On The Hunt: A Treasure From My Childhood
When I was a child, I read both MG (middle grade) and YA (young adult) and I read a lot. A LOT lot. This didn’t make me a brainiac or a good student, because the books I wanted to read often weren’t (okay, never) the books that were required for school.
That being said, I always had a book in my hand. I read all the usual 90s kids’ series books (Fear Street, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley, Anything Bruce Coville, etc.) but I also read quite a bit of older series, too (Encyclopedia Brown, The Great Brain, The Fudge books by the great Judy Blume…ANYTHING by Judy Blume. My beloved A Wrinkle In Time books by Madeline L’Engle, The Bingo Brown books by Betsy Byars). I also read quite a bit of standalone titles (Julie of the Wolves. Remembering the Good Times—this was a favorite and deserves its own blog post. The Outsiders.)
I read whatever was available to me. Sometimes this was a shiny new series book, but more often than not, they were second hand, older titles.
It wasn’t like today where I go to one of the three Barnes & Nobles in my city and peruse the new release shelves, or click through the books recommended by the mysterious Amazon algorithm. My parents both worked very hard, but we didn’t have money to buy new hardback books every week (not counting the Dr. Seuss subscription that we got in the mail or the occasional brand new book bought as a surprise treat). In fact, the only time I specifically remember buying new books was at the yearly scholastic book fair at school (and that was if I didn’t spend my money on rad posters of cats or cars or buy pencils with fancy Lisa Frank erasers)
Mama often took me to the paperback book exchange where I could spend a solid hour digging through other people’s discards to find treasures. Some of my favorite books came from these trips and boasted yellowing pages and a release dates from a good 15 years prior. (Didn’t matter. A good book is a good book is a good book.)
However, mostly my books came from the Brookhaven Public Library. This was before libraries were hip and had the newest YA fiction on neat little displays. This was before there were tons of new YA or MG titles rolling out every week and topping bestseller lists. Nope. This was the early 90s--before Harry Potter mania made publishers realize that kids' books could earn them money and that there was an eager audience ready to read titles written for the younger book-lovers. MG and YA were seen as second class. The book money at libraries was (I am guessing) mostly spent on adult titles or shiny picture books. Nevertheless, Mama took me weekly during the summer and often during the school year. I would cart home arm loads of books, which I would read, several at a time, until I'd devoured them all.
Many of the books I grew to love had obscure titles that I doubt many others have heard of (a lot of the books I read had probably been setting on the library shelves since before I was born. Heck--they may still be there).
This is where I discovered favorites—the kinds of books what stuck with me. I have forgotten most of the titles, but can still recall many of stories.
Recently, I couldn’t get one such book out of my mind. I could remember it was an anthology of monster tales that were creepy as hell and some of the weirdest stories I’d ever read (at that time in my life, anyway). I can vaguely remember their plots, but what I do remember is how much I loved them.
Well, I did what I do…I started digging. I began searching the internet, googling scraps of story plots. My search lead me to message boards (is that even what they are called anymore? I feel old.) and review sites. Pieces started falling into place and soon I had a name, YOUNG MONSTERS (pubbed 1985, a year after I was born).
At the time I originally read the book, the authors’ names meant nothing to me. I just knew the stories were great.
Well, after finding the title and seeing who edited the book (Isaac Asimov) and who some of the contributing authors were (Ray Bradbury. Stephen King.), no wonder I thought it was an amazing book—these are legendary story tellers!
I needed a copy of this book. It is out of print but suddenly I had to have this small piece of my bookish childhood. I searched online and unfortunately- the cheapest copy I could find was fifty dollars, with many copies upwards of a hundred dollars, and boasted either as signed copies or in great collectible shape or whatever. This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted something I could read. Really read (you know- when you can look at the pages and know from wear and tear that a book has really been enjoyed). I wanted a book I could hand to my twelve year old and let him enjoy it with a flashlight under the covers. I didn't want nor need a fancy copy.
I was at a loss.
Friends, I finally got my mits (or online shopping cart) on a copy of YOUNG MONSTERS, edited by Isaac Asimov, with contributions from authors such as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. I snagged it for around fifteen dollars and it should be here within the next few weeks (thank you amazon!). I cannot tell you how thrilled this makes this book-geek.
If I am being completely honest (and I always try to be) while the biggest part of me cannot wait to tear open that package and read it, a smaller, quieter part wonders if maybe I should have left it alone and enjoyed the memory of a dusty book from a small town library without the need to re-read, and possibly be disappointed.
I will post a pic and a review once it arrives. In the meantime- I have posted the table of contents below. Have you read any of these stories? Is there a seemingly obscure book from your childhood that you remember fondly? Tell me about it in the comments.
Stories from the book:
Young Monsters : Homecoming - Ray Bradbur
Young Monsters : Good-by Miss Patterson - Phyllis MacLennan
Young Monsters : Disturb Not My Slumbering Fair - Chelsea Quinn YarbroYoung Monsters : The Wheelbarrow Boy - Richard Parker
Young Monsters : The Cabbage Patch - Theodore R. Cogswell
Young Monsters : The Thing Waiting Outside - Barbara Williamson
Young Monsters : Red as Blood - Tanith Lee
Young Monsters : Gabriel-Ernest - Saki
Young Monsters : Fritzchen - Charles Beaumont
Young Monsters : The Young One - Jerome Bixby
Young Monsters : Optical Illusion - Mack Reynolds
Young Monsters : Idiot's Crusade - Clifford D. Simak
Young Monsters : One for the Road - Stephen King
Young Monsters : Angelica - Jane Yolen