I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Ok, that’s not entirely accurate. I was raised by television (with my grandparents hovering in the background) until I went to kindergarten where my love for reading really blossomed. Remember books on tape? I borrowed every single one from my elementary school library. My favourites were the Little Mr and Little Miss books (especially Little Miss Shy since I could totally relate) and any Disney books. The people reading the books had such friendly voices and there was always lovely music in the background.
Do they still have books on tape for kids?
At a young age, I blitzed through the Anne of Green Gables series, the Little House books, every book written by Beverly Cleary, Christopher Pike, the Fudge series by Judy Blume as well as Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. Did you ever read the Clues in the Woods books by Peggy Parish (she was also the author of the Amelia Bedelia books)? Or the Betsy books by Maud Hart Lovelace? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, the BFG…any number of books by Roald Dahl. And of course, the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series. I also started reading riskier fare like Sweet Valley High, the V.C. Andrews books and anything by Stephen King in the fifth grade.
Back in early August, Tony’s sweet niece celebrated her seventh birthday. We usually give her cash but now that she’s growing up, we wanted to give her something that she can really enjoy. She always gets tons of toys from her friends so we nixed that idea. I wanted to get her the entire Ramona series by Beverly Cleary and set out to find it on Amazon or Chapters online. To my horror and dismay, I discovered that they changed all the covers of the books (some of them had Selena Gomez on the cover. Seriously? Just because she was in that one terrible movie adaptation? Spare me!) and they changed all the illustrations inside. It’s fucking blasphemy. Why would they do this?
I know Ramona two ways. One, the Louis Darling illustrations:
Two, the Allan Tiegreen illustrations:
THIS is what Ramona looks like now:
I was heartbroken. The Husband thought I was being super crazy but it really made me sad because I felt like society had destroyed a small piece of my childhood. Of course, all the editions I own have the original illustrations so I can still enjoy them. But today’s generation won’t. They’ll think that Beezus looks like Selena Gomez and that’s just wrong.
The Husband says that our niece will never know the difference because she’ll have never seen the original versions and that’s exactly the point. I want her to have the exact same experience and the exact same emotions as I did when I was a kid and discovering these books for the first time!
In an interview Ms. Cleary gave to the Atlantic, she was asked about the change in illustrations. She stated that she’d always been very happy with the original drawings but her publisher felt it was time for a change. In other words, she was forced into it.
Damn you, publisher! Damn you!
Here’s a line that I really loved from her interview:
Question: As a former librarian, how do you think libraries can or should respond to the declining resources and shifts in usage today?
Answer: That’s something I can’t solve, but I don’t think anything will ever replace the pleasure of holding a book and turning its pages.
I fully agree. I will never get onboard with e-readers. Nothing will ever be as satisfying as going to the bookstore, browsing through all of those titles, smelling the fresh new paper, holding a book in my hands and feeling its weight, running my hands over the cover, reading the synopsis on the back or the inside cover and flipping the pages. I used to look through all the different copies so that I could buy the book with the most perfect, pristine cover, without any rips or tears or creases.
I used to hate lending my books out because I liked keeping my collection together and I worried that the borrower wouldn’t treat my treasures with the same care as I did. Owning books has always been a privilege and a luxury. Did your elementary school participate in the Scholastic book program? I’d receive the order forms every few weeks, circling the books that I wanted even though I knew I couldn’t buy them because my family couldn’t afford them.
I’ve collected almost all the books that I loved as a kid and whenever life gets a bit too stressful, I pull them off my bookshelf and let them take me away to a simpler time. What about you? What childhood books hold a special place in your heart? Do you still read them today?
While you ponder, how about enjoying some of these apricot jam crumble bars?
Apricot Jam Crumble Bars (adapted from David Lebovitz)
12 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, at room temp
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp culinary lavender
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil then butter the insides or spray with cooking spray.
In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream the butter with the powdered sugar and salt until it’s light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lavender, then gradually add in the flour and cornstarch, mixing until the dough is smooth.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and pat it flat into the bottom of the pan using lightly floured hands. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes.
Don’t bother washing your bowl – you can make the crumble in it while the dough is chilling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until it has begun to turn golden. Remove from the oven.
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
pinch of salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed, chilled
In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, mix all the crumb topping ingredients together until the mixture just barely starts clumping together.
Spread as much apricot jam as you like over the cooled partially baked shortbread. I tried to get the layer as thin as possible because I didn’t want my bars to be overly sweet. Top the jam layer with the crumb topping. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is browned.
Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan. Remove the bars by grasping the edges of the parchment paper or foil. Slice into squares.
I stored the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for about three days before they were all eaten. These bars are legit, you guys. The shortbread layer is thick, buttery and slightly floral due to the lavender. It’s delightful and matches perfectly with the sweet, sticky jam and crispy, nutty topping. Each bite yields a mix of texture and flavours.