Regardless of how old we are, it seems that we all have certain childhood touchstones that make us smile whenever we think of them. They can be books, games, and movies; family meals and memories; or any number of things. What matters most about them is that they mean something to you.
For me, some of my strongest memories as a kid are tied to the books that I read at the time. Or more accurately, stories that I remembered with titles that I didn’t.
One such book was Hugh Pine by Janwillem Van De Wetering. For years I thought of the story – a sweet little tale about an anthropomorphic porcupine that works with his human friends to save other porcupines from being hit by cars as they cross the street – but couldn’t remember what it was called. I asked reference librarians about the book at just about every single library I went to and consistently drew blank stares when I described the story. I also Googled parts of the plot that I could remember, but couldn’t come up with anything that way either.
I had just about given up on ever finding the book again when I went through an old box of books in our basement. As I separated out what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to donate to our local library, I found the slim red book and couldn’t believe that it had been hiding in our house the whole time! I freaked out – my mother can attest to this fact – and immediately sat down to read it. Hugh Pine was definitely a faster read that time around, but it was such fun to find the book after years spent hunting for it.
Once I found Hugh Pine, there was only one other book whose story kept tickling my memory, but whose title I couldn’t recall if my life depended on it. I remembered that the cover featured a girl sitting by a pond in a cabin and that colored snow played a role in the story, but the title constantly escaped me. As with Wetering’s book, no librarian seemed to know what I was talking about and my Internet searches came up empty.
Two years ago, I told a co-worker about my quest to find this book and a day or so later, he sent me a link for Lynne Reid Banks’ The Farthest-Away Mountain. As soon as I saw the cover, I knew it was the book I had been searching for! So this year, for my birthday, I ordered a copy from a used bookseller and read it on my way home from Denver this past weekend. Like Hugh Pine, it was a breeze to get through and with several years of editorial work under my belt, I could see where the plot could use some strengthening, but I was amazed at how much I remembered about the story. And that alone says something about its staying power.
As I have gotten older, I’ve been able to look at my childhood favorites with a more critical eye, but while I may recognize the fact that they are best enjoyed at a younger age, nothing will change all of the happy memories that they bring up with each return visit.