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!