Childhood Booklust . . .

Every so often, I launch yet another futile search for two books from my childhood.  I must have checked them out more than a thousand times each from my public and school libraries.    I still do, though the libraries that own copies are fewer and farther (further?) between every time I try.

I want them, I do.  I want to own them. 

The first is How to Become King, by Jan Terlouw (Original Dutch title, Koning van Katoren).   Stark, a teenager born on the same night the old King of Katoren died, makes a bid for the long-empty throne.  The six ministers, used to power, throw several impossible, and often dangerous, tasks in his way.  Stark travels to save a town where the churches move, another where a tree produces explosive pome-grenades, a city where the pollution hides a fearsome dragon, and yet another where what one loves the most is taken away for the greater good.  He meets friends and allies along the way and teaches the ministers a lesson in what it means to be a great leader.

This book, which won a Gouden Griffel, is long out of print, and while I could buy a copy for around $350, sight unseen, I’m hoping a more reasonable solution will come to hand.  There’s one copy in our library system—perhaps it will be discarded and I can grab it at the library bookstore before anyone else can.  I even went so far as to track down the publisher to ask if they had any extras or if, as their website says, I might buy a few Print- on-Demand copies . . . but every message I sent to every e-mail I could find bounced back and no one answered the phone.

Guess I’m waiting . . . or I could throw myself on the mercy of anyone who reads this blog.  Please, if you’ve seen a copy for sale, let me know—especially those of you who are an ocean closer to Holland—I can’t read Dutch, but perhaps a few English-translations found their way back?

The second is The Night They Stole the Alphabet, by Sesyle Joslin. Victoria wakes one night to discover that thieves have stolen the golden alphabet from the wallpaper border in her bedroom. She catches a glimpse of three shadowy figures and chases after them into an interesting land where she finds a B in a baby’s bonnet and T in a cup. Will she be able to collect all the letters before the beautifully dangerous Madame Muzz stops her? What happens when the thieves let her catch them?

This book has been out of print for years.  I could buy it on eBay for around $100. But I’m hoping a copy might turn up in a used bookstore—no library in my area owns it, so I can’t stalk the library book sales for it.  I left my name with every used bookstore in our area, but so far, no luck.

So, if you happen to see a copy around for a bit less than a C-note, please let me know!

I’m more than willing to do the same for you—anyone have any hard-to-find childhood books they’d like to have on their shelves?

14 thoughts on “Childhood Booklust . . .

  1. i will keep an eye out as i am a stroller of used bookstores for first editions.

    i am also a former fancy nancy bedtime reader, now junie b. jones listener (now i get read to instead of being the reader).

    (all apologies for lumping comments, i’m playing catch up tonight.)

    • No problem, Amy! I understand catch up.

      If you locate either of these titles, I will do my best to have you crowned Queen Bookfinder—with Fancy Nancy tiara.

  2. Sarah,
    Okay, so the fact that you are hunting down these books…
    It is so, refreshing doesn’t do it justice, but for lack of a better word, refreshing to see that there are people out there that get so much out of books, kids books, that you have to have. Oh, how I love that!
    Okay, anyway, I’ll be on lookout. Illinois, over and out.

  3. I had two books I remembered fondly – both because I loved the mood they created. 50 years later, I wanted to see if they still evoked a mood and what about the writing did that. I was able to find them both via Amazon thru independent booksellers for not-too-much $$ (which probably says something about my taste in books). But, happily, they were both as I remembered, and now I’m trying to capture that mood in a story of my own. Will keep an eye out for your books, too, Sarah. Fingers crossed you find them.

  4. It’s a strange thing that happens when I locate books from my childhood. Books that I read every day, that brought comfort to me in moments of distress have turned out to be horrible stories!

    A few years ago, I purchased The Story about Ping, one of my all time favs, for my children. I was so excited to read it to them, to rekindle those moments of warmth. Nothing of the sort happened. I read a story about a duck who doesn’t do what he’s told and gets physically punished for it. My kids, critical thinkers before they graduated from diapers, looked at me for guidance. I was speechless.

    There’s a book that was required reading in graduate school called Should We Burn Babar? and it dives into this very question. Should we get rid of stories with terrible morals but that strongly attract children?

    Sorry for the ramble. That’s what happens with me sometimes. You should know.

  5. On it! My husband is the manager of an Angus & Robertson (Ha!) and he’s got some good contacts – we’ll take a look around and see what we can come up with 🙂

  6. I have a copy of the Joslin book (managed to find an ex-lib copy for $25 after my personal mint in dj copy vanished) and while I won’t give it up, I’d be happy to photocopy it for you.

    • That’s incredibly kind of you, Barbara! And I would gladly accept, but since I posted about this quest, one of the libraries in our immediate area acquired a donated copy, and I’ve checked it out and read it to my kids numerous times.

      So we have that at least, and I’ll continue my search for a bound copy of our own. But thank you again for your kind offer!

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