Which sort of spooked me because this book was published in Sydney by Angus and Robertson in 1939. It’s an anthology of poetry for younger readers. Perhaps this book and I crossed paths in an earlier time but I doubt it. Maybe the old lady who ran my favourite bookshop back in the 1960s was familiar with this book. I wish I could remember her name. If anyone reading this blog know who that old lady was, I’d love to the hear from them. I think I have become a firm believer in serendipity.
In the same week that I discovered an Australian book that bore the same name as my blog, I started re-reading Eleanor Farjeon’s ‘The Little Bookroom”. I must have read it as a kid because the stories had a resonance that echoed somewhere deep inside me. In the introduction to the collection Farjeon wrote about a room in her childhood home that her family had dubbed ‘the little bookroom’. “That dusty bookroom, whose windows were never opened, through whose panes the summer sun struck a dingy shaft where gold specks danced and shimmered, opened magic casements for me through which I looked out on other worlds and times than those I lived in: worlds filled with poetry and prose and fact and fantasy.”
‘The Little Bookroom’ was first published in 1955 so perhaps I did read it as a child, though it has slipped from my consciousness, as have many of the thousands of books I read in my growing up. Maybe the books we read in our childhood plant seeds inside us that only flower after many decades. It spooked me to see the forgotten past of lost books linking up to my present enchantment with the notion of books as ‘magic casements’. But then there is something very satisying to know that the past, the present and the future are all so inextricably bound together. Nothing is truly lost, everything is connected. Spooky.
On Friday I visited Vermont Secondary College as an Ambassador for the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge. It made me realise how much I’ve been at the desk because I loved talking to the Year Seven kids about what they were reading. I came home and ordered in a bunch of titles from the library. One of the best things about going out to schools is finding out what the kids are reading and what they really like. And I really do like plugging the Reading Challenge so it’s never a hard gig. I like talking about books in general much more than my own work.
This blog is dedicated to books. Magic Casements was a bookshop in the 1960s at 29 Carpenter Street, Middle Brighton. I bought my first book there as a kid. I still have a stack of books that have a little red ‘Magic Casements’ sticker inside the cover. In essence, those books worked exactly like magic casments for me. They opened up windows into other worlds. I wish I could remember the name of the old lady who ran the shop and patiently counted out all the coins I would tip onto her desk in payment of my latest, longed-for acquisition.
One of those first purchases, though not the very first, was a book called ‘The Young Florence Nightingale’ by Lettice Cooper.
On the inside slip cover of the book it reads ‘I don’t want a happy life. I want to do things,’ said young Florence Nightingale. Which is probably why I parted with two months worth of pocket money to buy that book. Because when I was a kid I wanted a big life and I wanted to do things. Now the thing I do is write books for young people. The books I read as a kid were important to me in ways I’m only coming to understand now.
So this blog is going to be about books I love, books I treasure, and books I discover. Perhaps it will be about writing too, but somedays writing can feel like a secret vice – dark and troublesome – so I’ll wait for a good writing day before posting a blog about that mysterious process. Books can be trusted. I’m not so sure about writers. (Yes, I get the irony.)