This is going to be a more personal blog entry in our ABSW Holiday Gift Guide series than the ones our staff and I usually write. Not that our recommendations aren’t usually personal picks, but this time I’m going to let you see a little bit behind the curtain at the little bookstore that’s bigger on the inside.
December 2020 marks ten full years since I took over as owner of Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester. It also marks ten full years since my mother died. She never got to visit the bookstore, although my father and some of my siblings have been here on several occasions.
I count myself infinitely lucky to have grown up in a house full of books. They’ve led me to this current path where I can put books into the hands of others… titles that are either new discoveries or are old friends from years gone by.
Here are three books that had a tremendous impact on me at different points in my childhood.
“When Elmer Elevator hears about the plight of an overworked and underappreciated baby flying dragon, he stows away on a ship and travels to Wild Island to rescue the dragon.” – MY FATHER’S DRAGON, written by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett.
“For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he”s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different.” – THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, written by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer.
“Gareth doesn’t have nine lives, but he is definitely not an ordinary cat. For one thing, he can talk. For another, he has magical powers that Jason never dreamed of.” – TIME CAT, written by Lloyd Alexander, illustrated by Bill Sokol.
SPRING 1970: I was six and a half years old, in the hospital recovering from a surgery for what was called “lazy eye” back then. I had a patch over one eye and felt too sick to do much of anything except sleep. A kind nurse read parts of MY FATHER’S DRAGON to me during my hospital stay, and I loved how each odd item that our hero initially packed in his backpack eventually had an ingenious use to save the day. MacGyver had nothing on Elmer Elevator.
WINTER 1972: I was in fourth grade and our teacher gave the class a “good behavior” treat before we broke for the Christmas holiday… she showed us the Chuck Jones film version of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. As an avid fan of animation, even at the age of nine, I enjoyed it tremendously, probably more than most of my classmates. A few months later, when the spring Scholastic Book Club forms circulated and I discovered that the book was on the list of titles we could buy, I begged my older sister to share her allowance money with me so that we could buy it. I still have that copy, with our signatures in it.
AUTUMN 1974: By the time I was twelve, my parents were used to seeing books on my birthday lists and Christmas lists. But I don’t remember asking for TIME CAT specifically. So I was pleased and surprised to see this book that seemed almost to have been written *for* me. In years to follow, I devoured everything that Lloyd Alexander wrote.
I re-read these books at least once a year. Now that I am an adult, I realize what these three books all have in common… they all are about escaping from the travails of life and discovering new places and new friends when least expected. Those themes have always resounded with me, but I am sure they are even more relevant in these days where we are sheltering in place, but finding new ways to reach out to others.
MY FATHER’S DRAGON, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, and TIME CAT are all in stock currently, and we consider them part of our “never out of stock” inventory.
Books have been a comfort to me all my life. Let some of my favorites be a comfort to you.
—Patty Cryan, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester