I’m actually not in the library this week as I am spending Thanksgiving with my elderly parents.  In between all the tasks of taking care of my parents I’ve been thinking about this holiday and really studying in myself this business of giving thanks.  In the Library we have a beautiful bulletin board going that proclaims “We are Thankful!” and children have been writing their gratitude on colored paper leaves which are posted by the children’s services staff, Monica and Sue, every day. They say things like “mom” “family” “food like cream puffs” “the library(!)” “all the books” and more.

Driving to the city where my parents live, I am thinking about what I am grateful for and realize one of the things I really am feeling such gratitude for, are books I have read.  These books have given me strength, made me feel like I am not alone, help me understand that loss is universal and recovery is possible.  They have reminded me that humans are wonderful, crazy, complex, funny creatures, and I have found myself again in so many characters.  So here is a list of some of the books I am most thankful for right now. If you have any to add feel free:

Charlotte’s Web.  Have to start with this one; read to my 4th grade class by Mrs. Ludemann.  “Where is Papa going with that axe?”  from the first sentence I am riveted and it still moves me today.

The Hidden Staircase.  Nancy Drew….ok not being literary, I know, but pure child-sized entertainment and suspense, my first mystery and I devoured more.

Lassie Come Home.  Oh yes, I am dating myself, but I read this book so many times as a youngster I can’t even count. The courage, stamina, loyalty of this dog.  It helped that my Dad was a dog person and we had had our own version of a mighty collie in our home named Lad.   Hats off to all the wonderful dog stories I have treasured, to Lassie, Lad, Big Red, Wolf, Bruce, all the way up to Marley and Me (the one my Dad says is the best dog book he ever read.) Thank you , thank you to all of you have the ability to write their stories!  Please if you know a good dog book let me know!

Autumn Street by Lois Lowry.  I read this as a children’s librarian.  It’s an early Lowry before all the Anastasia books and The Giver.  It’s a crossover book: with themes of war, racism, first friendships and great loss it is a profound read for both a child and an adult.

The Human Comedy by William Saroyan.  I first met this book when I was on a retreat many years ago and got to sit, on a wonderful Fall afternoon, sunlight glancing off colored leaves and streaming into a wood paneled room,  listening, while the leader of the retreat read this book aloud.  It was really my first experience of having someone read aloud to me as an adult. He was fantastic and the book came alive for me; I went back and read it again and still go back to it when I need reminding about the fragility, the beauty of our human condition and the tenderness with which it can be rendered. If you have recently watched the PBS series on The War this book would be especially poignant now.

There are so many great scenes in this book opening with the little boy Ulysses examining a gopher hole, to the teenaged Homer waving at hobos on a passing train, to the treatise on the human nose, back to Ulysses visiting the public library with his friend Lionel.  “What are you looking for?” asks the librarian.  “Books,” whispers Lionel. “What books are you looking for?” “All of them.”

“All of them?  What do you mean?  You can borrow only four books on one card.”

“I don’t want to borrow any of them,” Lionel says.

“Well what in the world do you want to do with them?”

“I just want to look at them.”

Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith.  The story of Ivy Rowe born near the turn of the century, in Appalachia.  Ivy Rowe has a teacher, Mrs. Brown who thinks that Ivy has a “true tallent” and gives her books to read.  “Do you like to read?” Ivy asks in an early letter. “I like it bettern anything…”  and later, writing more about Mrs. Brown and her husband, as well as her own Momma and Daddy, she says, “I take a intrest in Love because I want to be in Love one day and write poems about it, do you?” “I want to be a writer,” she declares “it is what I love the bestest in the world.”  The only writing that Ivy’s long and eventful life allows her to do are these letters always ending with her signature “I remain forever, Ivy Rowe. ” At the end she says, “I never became a writer atall, instead I have loved and loved and loved.” And somehow I feel in reading those lines that the two became the same thing.

This book became all the more poignant to me after I saw Lee Smith at an author event, and she said that while she was writing it, her mother was dying.

Well it is clear to me that I could keep going on this for a long time — Suffice to say I am so grateful for these writers and these books (and so many more) who have been true friends and teachers to me, reminding me to take an interest in love, fight for the underdog, and treasure your friends and companions past all obstacles.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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