Did you have a favorite obscure book when you were a youngster? I don't mean something like "Anne of Green Gables," which was everyone's favorite. No, I mean one that almost no one but you read? One that you found on the library shelf and checked perhaps out because you liked the cover, or its intriguing title? Or maybe it was in the “Dog” or “Horse” section? I don’t think that there are “Dog” and “Horse” sections in the libraries these days, but those were the first place I headed in my beloved Carnegie (i.e., beautiful and cozy) library’s basement where the children’s books section was. It was a wonderful room, gloomy in a delightful way, and to prove what an antique I am, I will mention that there was even an corner with a number of stereoscopes and boxes and boxes of the appropriate postcards. The books were sorted in the usual Dewey manner, as well as special sections, like “Dog” or “Horse.” There was also a “Science Fiction” section, but I steered clear of that one, and have continued steering clear as a lifelong practice. I don’t know why, but I really hate science fiction. Odd, given that everyone else in my family loves it. Well, not quite true. My parents didn’t, I’m sure, as I never saw them reading such a thing, and my aunts definitely do not, but husband and children? Yes indeed.
Anyway, back to the favorite book! “Josie and Joe” was probably not really my favorite book, but certainly my favorite book that no one else had ever read. And it was the one book in my child-life that I ever dropped while reading in the bathtub. Imagine my horror! Somehow my mother made it all okay, and we managed, by careful drying, to get it back to a semblance of its original self. The plot was simple – Josie was a girl and wanted to do all the things her twin brother Joe did, but being a girl, (in the 1930’s when the book was written) was not allowed to. At the start, Joe, the star of his Little League team was sick on the day of the big game. Josie, who was as good an athlete as Joe, cut her hair, pretended (in the Shakespearian manner) to be her brother, and saved the day. Of course, she still was not allowed to be on the team. Ultimately, she joined 4-H and became a master canner. How can canning fruits and vegetables make for an exciting story? You would be surprised. It really was thrilling. She also took up 4-H sewing, comforting herself that running a sewing machine was much like running a jigsaw, which boys did, and was therefore, okay. The message of the book was a bit chauvinist, but I was unaware of these things when I was eight or nine.
When Rebecca was little, I found a copy at the University of Washington’s rare children’s book section, and so she was able to read it. It became a mutual favorite, which we referred to as “the canning novel.” Rachael read and liked it too, so it has been a family tradition. On a recent present giving occasion, Rebecca found the sequel as a gift for me, and this inspired me to seek out the real thing. The copy I found was obviously loved quite a bit by its previous owner, but so what! The thrill of canning is still to be found on its raggedy pages, and I am looking forward to revisiting Josie and her tomboy sorrows very, very soon. In fact as soon as I finish the sequel, which is my current bathroom reading. I must be careful when reading in the bath tub.