As a child, I was shy. I also came from a middle class family with blue collar parents. I don’t recall my mother reading to me but now I begin to recall the Brer Bear, Brer Rabbit books and I think she might have read those to me and my younger brother.
We had this lovely set of hardcover books, which began in shades of green and moved through to deep blue. Twelve books, one to coincide with each year’s growth, and learning to read more complex stories. The first book(s) were filled with nursery rhymes and children’s poetry. They progressed through the most common fairytales; Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Cinderella, to Snow White and Rose Red, Paul Bunyan, various Arthurian tales, etc.
Each large book had a lovely picture on the cover of the book. These didn’t have slipcovers but a weave to the texture of the cover, and a picture applied in a frame, in colour. The inside of the book had beautiful line drawings in black and white. A pale orange or blue were the only colours that enhanced these pictures.
The were titled My Book House, with subtitles for each volume. I don’t remember reading all of these books but I do remember the early ones, before I discovered science fiction and fantasy novels. I loved them. In a home that was often filled with strife, these books represented beauty and imagination, and worlds with happy endings unlike the world I lived in. If any book made a significant impact on my early education, it was this collection. I never forgot them.
Years passed and I moved out. My older sister had a child and my mother gave the books to her. I’m not sure if she ever read them to my nephew but at one point it seems there was a house fire of some sort and the books were gone. I mourned those books, as I would mourn losing a limb.
One day I happened into a used bookstore and found four of the early volumes. Edited by Olive Beaupre-Miller in the 20s, she maintained standards of what a child could handle/read at that time. I don’t have the volumes in front of me at the moment but I have four of the first six. I still look through them because they have some of the earliest images I remember in a book. As well, since I still write fantasy, it’s nice to read them for ideas, discover a fairy tale I don’t remember reading, and read a version that hasn’t been Disneyfied.
My Book House still gives me joy and a warmth of wonder that was hard to always hang onto in my childhood.