City of Books

Losing yourself in the stacks of an iconic and austere independent bookstore isn’t quite the same when you have to worry about also literally losing your offspring or having them forcibly removed for Excessive Bookshelf Emptying. But lose ourselves we did, each in our own corner, managing to stay buried and busied in books for nearly an hour.

I used to fancy myself as someone who collected used books (Powell’s sells both new and used). It seemed so thrifty, so whimsical, so literary, to browse the sidewalk sales and musty old shops for that one memorable, significant find – inscribed with a note from giver to receiver, something cryptic to me but significant, once, to someone. Maybe I’d collect enough to stack them cleverly like they do in the Pottery Barn catalogs, or use their weathered pages to fashion some crafty creation worthy of Etsy.

But in reality? We check out books from the library, browse the sales at Barnes, and even manage to find good ones in last-minute-Christmas-shopping Target runs.

Today, though, a book found me.

It’s a compilation of children’s poems and stories edited by Frances Hodgson Burnett (of The Secret Garden fame). Strangely it has no table of contents, no page numbers and no index, but it has submissions by dozens of authors (all of them totally unrecognizable to me) and beautiful illustrations throughout.

It was printed in 1915.

And given to Elsie for Christmas in 1923.

All of the above might have intrigued me enough to consider buying the book, but the opening poem sealed the deal. Written by Burnett herself, it is so sweet and so perfect I can’t believe I haven’t come across it before now.


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