When it came to reading materials, most homes didn’t have personal libraries nor was it a habit to collect book – at least it wasn’t in our house, and though we didn’t go uptown to the library to check out books, we could have. At that time, my family and community were more important to me than books. As a child, I had more fun playing with my brothers and sisters than reading; however, I did read those much-loved fairy tales and children’s books, but I didn't collect them.
I liked to look in books and magazines and imagine and dream of exotic and faraway places. To me, the beauty of printed materials (especially those with images) is that they take us to places we may never go in person. That’s where books come in.
I loved to go to other people's houses, and as a curious little girl, if I was in a house where I could rummage, I did. So one day I was at my grandmother's house looking through a box of books some neighbors had given her. When my little eyes fell on this little, dull, green-back book entitled "Heidi," I was compelled to take a peek. As I looked through it, and saw a few faint sketches here and there, I assumed it was about some little girl, and my curiosity got the best of me. Since I was a girl, I asked my grandmother if I could have the book. I was glad she said "yes," because when I got home, I started reading "Heidi."
I never saw Heidi in our tiny, little elementary school library, and I had never heard anyone mention the book. As a youngster, I didn't know anything about foreign accents on words, so I mispronounced the name. With my underdeveloped, childish intellect, the name is spelled and appears as though it is pronounced Heady, and that's how it came out of my mouth. Now how I got "Heady" out of "Heidi" is anybody's guess. However, to my chagrin, when I was grown, I found out that Heidi is pronounced Hi-dee. So, from that experience, I learned that all of life is a learning experience.
Now, back to "Hi-Dee." Even though the book is mostly text, the illustrator’s few scant images painted beautiful, heart-warming and interesting pictures in my mind of "Hi-Dee" and Peter, and the Alm Uncle, and Aunt Dete and the Herr Sesemann's Family (Aunt Dete worked for them) that "Hi-Dee" later lived with for an unhappy season.
After reading about that happy, little mountain girl living in her own dream-come-true fairyland, I wanted more than anything to dash off to Switzerland, climb those steep Alps and see where "Hi-Dee" and Peter and his mother, Brigitta, and the Alm Uncle lived. In my waking hours, I could just see the snow-covered Swiss Alps and the grandfather's house way up on top of that cliff where Peter and "Hi-Dee" tended the goats. I saw myself picking blossoms in the flowered meadow and taking the bouquets up to the miserable, old Alm Uncle. Then I ran alongside Heidi and Peter as we all chased butterflies and herded the bleating goats up the mountain and back to their pen.
The Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Photo: Fotolia/jnerad
My second favorite book was Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat." This short masterpiece, the uptown high school library had. I don't know which one of us discovered this amusing read first, but when it "came" home, we all read it. We would tease each other by putting their name in the place of the Cat, instead of saying "the cat in the hat came, home." It would make that person (whose name was inserted for the cat) mad, and they'd try to jerk the book from us. We played this trick against each other until finally the book had to be returned to the library.
"Hello, David," though not a very popular book, was also one of my favorites. I read it until I literally wore the back off of it. Today, little David is just a faint memory in my mind, but as a girl, he was one of my best friends.
I loved reading fairy tales and all the other wonderful children’s books. Those books gave me a million days of excellent reading especially about the little girl in Switzerland and Dr. Seuss’ "Cat."
The magical world of books. Photo: Fotolia/cranach