Missing Threads, Found Books

Josie Leavitt - June 24, 2014

We all have them, those loose ends of our lives that occasionally make us crazy, like trying to find an old roommate from college or trying to recall the name of the book that delighted us a child. While I can’t really help find someone’s old college buddy, part of my job is trying to decipher just what the book threads might be.
On Sunday a lovely woman and her daughter came to the store. The daughter, eight, sought spooky books, and lots of them. Laura, our in-house spook-meister, was on it, finding the girl lots to choose from. While the daughter might have been utterly thrilled, her mother was vaguely dissatisfied even after we’d found her a novel about biblical women (not my strong suit).
I was ringing them up: big stack of a spooky books for the daughter, superhero books for the younger brother home sick and The Red Tent for Mom, and the woman still looked unhappy. Finally, as they were leaving she came back to the counter and said, “You probably can’t help with this, but there’s a book from my childhood that I loved, and would be great to find. I have no real information about it.” My heart sank a little. Beloved books from childhood that are remembered more by the feeling of them than the title are often extremely hard to find. It’s interesting because there is lots of sensory information available about these books: where it was read, the mood the reader was in, how it made the reader feel, the one really scary drawing in the book, etc. Sadly, what’s usually missing is the title, author or any real descriptors for the book.
The mom said all she remembered (she said this while touching her hand to her heart) was it was a a spooky book (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this family) about a boy and a ghost. I thought about it for a second and then blurted out, “John Bellairs. The House with the Clock in Its Walls.” I’m not even sure why I said it. I think I felt it more than recalled it.
“Oh my God! That’s it!” I handed her the book and she practically hugged me. Her daughter was totally interested in the new spooky book. They decided to make the book their next read aloud. My co-worker looked at me and asked, “How did you know that was the book?” I couldn’t really answer except that I suspect John Bellairs himself had a hand in helping remember the book, because everything about it was just a bit surreal and totally thrilling.
Readers: have you ever had a missing thread book that you were able to finally get or remember?

12 thoughts on “Missing Threads, Found Books

  1. JKW

    The Little Engine that Could was so popular and practically the only Train book on the shelves now. However, when I read it, that wasn’t it. . . .finally found it. . . TOOTLES. The little engine that kept getting of the tracks. Blessings, Janet

  2. Kath

    The Fabulous Year by Elizabeth Ogilvie was our favorite book growing up, and Elizabeth Ogilvie became our favorite adult author, too! As the eldest of three girls, I passed along favorites to my sisters. I remember purchasing a hardcover of Elizabeth Ogilvie’s as an adult, unwilling to wait for the paperback. In those days, the wait was only six months not a year!

  3. Shanda

    My family lived in Texas for the first half of my kindergarten year, and I loved a book our teacher read to us in class. We moved, time marched on, and all I could remember was that it was a Native American tale about a Sun myth of some sort, with vivid illustrations.
    A few years ago I was able to find the right combination of descriptive words while conversing with a knowledgeable bookstore clerk and re-discovered “Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale” by Gerald McDermott. I have since not only bought a copy for my home library, but also as gifts for other children.
    Thank you to all of the Nancy Drew-like bookstore associates who help solve mysteries like this for confused customers like me with vague recollections of books gone by. 🙂

  4. C.

    I too am trying to find a book. It was about a young, African-American boy’s ghost looking out for this family after he has passed away. I think that it was published in the late 70s or early 80s.

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Could this be THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR by Virginia Hamilton? It’s been decades since I read it, so I may have some of the plot elements mixed up.

  5. Judy

    Thanks to this article, I finally found a favorite children’s book (Star Girl by Henry Winterfeld) that I had been searching for forever! Can’t wait for it to arrive so I can start reading.

  6. Margaret

    Can anyone help? I’ve been looking for years for a YA type book (don’t think the category existed in the 60s or early 70s!) about a girl who is sent to spend time with distant cousins during summer vacation, falls out of a tree, (? maybe?) and find herself back in time at the same house. There is someone named Kit (short for Christopher – I think) and someone with a broken leg, and it was a very sweet book that I LOVED and borrowed repeatedly from the library when I was young. I doubt it’s in print, so I need someone with a good memory! Please email me if you have any clues! MargaretOM52@gmail.com

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Margaret, this was published too late, I’m afraid, but it has some similar elements: A HANDFUL OF TIME by Kit Pearson (it was the name “Kit” that made me think of it). The marketing blurb: “When Patricia’s mother sends her to her cousins’ cottage for the summer, Patricia doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t know her cousins at all, and she’s never been good at camping or canoeing, let alone making new friends. When she arrives at the cottage, her worst fears come true: her cousin Kelly teases her; Aunt Ginnie and Uncle Doug feel sorry for her. She doesn’t fit in. Then Patricia discovers an old watch hidden under a floorboard. When she winds it, she finds herself taken back in time to the summer when her own mother was twelve.”

  7. Kara

    It’s getting easier to play detective, finding older titles through key term searches. I recently found a childhood favorite, The Golden Name Day, that way. The real challenge is acquiring some older books. Out of several I desperately wanted to share – that book, Family Grandstand, Family Sabbatical, and Pegeen, only the latter was affordable at $ 30 in very good condition through Abebooks.com. It’s eye-popping to see a Carol Ryrie Brink book list for $ 4,130. It almost hurts more when you find the book – but it’s just out of reach.

  8. Amy

    This is a great question. I have spent many an hour trying to identify forgotten childhood favorites. I’ve been surprisingly successful (being a librarian helps). The one that I probably spent the most time trying to find is a book called “True Ghost Stories by Isabella Taves.” I had gotten it out from my elementary school library when I was a kid, and as an adult, could only remember the picture on the cover (and the fact that it was spooky). So I did a Google image search on scary book covers (I probably varied the keywords a lot), and eventually I found a small image of the cover from Goodreads. I was so unbelievably thrilled — even more so when I realized that the book was still in my library system and I could check it out. Since then, I have ordered used copies for my own personal collection, and for the library I work in now.
    There’s still one half-remembered book from my childhood that I haven’t been successful in finding — it’s definitely my white whale!


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