When I think about reading, fond childhood memories flood my mind. My favorite time as a young girl at the age of eight was taking a trip to the local library, the Woodside Branch, with my older sister riding alongside of me on our bikes. My parents, immigrants to Canada, did not have a lot of money. Dance lessons, vacations, and pretty dresses were for affluent families who could afford such indulgences. For me, hopscotch substituted for dance lessons, vacations meant pitching a tent in the backyard, and pretty dresses were about hand me downs.
The library was one of the few places my sister and I were permitted to explore unattended, away from the watchful eagle eyes of my parents. At the library I could browse through the children’s section, located in the basement level, pick out a number of books that caught my attention, and nestle up in the beanbag chair hidden between the rows and rows of books. The library was a place where I lost myself in my imagination and believed that I was in another distant world where I was the courageous heroine, the super sleuth, or the crafty wizard.
There was one story that I signed out from the library time and time again - Who's That Knocking at My Door? I read it every day and sometimes multiple times in a day. I memorized each word and recited the words out loud before the next page was turned. I read the book so many times that the binding wore out and the once bright pages filled with illustrations faded.
I remained an avid reader into my adult years and hoped that my sons would grow to be passionate about reading, too.
Taking trips to the library became our usual Saturday morning routine, and to my delight, one morning when we arrived, the Woodside branch was hosting a book sale. Boxes and boxes and boxes of books were piled on the ground and filled the tables in the front foyer. Books were organized by fiction and nonfiction, adult books and children’s books, hard cover and soft cover. Hand-written sale signs were taped to each box, indicating costs ranging from 25 cents to 2 dollars a book. “Today we are buying books rather than borrowing books,” I announced.
The kids and I eagerly filtered through the boxes. We pulled out books on Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George and books on how to make paper airplanes, and perform magic tricks with cards. As I dug my way to the bottom of one box to my complete amazement, I found my favorite childhood book. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of it in years. I raise it up over my head like a trophy. “What about this book?” I said.
My kids who had their faces buried in boxes glanced up. “It’s falling apart, Mom,” said Daniel.
“It looks old,” said Anthony.
“It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside.” I placed the book on top of our purchase piles. The kids I left the library each carrying a heap of books stacked up to our eyes.
That evening, I pulled the book out to read as our bedtime story. That was our customary yet special bedtime routine. The boys brushed their teeth, changed out of their day time clothes into their cotton pajamas, raced each other down the hall into my bedroom, hurdled themselves onto the king size bed, and snuggled under the covers; one child and either side of me. As the boys snuggled in, I held book close to my chest. “Ready?” I asked.
“YES!” they chimed in unison.
“The title of the book is Who’s that Knocking at my Door?” I began to read: “A strange thing happened one dark night, while snow fell deep and soft and white…”
And as I read, my children attentively listened as every page was turned.
“Who would believe a tale so tall? A fox, a bear, a hare and me just spent the night in harmony…” And so to the very end.
“Read it again,” yawned Anthony.
That was fifteen years ago.
Now as I write this memory, my twenty-year-old son, Daniel saunters into the kitchen. The book I so enjoyed reading as child lay on my desk. The title catches Daniel’s attention.
“Oh, Mom,” he says in a tone of downright surprise. “I remember this story.” He picks it up and turns the page and reads to me the words that now come to him with such ease: “No sooner did he start to snore, there came a pounding on the door…
“What a banger,” Daniel says as he walks away, book in hand.
Priceless, I think.
QBF welcomes personal essays about a favourite book or about your experience of reading or writing. Read a few such essays on the blog to get a taste of what other writers have done (see here and scroll down).
Quick Brown Fox also welcomes your book reviews – or any kind of review of anything, of anywhere or of anybody. If you want to review your favourite coffee shops or libraries, babysitters or lovers (no real names please), go for it. I have an essay about writing book reviews here, but don’t pay too much attention to it; you can write a review in your own way. See examples of book reviews here (and scroll down); other reviews here (and scroll down).
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Tanya Tazbaz is a mother, a wife, and the owner of a miniature Australian Sheppard. Tanya works full time at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario as an investigator. She dedicates her spare time to baking and perfecting gluten free desserts. She also hikes, reads and of course writes.
Tanya has taken several of Brian Henry’s workshops in the past, but taking on-line creative writing course was a first-time experience. She looked forward to connecting weekly with a community of other writers and welcomed Brian’s tips, lessons and writing prompts. This particular story sprang from a writing prompt and a sweet memory.
Who’s that Knocking at My Door by Tilde Michels, Illustrated by Reinhard Michl, is still in print, at least in Australia, under the title Knocks at the Door. See here.
See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.