I grew up in a family that loved books. Our family room had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on one end and an extra bookcase on the side to catch the overflow. We girls all had bookshelves in our rooms, and it was not unusual to find us reading in our beds or in the bathtub. Our whole family went together to the public library, checked out our books, and stopped at the Dairy Queen on the way home.
It’s no surprise, then, that I share bibliophile values of holding real books in my hands, reading aloud to children, supporting libraries and book stores, and recognizing personal book collections as evolving thought-biographies. But I don’t love every book I read. Like places, there are some that please exactly once, and that’s enough. Others earn my loyalty and come with me, no matter how many times I move.
Snug and Serena were the first series books I really loved, the miniature adventures of a mouse family and its meadow and woodland neighbors. They drank from acorn cups, carried violet leaves for umbrellas, and seemed always to be singing. When I saw the movie “Cinderella” for the first time, the cheerful, singing mice were entirely familiar. I’ve even developed a metric: if a book or movie or musical has singing mice, I’m in.
The chemistry of loving books is not always reducible, but when it clicks, our path is predictable. We read everything by the author, try someone else who’s supposed to be “just like” them, and when they truly are not, we return and read our series again, as many times as we get the hankering for whatever it was that it gave us. Maybe that’s why series are so often favorites; there are more chances to experience what we love. Harry Potter or Anne of Green Gables could be stand-alone favorites, but add their full series, and franchises are made.
The first Emilie Loring book I read was my sister’s. We were riding across country on a train, returning with our father from a visit to our grandparents, and I quickly read through my Casper and Little Dot comic books. Bored, I opened Judy’s How Can the Heart Forget—no pictures at all, and, as it turns out, not even one of Emilie Loring’s “real” books but one partially ghost-written after her death. But no matter. It passed the time on the train and held my chewing gum when I reached into the dress box Grandma had filled for us with sandwiches, cookies, and fruit. Necessity introduced me to Emilie’s writing, but I enjoyed the first book enough to join my sisters in reading all fifty-two titles.
All of us liked Emilie Loring’s books; I grew to love them. I have also read Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series five times, and as I write this, I have the urge to read it again. Barb reserved her heart-book space for Gene Stratton Porter’s A Girl of the Limberlost; Caryl read The Black Stallion, then graduated to Robert Heinlein; and Judy sentimentally cried through Mrs. Mike, Johnny Tremaine, and The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. When you love a book, you read it over and over, and when you see it on the shelf, it reminds, even without the reading.
On the wall was a shelf of books. She smiled as she recognized an old, tried and true friend, The Swiss Family Robinson. She must have thrilled over it an hundred times. Swift Water
I’m often asked how I could stand to read Emilie Loring’s books fifty times each, which amuses me. How many times have you listened to your favorite song, seen your favorite movie, watched your favorite episode of “Friends?” Favorite books are favorites because of the experience we have in reading them, because they deliver precisely what we love in them, each and every time. My children asked for their favorite books night after night. They laughed at the same places, pointed to the same pictures, and now that they are grown, those pages prompt sentimental recognition. Are you with me in sometimes turning quickly to your favorite parts of a cherished book?
“Strangely potent this thing we call, for want of a better name, ‘attraction,’ isn’t it?” Gay Courage
Something else we do when we love books is try to learn more about their authors. Emilie Loring’s books reached millions of readers in three generations. Please pass this blog along, and let’s see if we can find some of them. It would be great to get Emilie Loring’s biography together with the people who love her books.