Friday, January 25, 2013

The Right Book! (That Wasn't)

This time, I was sure I had it. Thanks to the excellent book-sleuthing skills of Louise and Sue, librarians at the children's collection at the NYPL's main branch, British author Helen Cresswell's Moondial was delivered into my waiting hands for on-site viewing. In the brief minutes I could spend that day in the reading room, I sped through the first 44 pages.

All sorts of familiar details sprang out at me: the "icy gusts" that Minty, the protagonist, experiences as she nears the sun/moondial; the garden "waiting for her;" the boy from another time clad in his rough jacket and woolen trousers. Never mind that I didn't remember Minty's mother having a car accident, or anyone owning a microwave oven. I went right home and ordered an old copy of the book for 1 cent, certain that the rest of the details I'd been reading fast to find would emerge beginning on page 45.

Well, they didn't. The back-and-forth between eras that Minty experiences at the moondial is too swift and easy (in the book I remember, the protagonist has to unlock the mystery of the sundial in order to figure out how to use it for time travel). There is none of the riddle-solving or potion-making that stuck so fast in my memory. And that microwave...well, that was a big clue, if only because it prompted me to look at the publication date. Which was 1987. The year I was a sophomore in college and so, needless to say, an unlikely year for me to have been reading a middle grade mystery novel.

And so the search continues! Thanks to all who've been helping in the quest and please keep writing in with your suggestions!

Friday, January 11, 2013

This Is Not the Book I'm Looking For

Every several years, I embark on a fruitless search to find a particular book I once read and enjoyed when I was about my daughter's age (9). The search renews whenever I have a new crop of librarians and/or children's book specialists of one stripe or another available in my life—in the most recent instance, a week ago, the amazing former Bank Street librarian, Lisa von Drasek. Sadly, the search always ends in failure. 

This is not the book I'm looking for (although, LVD, please know it was a noble guess, the closest yet):

Neither is this—not even close, not by a long shot:

And neither is this:

Although honestly, this one didn't come as any shock at all, since the book I'm looking for must have been written in the '60s or '70s and Annie Barrows is a thoroughly contemporary author. It was just a dream, the wisp of a hope of a dream, persistently unrequited. 

I'm not sure why it's so important to me to rediscover this book. It couldn't have been one of my favorites, seeing as how I can't even remember its title, I never owned it–just took it out of the library, once–and this means I never re-read it. The only thing I remember about it is one critical scene, in which the protagonist brings a concoction of herbs to a sundial in an overgrown garden, in order to travel back in time. I'm guessing it wasn't otherwise much of a book (how else to account for the ignorance of whole teams of kid lit experts?). But still I persist; I hate a lingering literary mystery and plus, my daughter is a dedicated potion concocter–something tells me she'd love, if not this whole book, at least that one potion-related scene in the weed-filled garden. 

Anyone? Anyone?

Meanwhile, unrelated to magical gardens and time travel, I offer this book as my pick of the week:

It's probably not the greatest book ever written, and it's certainly dated. But in its favor are a tiny, magical talking dog; a covetous collection of miniature bejeweled wind-up animals with various abilities; and yes, as the title pretty much screams, flying in the house. After 45 years of living, I still wish I could do that.