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Christmas and the Boy Reader

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There were always books for Christmas. Mounds of them: flurries of paperbacks, drifts of presentation copies inscribed in the unreadably copperplate hand of maiden great aunts, avalanches of books on chess, and manuals of do-it-yourself chemistry experiments using household items! And teach-yourself sleight-of-hand magic guides, and the not all-that-gratefully-received Latin to English—and English to Latin!—dictionary. The already-too-childish children’s chapter books, from distant acquaintances of our parents. The popular Victorian and Edwardian fiction, adult stories that had somehow moved down the reader’s scale to be thought of as proper for young readers, marketed to harried uncles seeking something in last-minute bookstores: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Scarlet Pimpernel.

We never got Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books. But I remember other series: Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, the Rover Boys, the Wizard of Oz books, although mostly as stray and dusty copies on bookshelves in the childhood bedrooms of aunts and uncles, long since moved away from my grandmother’s house. The standard girls’ books of their era, too: Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Daddy Long-Legs, A Little Princess. Ugh. Daddy…



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