Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Look at "An Open Book" Part 4

An Open Book is mainly about Michael Dirda's love of reading played out against a backdrop of growing up in Lorain. As one regular reader of this blog noted in a post, Dirda spends much of the book telling us what he was reading at the time, and the reader watches him progress from Golden Books to the Hardy Boys to Crime and Punishment. Since I also loved to read while growing up, it was fun to see that Dirda enjoyed reading many of the same things that I did as a young boy.

He mentions several of my favorites including Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and a few that I only vaguely remember, such as the Miss Pickerell series (I only remember that she once went to Mars).

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Dirda specifically cites the Beverly Cleary books such as Henry Huggins, Ribsy and the rest.
He discusses them on pages 93-94.
He notes, "Even though I was sometimes picking up more "advanced" books, I retained a longstanding fondness for Cleary's numerous juveniles. But I only remember one with vividness: Henry Huggins. In this novel the series hero finds the stray dog he dubs Ribsy. Henry nurses the starving creature back to health, gives him a name, a home and his heart. Unexpectedly, Ribsy's original owner reappears. But Henry doesn't want to give him up. Who then, should take the dog?"

Dirda describes his feelings of 'moral complexity' when Ribsy chooses Henry over his original owner, who was also a good guy. I just remember being relieved. I also remember wanting a dog after reading that book! (But I had to settle for a hamster.)

I still had my copy of one of Cleary's follow-up books, Ribsy, up until a few years ago, when I either donated it to a young relative or a thrift shop; I can't remember. But who knows? I may be forced to infiltrate the kiddie section of the Lorain Public Library to reacquaint myself with Henry, Ribsy, Beezus, Ramona and the rest.

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