My blog is headed "A Blog about the Books of Elizabeth Segel." That refers to more than my three published books. "The Books of Elizabeth Segel" refers as well to books I read or listened to in early childhood, the ones that made me a lover of books.
We didn't own many children's books--perhaps a shelf two or three feet wide. One of the books we owned was set in exotic India--I was fascinated by it but didn't understand it. Instead of owning books, we went to the library every week. The library was a handsome building that projected importance yet was very inviting. One thing that fascinated me was a glass case of stuffed birds near the doorway. Hmmm..it just occurs to me that those birds may have something to do with my becoming an avid--if not skilled--bird-watcher.
The photograph that appears on the back of my new book Duck Dreams: City Boy to Farmer Boy
shows my mother reading to me (age three) and my big sister Marilyn (she would have been seven.) My mother loved books. Her mother had died of tuberculosis in a sanitarium when my mother was just five years old. She was even younger when her father left to work on the Panama Canal--left for good. An interesting footnote...the book my mum was reading to us in the photo doesn't look like a children's book: it's very thick. My mother's uncle reported that she loved Grimm's fairy tales when she was little...even the gruesome, scary ones, and she confirmed this. Perhaps scary stories helped her through the scary circumstances of her young life. Fortunately, she was raised by a loving grandmother who did a good job of it.
Now back to my childhood. Mother took us to the public library every week. I remember that I always went right to where The Story of Ferdinand was shelved and took it to the check-out desk. The visits when the story of the gentle bull was there on the shelf were happy ones. The days when I had to return my much-loved story were sad.
When I was older, I began thinking about why I liked so much the story of the bull who rejected his appointed fierceness. I decided it was because, like him, I was shy. Years later however my sister Marilyn remarked casually that she loved ...Ferdinand also. She wasn't shy in the least, so there went that theory.
I remember my mother reading many other books to us: a favorite was The Poky Little Puppy. a Golden Book which you could buy at the Five and Dime store. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey we asked for over and over. We lived only forty miles from Boston and had the thrill of riding on the swan boats in the Public Gardens. We caught glimpses of ducks and left feeling we surely had seen Mr. and Mrs. Mallard.
Memories of my Dad reading to me are particularly vivid ones--to be the subject of my next entry..