Summers Spent With Books - and a chance to win a Dani Harper tote bag!

Trees were made for climbing ... and for reading in!
Summer vacation and reading have always gone together for as long as I can remember! I spent as much time as I could in the public pool or the creek, but when it was time to dry off, I was in the shade with my face in a book ... or better yet, walking or biking to the public library and spending a couple of magical hours there.

The high-ceilinged old building had vast oak shelves and a hardwood floor that creaked, and somehow the place stayed cool even on the hottest days. It was an Aladdin's cave of wonders for me, a treasure trove I never tired of. Most of the books were reeeally old, but I didn't mind a bit (and I still adore the aroma of old books!).

Fun trivia --- According to a 2009 study, old books have an unmistakable smell that is as much a part of them as their contents --- "a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness". Sounds like someone describing a unique wine!

Built in 1913 by Andrew Carnegie, this was the library
I frequented as a kid. I spent a lot of time reading 
on top of the broad concrete bannisters 
in the summer because they always stayed cool!
(Of course, by the time I was born, there were lots of
big beautiful TREES that shaded the building!)
My old library today! It's not a library anymore,
but I'm happy it's still standing -- it's like seeing
an old friend when I visit my hometown!
Since I lived in Canada, most of the children's books in my town library were British, and I read a LOT of stories involving faeries that I'm sure have influenced me to this day (and helped inspire my novels, STORM WARRIOR and STORM BOUND). I adored myth and legend (still do!), and poured over collections of Greek, Roman, Norse and Celtic lore.

I feel very fortunate that my reading level was far above my age. Not only could I read fast, but I comprehended and remembered what I read. And my appetite for books was insatiable.... By the time I was ten, I was venturing fearlessly into every section. There was an entire wall devoted to science fiction, another to fabulous old classics -- I read the unabridged versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe, Frankenstein, and everything by Rudyard Kipling. I adored the supernatural, and devoured all the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker. And YES, I definitely remember the day I discovered JRR Tolkien!  Non-fiction was great too -- science and geography and ANYTHING about animals of any kind. I repeatedly dragged home a huge dry book on electricity, but I have to admit, I never really conquered that one. If only Robert Louis Stevenson or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written it....

New books were few and far between at this library -- I don't think there was much in the way of funding at the time -- but the librarian often saved those precious new books JUST FOR ME to read first, bless her heart! Of course, since I was there two or three times a week in the summer, and at least once a week the rest of the year, no one else was kept waiting for the book for very long!

I was also given the rare privilege of taking out as many books from the library as I wanted -- the limit was usually 3! My personal best was reading 22 full-sized novels in a single week! (No wonder my parents finally installed a huge basket on the front of my bicycle -- the kind that newspaper carriers used!)

One summer in particular really showcased my diverse interests. I remember reading Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell (long before I ever saw the movie), The Cybernetic Brains by Raymond F. Jones, several of Ray Bradbury's works (S is for Space and The Martian Chronicles are within reach on my Keeper Shelf as I write this), Rosemary's Baby, the entire John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf, plus a huge tome on biology, evolution and Mendal's work on genetics! (And those are just the books I can remember from that season...)

In the summer, though, WHERE you read is almost as important as the books! At the library, there really wasn't any room to sit inside -- the whole place was taken up with bookshelves. But the cement bannisters that flanked the outside stairs were usually shaded and cool in the hottest weather, although a little hard.

Someday, I'm going to have a place on the roof just to read...
At home, most of my literary delights were enjoyed either under or in a tree beside a stream where wild yellow irises bloomed. If the bugs got too bad outside, then I had a corner of the basement with an old kitchen table and chairs. When I wasn't building model airplanes or doing crafts there, I was reading, reading, reading.

My all-time favorite place, however, was the roof. I discovered a way to climb up there when I was about 12 and it was fabulous ---- until my mom found out where I was hiding, and that was the end of that! Darn!

However, ONE thing I rarely had with me when I went to the library was a book bag. It wasn't so bad if I had my bike (AFTER I got the basket put on, that is...), but walking meant holding the books in my arms -- and I lived a long way from the library! So for my giveaway this time, I'm offering FIVE of my deluxe canvas tote bags as prizes. (PS - open to INTERNATIONAL entries)
Happy Summer! 
Happy Reading! 
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