Although it often feels as though our entire house is being devoured by a tidal wave of children’s books, today C told Jon and me that she’s basically read everything we own and that she really needed something new to read. She doesn’t go back to the public library until Friday after school so I guess she felt like two days would equal a massive dry spell when it comes to having enough reading material.
So we went down to the basement and rummaged through a few boxes before we came to many MORE boxes, all filled to capacity with children’s books – mostly the special antique hardcover children’s books that were mine or my grandmother’s when we were little girls. These are the books I treasure the most so I don’t have them out on the girls’ regular bookshelves. If they want to read one of them, that’s no problem, but only one at a time and when they’re done they have to give the book back to me to return to my box.
Well tonight while we were digging around in the book boxes I spied a book I hadn’t seen in a very long time. It was a copy of The Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth
I remembered this book as one that Henry liked for me to read to him every night before bed when he was about 9 or 10 years old as well as one that I loved for my grandmother to read to me at about the same age so I wasn’t surprised when 10 year old C pulled it out of the box.
“What’s this one?” she asked. I explained to her that it was a book published in 1809 about the never-ending romances and battles betwixt and between all the various Scottish clans, including ours, the Clan MacLean. This hardcover book about the travails and triumphs of the different clans weighs about a gazillion pounds and is as thick as a large print copy of the Bible. While the cover might briefly caught her eye, I wouldn’t have guessed that a book about brutal clan warfare would be the book that a 10 year old girl living in 2018 would choose out of the book box, but she did.
She immediately buried her head in the book and it stayed there until bedtime.
When C finally took a break from the book to get ready for bed, I told her that we should try to figure out where the book came from. I explained to her that I thought the book had originally been her great grandmother’s, after which my grandmother gifted it to me when I was about C’s age. I suggested that we check the book flap for any inscription that might fill us in on the book’s provenance.
So C took a break from her reading, and together we leafed back through the book to the first few pages to find out whether an inscription would confirm my belief that the book was a gift from my grandmother to me.
We quickly found a lengthy inscription on the book’s leaf page but it wasn’t written from my grandmother to me or from anyone else to her. Instead it was a note from my grandmother, his great grandmother, written to Henry, when she apparently gave him the book when he was 8 years old.
It reads, Henry, this was written about 200 years ago so the language is somewhat stilted but I hope you’ll like the story as much as I did when I was your age.
The aunt of a friend of mine said she would give us each 50 cents if we’d read “Scottish Chiefs,” so we did and I liked it so much that I almost told her to keep the money, but I didn’t go that far.
Anyway, the story is more or less true and is the basis of “Braveheart” which you and I liked so well. We love you, Grandma
C and I both laughed at the 50 cent book challenge. I told her that I am pretty sure that Henry read the whole thing for free but that I’ll give her 50 cents if she finishes all 508 pages. We shook on it.