Over at Boing Boing this morning, they posted about an exhibit at The Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The exhibit consists of original artwork produced for different Golden Books. I really wish I could go, but as I live in Los Angeles, the geographic opposite of New York City, I don’t think I’m going to get to go.
It did make me think about all the books I loved as a kid. One Christmas my sister and I were given a box set of Golden Books. I don’t remember who gave them to us, but we loved them. There were about twenty of them or so, and most of them were Disney character stories. It was a really big deal for us because these books were brand new. No other kid had written his name in the “This Golden Book Belongs to” section, and none of the pages were scribbled on or marred in any way. The signature golden binding was perfect. I still buy almost all my books used. They’re much less expensive, and many have their own story to tell apart from the one printed between its covers. There is something special, though, about a brand new book, knowing no one else has read the words off that page. It’s as if you’re the first one to be let in on a secret, the first one to share your secret with that book.
We read those books over and over and over. Now, many years later, I don’t even remember what they were about. I couldn’t tell you the story of a single one of them, but they were some of the most influential books in my life. They taught me to love books, to care for them, to value them. They showed me the magic of books. I wonder how many of the books on my shelves at home wouldn’t be there today if someone hadn’t thought of giving us those books. I’m not sure where they ended up, but I wish I could have held onto just one.
Later, there were other books I loved: The Hardy Boys (I managed to collect all but 7 of the series), a great copy of Robin Hood given to me by my great-grandmother, a battered Encyclopedia Brown from the school library. But it was the feeling, the excitement of having those brand new Golden Books that hooked me. I haven’t tried to get away.