Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mashed potatoes on the page

Content challenge, go! I think I'm just sneaking in under the wire.

Lately, I have been on a book-buying spree. The object of my affection is a site called abebooks.com, which is like a consortium of used book sellers all across the country. They have a section of their site called "Book Sleuth" where you can post whatever hazy details you can recall from a book you've forgotten the title of, and the other forum members will chime in if they know the book. There were a few books I'd read in childhood that I was trying to remember, and I had some success posting there. So - I started investigating the site, and found that I could get most of the books I was looking for on the site - for like a dollar. So, I go click click click, and a bunch of my old favorites start turning up in the mail. I usually have them sent to work - it's like getting presents at the end of a hard day.

One of my recent acquisitions was a pair of books that I hadn't forgotten about - I just hadn't read them in years and years: The Gammage Cup and its sequel, The Whisper of Glocken, by Carol Kendall. They are sort of Hobbit-lite, but I've always loved them.

When I was a kid, we had a huge book called The Arbuthnot Anthology of Children's Literature - it had chapters from a wide range of children's books of all kinds. My sister and I would read and re-read the selections in the anthology, and then hunt down the books to get the full story. The Whisper of Glocken was included in the book; it was hard to find, since our local library didn't have a copy. The library did have the first book, The Gammage Cup, which is really much better. It is about the Minnipins, who live in a secluded valley surrounded by unclimbable mountains. (David has mocked me for saying "Minnipins." Little does he know one of the characters makes little candy people called "Mintypins", which is even more mockable.) The Minnipins live in little villages along the Watercress River, and they like their doors painted the same color green as the cloaks they all wear. In one particular village, though, five of the Minnipins find that they don't fit in - one is an artist, one a poet, one an eccentric historian, one a curmudgeon, and one a general muddle. This character, named Muggles (strange to see after reading the Harry Potter books) keeps all her things in heaps and piles around her house. I could identify with this - I keep all my things in heaps and piles around my office, no matter how often I try to shovel it out and stem the growing tide of papers and oddments. The character also had piles of quilts and blankets heaped on her bed, which inspired me to do the same when I first read the book at around age 10 or so. Growing up in Arizona, there really is never any call to have piles of blankets mounded on one's bed - my mother, I'm sure, didn't know why I had every spare blanket rumpled and crumpled on my bed.

Anyway, the five Outcasts end up saving the valley from the invading Mushroom people, who try to sneak into the valley through abandoned mines that tunnel all the way through the mountains. I was obsessed as a child with recreating the valley described in the book - the river pours down a mountain at one end of the valley, and exits the valley through a tunnel in a mountain at the other end. Twelve villages are located along the river - there's a great little map which shows the meandering river and the location of each village, as well as a map of the particular village the story takes place in.

Digging around in the backyard, under the oleander bushes, I would build a little riverway surrounded by mountains. I suppose I was like a ten-year-old version of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (David would say I'm still like a ten-year-old version of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and should not be left unattended with mashed potatoes.)

I suppose re-reading the books I loved in childhood gives me the same pleasure that I find in mashed potatoes - yummy comfort. When I've been writing all day (or evaluating my students' writing), I need something uncomplicated, warm and soothing.

Wouldn't you really love to be living in a tiny village nestled along the Watercress River, with mountains on every side - your biggest concern being what color you'll paint the door of your cottage? Me too.

3 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Mintypins. Good grief. Now I know how the curmudgeon got his start.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Rindy said...

The river beneath the oleanders was also prime real estate for playing "Land of the Lost". You know, Marshall-Will-and-Holly's tiny raft could go over the waterfall and get washed a thousand feet below. ("AHHHHHHHHHHH!")

7:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

I don't even like waterslides of 20 feet, so a thousand-foot waterfall would not make my day. Luckily, Marshall-Will-and-Holly's tiny raft was bluescreened onto a gutter flowing with the waste water from someone washing his car.

5:47 AM  

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