I’ve just finished my fourth year as an editor in the Literary Reflections department. In that time, we’ve published quite a number of essays by mothers who have an intense desire to pass their own love of books on to their children. Some of them get their wish, and some, for whatever reason, don’t. I am one of the lucky ones in that respect, but this winter, I’ve been facing the downside of a household-wide passion for literature: too many books.
For months, my boys couldn’t seem to get their room clean, no matter how many enticements were offered and lost. The clutter on the floor would ebb and flow and never disappear. Finally, my husband and I realized that there were far more books in that room than could be put away, even with a full wall of built-in shelf space. We culled board books years ago, but had yet to face the next obvious stage. Easy readers and picture books were cover-to-cover with Moby Dick and Sherlock Holmes. Part of the problem is that my 10-year-old, who is currently reading By the Shores of Silver Lake, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Killer Angels, and The Longest Day, admits that sometimes, he turns to the Berenstain Bears to help him fall asleep at night. He still wants me to read aloud to him, too; his latest pick was The Mouse and the Motorcycle. While my 12-year-old has little memory of his early obsessions with Olivia the pig and Frances the badger, my 10-year-old, who was much slower to begin reading, feels much closer to his first favorites.
Given this delicate dynamic, the boys have spent laborious hours agreeing on what they’re both willing to give away, what they’re willing to box up for the attic, and what needs to be kept at hand. At the beginning of the month, their floor was clean enough to vacuum, and there was much rejoicing—along with some discreet sniffling on my part. I suspect that it was harder for me than for anyone to exile the books I associate most strongly with their preschool years. We have no choice but to make space for growth, of course, but I’ve never wanted to force growth on my children, especially in the matter of literary taste. As befits true book lovers, I hope we always make new friends but keep the old—in ourselves, if not on the shelf.
I hope you’ll find some new friends in our February issue—or in our archives—to see you through to spring.
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The End of a Circle: Happy Birthday by Jennifer Golden
Dead Scientists Society: Experiments in Creativity and Parenting by Eileen McGinnis
Essential Reading: Black History Month compiled by Nerys Copelovitz
Lost and Found by Christine Jones
They Say Nine Months On Nine Months Off by Jamie Shanahan
Measure and Stitch by Ann E. Wallace
Tender This Ache by Barbara Heffernan
Plain Bracelets by Elizabeth Sylvia
A Conversation with Jess Montgomery by Rhonda Havig
Images by evStyle Photography, Takahiro Taguchi, Eli Francis, Sabato Visconti, Matthew Henry, Raka Muhammad Iqbal Ismail, Meredith Porretta and Elias Knechel