Last night I finished a really short bit of intermediate fiction called Gifts From the Sea. And I enjoyed it, although the pacing seemed a little odd to me. (112 pages with illustrations, but it covered more than two years.) I can’t help thinking, though, that the author had just read Patricia MacLachlan’s Baby and Sarah, Plain and Tall, as well as one of those picture books about Abbie Burgess (the one who took care of the lighthouse when her father was away). The book felt exactly like a combination of the three. The narrator felt real and sympathetic, though, and the description of mainland Maine at the end made me tear up, and so I both enjoyed it and put another book by the same author on hold at the library. (I do have library addiction issues, but her books ALL seem to be short, so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal.)
While we’re on the subject–of Patricia MacLachlan AND short books I enjoy–if you haven’t read anything by her, you really need to start now. Sarah, Plain and Tall is probably her most well-known book, but she’s got a ton of others, and all of the ones I’ve read have been excellent. One of my favorites is actually a picture book that I bought for my children years ago (or, rather, for me to read to my children). It’s called All the Places to Love, and it’s because of my fabulous friend Sheri that I’m familiar with it at all. Once upon a time she and I worked in the back room at Borders together, and we would occasionally sit on the boxes of a half-broken-down pallet of books and have storytime. I didn’t have kids yet, so my areas of expertise didn’t really extend to picture books (except for the ones I remember liking as a child). She didn’t have kids either, actually, but she knew much more about children’s books than I did, and she introduced me to some great ones. I have very fond memories of her voice reading Kevin Henkes’ Julius, the Baby of the World; she read aloud in a quietly expressive kind of way that emphasized the humor and loveliness of the books themselves. I don’t see her terribly often anymore, but she is one of those friends you are blessed to have as part of your life. We had good times in the back room, back when Borders was alive and (more or less) well and fun to work at.
And now I’m feeling melancholy. I worked there for ten years, and I had a lot of fun doing it; I also met some fabulous people and learned a number of interesting things. The company made some really poor business decisions and pretty much doomed itself, but we still lost a good thing when it died.
To days gone by, friends. To days gone by.