Libraries are (snow) treasures

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In the third grade at John L. Edwards Elementary School we were assigned to find a book to read for a book report. I loved reading and was very picky about choosing a new book. It had to be just right, so I took my time.

Near the end of our library period, I selected Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. Its cover of Norwegian kids sledding down a snowy hill watched by a menacing World War II German soldier was cat-nip for an eight-year-old boy. It looked cool enough to support my tough-guy image.

Little did I know my selection would set off a ruckus.

When I tried to check it out, the librarian told me the book was too advanced for me. Surprised and a little embarrassed, I became angry. I said it was Snow Treasure or nothing and I left the library without a book. When we got back to our classroom, I told my teacher, Mrs. White, what had happened and she called my mother. This was not the first conversation they had about me. I was a bit of discipline problem.

Mom read constantly. My siblings and I inherited our book addictions from her. When her phone call with Mrs. White ended, she told me to go to the library the next day and check out Snow Treasure.

I was shocked. Mom had stuck up for me on the phone with Mrs. White – a miracle! But get this: Mrs. White also was my ally in the book war. I was elated but my sense of victory evaporated when Mom squared me up, looked me in the eye and said: “After all this, you better read that book.”

Fearing her and with Dad the Enforcer looming -- I consumed the book quickly and wrote a decent book report. However, I was motivated by more than fear. Mom had shown confidence in me, maybe for the first time. I did not want to disappoint her.

Mom was not an outwardly emotional person. After I showed her my good grade, she didn’t say much. But I know in my heart she was proud of me.  

I had not remembered this story from more than 50 years ago until a recent Saturday night, when, during the Hudson Area Library’s “Party in the Stacks” fundraiser, the story came back to me. There, among hundreds of books, we celebrated the value that libraries bring to people and communities. Libraries can entertain, educate, and engage. They also can bring a troublesome son closer to his mother.