to see a child learning to read! Yes, enjoy the moments and keep the favorite books! Luckily, every age is super cool and gives us special times to cherish. Hugs back!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Don't you just love how picking up one of those books fills your heart with the same joy it gave you when your child/children were little. :)