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Long Lost Books (and Film Strips)

Molly Kane, Head of Teen Services and Emerging Technologies

One of my favorite library questions is “Can you help me find this book?” Sometimes it’s an easy question to answer – “Yes! That book is currently checked in and on our shelf!” Sometimes it takes a little bit longer to find it – “So, it’s a story about a girl who wants to become a knight so she takes her brother’s place? Do you remember anything else about it?” Sometimes it takes a very long time to find. It’s been my experience that most librarians love the search to find a book that someone loved as a child but has forgotten in adulthood. We like it because it’s basically a book scavenger hunt, but also because we know what it’s like search for our own literary nostalgia.

As the daughter of an English professor and an elementary teacher, I fell in love with books at an early age. The first book I ever read on my own was a Little Golden Book by Dorothy M. Kunhardt called Kitty’s New Doll. I’ve had a lot of proud moments in my life since then, but the satisfaction and excitement I got from reading about Kitty’s search for the perfect rag doll is something I’ve never forgotten.  My copy of Kitty’s New Doll still sits on my bookshelf at home so I can revisit it any time. I’m very glad that it’s there because there are other books from my childhood that I don’t have and would love to read again, but can’t quite remember enough to track them down. The one that sticks out most in my mind is a non-fiction book about a pack of wolves that I took out from my elementary school library so many times that I was gently encouraged by the librarian to please, please, PLEASE check out another book, any other book! It followed a pack of wolves for an entire year. The author gave each wolf a name and personality. Not all of the pups made it through the year, but the one with the ragged ear became the pack leader in the last chapter. I loved that book. I can visualize where it sat on the shelf and I can see the pencil drawings of wolf pups on the cover, but I have absolutely no memory of the title or author. I’ve tried every combination of search terms I can think of and even made a trip back to my old elementary school to see if it was still there. I realize and accept that I will probably never find my wolf book, but that doesn’t stop me from searching for it a few times a year. Eventually, I may find it. Just like I recently found another mystery from my childhood – the Halloween Filmstrip.

The school library that housed the wolf book was also home to all of the school’s filmstrips and a fleet of projectors. Each Halloween my music teacher, Mr. Mills, would roll a projector into our classroom (we didn’t have a separate music room, he always came to us!), turn off the lights, and show a half hour filmstrip of musical standards whose lyrics had been changed to celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year. Even though I only saw this film strip once a year, the lyrics stuck with me, popping into my head at random times even into adulthood. I desperately wanted to hear the songs again, but just like the wolf book, I couldn’t remember the title. I searched and searched, but the only Halloween film strip I ever found was skeletons dancing to Saint-Saens Danse Macabre. This year, though, I made a breakthrough when it finally occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t just a film strip and, on an impulse, I searched for “Halloween song book, 1970s” and within seconds, I had found Ruth Robert’s Halloween Songs That Tickle Your Funnybone. A few quick searches after that, YouTube and the iTunes store delivered me the songs and even a short clip of the artwork from the filmstrip. The songs were exactly as I remembered them.

If you have a book you’d like us to search for, just let us know. We’d be happy to help you search!

lost books

L-R – Kitty’s New Doll, Wolves Which are NOT my Wolves, Mr. Mills’ Film Strip Projector, Halloween Nostalgia Found!