Sunday, January 24, 2016

Childhood Books and a Vacation

By Michelle Ule

 Several years ago my husband and I spent a day in Concord, Massachusetts.

We made the obligatory visit to the Revolutionary War Freedom Trail, but when we drove past
Orchard House, I made my husband stop.

 I remembered the house from books I'd read as a child.

 I reread Little Women many times while growing up and so we took a tour of the Alcott's home.

 I enjoyed the tour, but what I remembered was not Jo and Meg and Amy and Beth so much as scenes from another novel I loved as girl:  The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton.

 I was in the hometown of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau, not to mention other Transcendentalists, but I flashed to the book that helped me understand them in a girl's limited way.

The Diamond in the Window is a magical story of the Hall siblings who are wafted back to historical scenes in Concord, Massachusetts they'd only learned about in school. Here's a short description:
"In The Diamond in the Window, Eleanor and Edward discover a boarded up room in their attic - and with it, a family mystery. Their Uncle Ned and Aunt Nora disappeared, years ago, from that attic room, and a few days later, so did a houseguest. While investigating the disappearances, they find a poem written on the stained glass window of the attic, which leads them to adventure and treasure."
During the tour of the Alcott's Orchard House, I saw a rag doll much loved by the Alcott sisters. 

Orchard House
But I also remembered Eleanor being turned into the doll so she could experience how the Alcott sisters loved it.

Similarly, Ralph Waldo Emerson is an august bust on a pillar in the children's hall and Henry Thoreau?

Eleanor and Edward became mice to watch the hermit living at Walden Pond write his pearls of wisdom!

 Langton filled her story with allusions to the Transcendentalist ideals. Among other things,Wikipedia explains:
"Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual."
That theme runs through this children's book in a marvelous way I only saw as an adult.

My husband laughed at my excitement seeing these places. I fairly danced with joy at the sites--both for their own history but also from remembering a fine book written in 1961 that opened my mind and heart to a different ideas and a lovely New England town.

 Concord's Barrow Bookstore owner shared my enthusiasm for Langton, and told a few stories of the author's presence in town.

 Maybe only a child can become an ardent fan because of a book, but from excitement and pleasure, a lifelong fascination can grow.

 I'd go back to Concord anytime!

 Have you ever visited the scenes of a well-loved childhood book?


Louisa May, Emerson, Thoreau and a Diamond in the Window. Click to Tweet 

 A book from childhood excites a vacation. Click to Tweet 

 Michelle Ule is the author of five historical novellas and a Navy SEAL novel. She writes about
"Finding God's Fingersprints in Everyday Life," twice a week at her

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