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My Book House – memories of my childhood library

April 30, 2008

My father was a teacher, thus of course he had friends who were teachers. One of his older colleagues died and left her library to him. My father never read any of the books, but he valued the collection. They were housed in our basement on old, solid wood library shelves that had been discarded at his school. The basement was also my lair, with a mattress on the floor, a collection of unusual artifacts, a stuffed and mounted owl (my Archimedes), and art projects in various states of completion. Whilst escaping to my private lair, I of course checked out this newly inherited library. The books were from before my time, mostly published in the 1930’s, but I didn’t notice that. Their titles intrigued me: Beverly Gray In the Orient, Ruth Fielding and the Gypsies, Penny Nichols and the Mystery of the Lost Key, and The Merriweather Girls on Camper’s Trail.

I had read Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries, but these found books were for older girls. I started reading, and I didn’t stop reading until I had read them all. These volumes took me out of my world, and I was fantastically rich from the experience. A section of my current library, devoted to some of the books from this time in my life, reminds me of the color-organized books of Stainless Carl’s bookshelf steps.

There was one set of books in this collection for which I felt particular affection. It was called My Book House. There were twelve books in the set, starting out light green and ending with dark blue. They are eighty-six years old now, and have faded a bit.

Each of the twelve volumes had an enticing title: Through Fairy Halls, From the Tower Window, and The Treasure Chest are a few. Volume One was the easiest to read, with simple nursery rhymes, songs, and folktales. Hans Christian Anderson, William Blake, The Gingerbread Man, and John Keats:

Over the hill and over the dale,
And over the Bourne to Dawlish,
Where gingerbread wives have a scanty sale,
And gingerbread nuts are smallish.

Isn’t that delightful?
Through Fairy Halls included Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Hansel and Gretel.

From The Tower Window had Chaucer, the Odyssey (retold), and The Legend of William Tell. They were a complete education!

My Book House was edited by Olive Beaupré Miller, published in 1921 by The Book House for Children in Chicago.

In memory of my father,

Richard Wiedemann

1932 – 1987

19 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2008 11:21 am

    Wow, great post!!! I love those old, loved books and the way they are color-coordinated on the shelves. There is just something about that look that thrills me and it is what I try to recreate with my modern, dust jacket covered books on my bookshelves. The effect is pretty cool though not as cool as is achieved with these older books. I’m so glad you posted this, it is fantastic.

  2. April 30, 2008 9:16 pm

    What lovely memories this triggers! Nancy Drew was a favorite of mine. I just recently brought home several Book House books that belonged to my Mom… I love the illustrations on the covers, though very worn and well-loved! I did not realize there were so many – am hoping somedy there will be grandchildren to read them to 🙂

  3. May 1, 2008 12:13 am

    Dearest Qugrainne,

    What a beautiful post …. I too had posted books ‘color coded’ but none personal nor as rare as yours …. a true book lover you are – this post shows how much care you have for these rare pieces of art. You truly understand the link to books and childhood: how stories made our imaginations run wild, dream new worlds, be some ‘other’ for a few pages or so. I, as almost all girls of a certain generation, loved Nancy Drew and collected over 50 volumes – starting with my first ones that were passed down to me by my aunt. I also managed to snag a couple of my mother’s Penny Hall books (in poor condition) – and I regret not getting a lovely book of fairy tales my grandmother kept in her basement, published by the PET co. which, at the time, made ice cream, butter and still today sells evaporated milk …. the illustrations were fantastic and the one of Bluebeard always scared me death! I remember closing eyes tightly and turning that page rather quickly.

    thank you for the explanation of your name. she sounds wonderful, actually. have you heard of the legend of an irish princess banned by her father, the king, from ireland? by legend, she set sail and landed in Iceland, where she promptly set up her own ‘nation.’ A friend of mine who lived in Iceland for many years told me the story ….

    thank you for sharing your treasures,
    lady blue

  4. May 1, 2008 3:56 am

    Thanks for checking in, Carl. I agree with you, the old books just can’t be matched for their weathered beauty. I was pleased you set me off on this trail. I haven’t handled these books since the last time I moved, so it was a memory-filled evening for me. The down side was the dust! I am not much of a duster, so my allergies sure kicked in to teach me a lesson.

