Thursday, June 29, 2006

DR: Found: A Long-Lost Friend

A few months ago, a long-lost friend appeared on my doorstep, delivered in a cardboard box by the UPS man.

For close to forty years, I had been searching everywhere for a book I read and loved as a child. The book was part of the small library in the two-room country schoolhouse I attended from first-sixth grade, and I checked it out again and again. The trouble was, all these years later I could not remember the author, the title (save for the word “village”) or any other identifying information about the book, except the wonderful story and the way it made me feel when I read it.

I had posted queries on various e-mail boards and entered the few bits of info I did have into every search engine I knew, all to no avail. Unfortunately, my faulty memory kept telling me to enter “Andes Mountains” in the search. I finally gave up.

But one day, I was doing some research for a novel, searching for some information about the Pyrenees Mountains. And suddenly, there it was: "my" book! I was ecstatic! I truly felt like an old and dear friend had just knocked on my door when I’d all but given up hope of ever meeting again.

Unfortunately, my book was long out of print and there were only three used copies available on the Internet. The cheapest of those was selling for $65! Ouch! Nevertheless, a lovely copy of that book now sits in a place of honor on my desk, and it didn't cost me a penny. In fact, I made money on the deal!

To make a long story a little shorter, a friend for whom I’d done a critique a while back had sent me a gift certificate to an online bookstore as a thank-you. I had somehow lost the original copy, but my friend kindly forgave me and replaced the certificate. The new copy arrived the day after I discovered my book. (Thank you again, Gina!) Then, one of the merchants offering my book for sale agreed to lower the price to less than the value of my gift certificate! I still smile thinking about it.

The Village that Slept is the story of two young teens who survive an airplane crash in the Pyrenees mountains. After wandering through the wreckage for a while, they discover a tiny baby who has also survived. They name him Tao and the little makeshift family cares for each other, living for a while in an abandoned village (the village of the title) as they make their way down the mountain back to civilization. The novel is by Monique P. de Ladebat, translated from the French, and it is every bit as magical as I remembered.

What are the books you treasured as a young reader? Are there any you’ve “lost” along the way? What books sealed your love of reading—or maybe prompted your longing to become a writer?

Deborah Raney is the author of A Vow to Cherish (Steeple Hill June 2006). Coming next: Remember to Forget for Howard Publishing, now an imprint of Simon & Schuster.


At 12:07 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Late breaking news: I just discovered this book was apparently the basis for a TV series in 1970 (in Sweden?) I can't find out much about it except what's here:

Also, there are two used copies still available on One for the "low price" of $109. Another for $127. Worth every penny though! : )

At 5:43 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Mrs. Mike was a favorite of mine. I still have my yellowed copy from the eighth grade. "The inspiring, true story of a girl who dared the wilderness for love" by Nancy and Benedit Freedman.

Another one was a book of poetry called A Heap O' Living by Edgar A. Guest. I grew up hearing his poems at our house--dramatically recited, I might add.

It takes a heap o' living in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam,
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind...


He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or braver than he
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who'd be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do,

When I found a copy in a used bookstore, I was thrilled. My copy was published in 1919.

A third book I heard about all my life was That Printer of Udell's. "Your nana named your daddy after reading that book." My father's name was Udell. That Printer of Udell's is by Harold Bell Wright and was published in 1902. Wright's novel Shepherd of the Hills is reenacted every day at an outdoor ampitheater in Branson, Missouri.

I recently found a copy of That Printer of Udell's and got a little thrill when I envisioned my nana reading it as a young farm girl and preacher's daughter in Ohio around 1910 and being so enthralled, she named her son in honor of it.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

The Harry the Dirty Dog series by Gene Zion (I think that's the author's name) that I've now shared with my three sons who, I'm delighted to say, love them as much as I do.

Then there was the Happy Hollister series, about a family that found itself in crazy situations/mysteries but always found its way out. Not many people seem to remember this one but I still think very fondly of these books.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Lori Benton said...


Thanks for the reminder. My book was The Wolf, by Dr. Michael W. Fox, discovered at the Tanglewood Elementary library in the fourth grade. The book traces the lives of five wolf cubs, their adventures with the pack, the environment, and man. The illustrations by Charles Frace are gorgeous. After reading this book I went on to read everything about wolves I could get my hands on (I didn't call it research then, it was just plain fun!), and then proceded to write and illustrate my own novel about five wolf cubs, their adventures with the pack, the environment, and man.....

I was passionate, if not exactly original!

Lori (who has just scoured the internet and is thrilled to find copies of this 1973 book going for less than $5 *G*)

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Patty said...

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. I corresponded with Ms. Henry a bit before she passed away in 1997. It was books like her's that made me decide to become a novelist.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Jill Eileen Smith said...

Awesome news about the book, Deb! I had several favorites growing up. I loved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

But the one story I read in my teens every Christmas - the story that made me love the Bible and want to write Biblical fiction - was Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes.

Later, when I was homeschooling my kids, I read a young adult book that also became a favorite (and had I read it as a child it would have been dog-eared.) That book is called Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw originally written in 1953, so I could have read it as a child. Didn't discover it until I had kids. But hey, we never outgrow a good story! And that one is a definite keeper!


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