Sunday, August 21, 2016
My love of books started with Nancy Drew. As a primary school student I would head to the high school in the afternoon to wait for my dad, who taught there. After visiting the cafeteria for a still-warm chocolate chip cookie I would follow the strange maze of half-staircases and cavernous hallways to end up at one of the most modern rooms in the old building: the library.
There was plenty of natural light flowing into the library because of all the windows but the books were kept in the centre of the room, away from the light. If you stood in the centre of the bookcases you were surrounded by a dusty, musty smell that has been filed in my memory among my favourite perfumes and aromas. Dusty books are right up there with Guerlain perfume from Paris and fresh baked bread.
Every day I would sit on the floor in between the bookcases, facing a row of about 100 Nancy Drew books. I began at the beginning. Volume 1, The Secret of the Old Clock. Carolyn Keene brought girl-detective Nancy Drew to life, describing everything from what she ate to how she dressed, what she thought and felt and saw. I was mesmerized. And I read my way through that book, and another, and another, until I had finished the whole series.
When I didn’t understand a word, I went to the librarian, Mrs. Scott. Her nickname was Dusty but she was anything else. Wavy red hair and energy to spare, she bustled me over to the dictionary and had me look each mysterious word up in turn. I still do that today when I meet a new word.
After finishing the final Nancy Drew book in that original series of 100, I asked Mrs. Scott (her real name was Ramona) if there were any other similar books she would recommend. Books with strong female characters I could emulate in my imagination.
“You’ve finished all the Nancy Drew books.” She seemed a little bewildered and doubtful.
“Well…yeah…unless you’ve got more somewhere,” I answered.
When my dad came to collect me that afternoon Mrs. Scott notified him that I, at age ten, had read all the intermediate level Nancy Drew books. The next thing I knew, I was sitting alone in a stuffy office in the back of the library, taking a test to determine my I.Q. The librarian had suggested I be enrolled in classes for ‘enriched’ students from now on, because I was clearly brilliant. I failed the test miserably.
“I told you she isn’t enriched,” scoffed my dad. “She just loves books.” And that was the end of that.
After working my way through the books in the high school library, I got permission to walk to the town library after school. Sometimes I walked and read at the same time. I knew the path between the public school and high school and college where my mom worked so well, I never tripped. Sometimes I was late for piano lessons, however, because I would walk right by the house with my nose in the book, missing the address altogether and having to double back. I preferred the afternoons I was free to head to the college campus where I would climb a tree and sit there, reading, obscured from the view of the college students passing on the pathway beneath by the thick tapestry of leaves.
Yes, I was a bookworm. I still am. It’s my guilty pleasure, my stress relief and my escape as well as my inspiration and my challenge.
This weekend, North Grenville will once again host the region’s largest book fair. It’s in a huge warehouse at the Ferguson Forest Centre. Money raised at the fair goes to the Kemptville Youth Centre, to help them pay their annual utilities bills.
The books are conveniently categorized so you can find your favourite themes easily. I always head straight for the Canadian female writers. Elizabeth Hay, Camilla Gibb, Alice Munro…but they have tens of thousands of titles every year and they sell for a buck or two so you can afford to venture off into unknown territory if you’re intrigued by something new.
So grab a big tote bag and head to the book fair this weekend, fellow book lovers. You can indulge this guilty pleasure, at least, knowing you are simultaneously doing something awesome for a very good cause in the community. Dibs on the Nancy Drew.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 10:08 AM