  5. May 1, 2008 3:59 am

    Nice to hear from you, Deb. I know what you mean about reading to grandchildren. I can’t wait. I have so many fond memories of reading to my children, and have all of their books just waiting! That is so cool you have some Book House books too – I never met anyone who had these books. It is unfortunately true about the cover illustrations, however. Mine are almost obliterated, too. Nancy Drew rocks!

  6. May 1, 2008 4:09 am

    Hi Lady Blue. Wow; fifty Nancy Drew – those Carolyn Keenes were pretty prolific, weren’t they? Your comment was lovely – you are a poet, and understand exactly how I feel about books. I also inherited Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, and a few other great books from my Mom and her sister. I have never heard of books published by Pet, though I see their evaporated milk on the store shelves. I don’t know Penny Hall, either, but will look it up at the libary.
    Thanks for sharing the story about the banned princess. I have not heard it, but will certainly be looking it up.

  7. toujoursjacques permalink
    May 1, 2008 8:49 am

    My goodness what a lovely post, and so lovingly written. Your books are beautiful with age and your love and care of them is touching. And how moving to dedicate the post to your father. Such a nice place to end my before bed blog reading—like a bedtime story, really. Thank you! TJ

  8. May 1, 2008 4:01 pm

    Beautiful, Kerry. Really beautiful. . . I have books like this from my mother, too, and I treasure them dearly.

  9. May 2, 2008 4:57 am

    Andi and TJ, I can’t tell you how nice it is to talk with people who love books as much as I do. Thanks so much for sharing your appreciation with me.

  10. May 2, 2008 7:10 am

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for so lovingly sharing your treasured books. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  11. May 2, 2008 9:12 pm

    Thanks Becky. I really have fun checking out our Wonders Never Cease! Your dog cracks me up. Kerry

  12. Carolyn permalink
    November 18, 2008 6:33 am

    I too own a beautiful set of ” My Bookhouse” books. My sisters and I had these books growing up and I read and re-read them so many times! My oldest sister came to get them and I always felt sad that I could no longer see or read them as we grew older- but dear sister that she is, came about finding a complete set and in better condition than ours-now I have my own set and my children have loved reading them-especially Little Black Sambo and the Village of Creampuffs.

  13. November 18, 2008 6:58 am

    It is always so nice to hear someone else’s memories of favorite books. Thank you for sharing yours. My sister and I also had a book “Carolyn and Her Friends” by Pierre Probst which went missing at some point. I have looked for a replacement, but they are terribly expensive. It was part of a series about a little girl and all of her animal friends, and the trips they took. There was never an adult – she was quite independent!
    Don’t book make wonderful friends!?
    Thanks for stopping and commenting.

  14. Susan permalink
    September 30, 2009 5:56 pm

    Qugrainne! I was guided by My Bookhouse set given by my grandmother(a teacher) in 1950 or so. My daughter, when the original beautiful dark green set was given away, became enmeshed in their beauty and stories as I ordered a new set when she was young, in the seventies. She was an English major and teaches young children today;married to a swiss irish american, she appreciates all he stands for and comes from as does my son a world traveller as I was. I still have most of these books !! There was and is nothing like them!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the love lives on forever

  15. Mike Benson permalink
    November 29, 2009 10:18 am

    I have two sets of the My Book House series. My grandmother purchased the first set in the early 40’s for my mother. My mother read from them, especially volume two, on countless occasions when I was a small boy in the 60’s. I read from these books to my two daughters in the 80’s. The second set I found at an antique shop in Dalton, GA not many years ago, but it was missing volume two…my favorite.

    Thanks for sharing.

    m, thank you for sharing your lovely story! How sad that the set you bought was missing the best volume! I shall keep my eyes open…

  16. Michelle Lepiarz permalink
    December 30, 2010 9:36 am

    We had these very same books when I grew up. I loved the light green nursery rhyme book. I also remember the blue ome with Aesops fables. What fond memOries I have of those delightful books.Can they still be bought? Please email me if you know where I might find them. Thanks so much.

  17. August 28, 2014 3:44 pm

    Of course these incredible books can be bought on ebay. Just purchased a set yesterday. Can’t wait to get them. Thank you OBM for enriching our lives so.

  18. August 29, 2014 8:46 am

    Superb, what a website it is! This website provides useful facts to us, keep it up.


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