These are the books I have been in love with since I was eight years old - absolutely head over heels for the first one, and still very fond of the other two. Remember when I checked them out in October, and called them the "beautiful out-of-print-in-this-edition bits of nostalgia from my childhood that I'm savoring before I have to give them back, where one day they will surely disappear without my knowledge since they're '78 and '83 [and '79]"? NOW I OWN THEM. ALL OF THEM.
[edit: ...crap, I never did publish that post about them and apparently deleted my draft. %*#&^%#! Scroll down five paragraphs and we'll get to why they're amazing.]
Oh my God oh my God oh my God, not only did I send like nineteen hundred prayers of thanks to Him with a capital and everything, but I cannot stop wheeling in circles over my fortune. Ever since I found out 3 weeks ago that this library sale was happening, and that it was happening because this branch was relocating, my mission has been to obtain these books. This branch owned the last copies in the county, and based on their age there was an ENORMOUS chance they would cull them for the move -- I just had to get there first.
I left SOME things to chance. I still refuse to become a Friend of the Library, so no preview sale, and I didn't get there until 2 hours after it started today, but thank God I armed myself with Mapquest and set out on my own adventure instead of waiting until Dad could drive me on Sunday, right?
These were not easy to find, either, because there were TONS of books and they were sorted by genre but not in perfect order. The library is a smaller location and it was like they just crossed out all the barcodes and left everything on the shelves for sale. After my first anxious once-over I was on my second round of combing through the "juvenile series" books, with no idea if someone had already taken them or if they'd even been culled, but damned if I was leaving that building until I had scanned every last inch where they might be hiding. And then suddenly there they were, all in a row. LIKE SPARKLING DIAMONDS.
I may have jumped up and down where no one was looking. (SEVENTEEN YEARS OF WISHIN' AND HOPIN'. BUT FINALLY, THEY HAVE COME HOME FOR GOOD.)
Why These Books Are Amazing
I firmly believe that, despite being written for children at only 60 pages with illustrations, The Mystery Of Pony Hollow is one of the most brilliantly written stories of all time. It's about a girl who goes exploring on her new pony, Panda, on their new property. She stumbles upon a little stone house, inside of which she hears frantic whinnying and kicking...but inside of which she finds only the skeleton of a pony with a rotted halter bearing the nameplate "Oberon." This is some of the spookiest imagery I have ever read.
Turns out there used to be a stable of pit ponies on her property, until the mines were shut down and the Connemara ponies were all sold. The groom, who had come with them from Ireland, couldn't bear losing them all and stole the stallion he'd raised from birth to hide away, intending to return for him, but was arrested and jailed before he could go back - so in the height of tragedy, the beautiful horse starved to death. Eventually our little hero finds the groom, now an old man in the early stages of Alzheimer's, in a nursing home. I still cry every time I read this part:
. . .
"All I had to do was slip back around to the hollow after everybody thought I'd gone on the train. Then Oberon and I would be free. But when I got back to the table that night, they were waiting for me. Then when I was in jail, I couldn't tell anyone where he was, or they'd know I took him. They'd put me in prison for the rest of my life. I couldn't stand that."
"So you let him die." Sarah didn't know the words were coming out until it was too late. Suddenly she felt sorry.
The old man cringed away from her and wailed, "No, he won't die. He won't die. He can get out of any door. I taught him. I 'll go back as soon as no one is watching, and Oberon will be waiting for me in the valley. There's food and water, and plenty of it. He won't die."
Sarah stood up. She couldn't take much more. She turned to gather Panda's reins, but the man's hands were clutching at her.
"Let him out for me. Please. Let him out."
Suddenly Sarah melted. The pain and guilt of forty years were written in the lines on Aaron Donel's face. Gently she said, "I already have."
And there's a poignant ending in which she gives the bones a proper burial under a proper marker. A couple of the beautiful illustrations, one near the beginning and the one at the end -- click to make them bigger so you can actually read the words. I don't know if you can see, but the neat thing about the shading is that all the images are done in black and white with occasional splashes of purple. The second book uses blue as its main color, and the third book is green.
Mystery of Pony Hollow Panda is a less spooky but equally moving sequel in which Panda disappears during the town pet parade. As it turns out, she was stolen by the woman who used to own her, who is...not quite right in the head after suffering from her own tragedy. Panda used to belong to her daughter, until one day their barn caught fire. Her daughter ran in to save her pony, not realizing she'd escaped. Her father ran in after her, and the barn went up in flames when a gas can exploded, killing them both. When the woman saw Sarah riding Panda in the parade...heartbreaky excerpt!
"I remember the pet parade. Julie was in it. She rode her pony, Panda. I fixed up an Indian costume for her. But it was time to go home, and she didn't come." The woman's voice broke, and her face showed the pain she felt.
Sarah reached out to pat the woman's arm. She didn't understand any of this, but she did understand pain and the need to comfort the one in pain.
Mrs. Bowen regained her voice. "Julie didn't come," she said firmly, "so I brought the pony home. Julie will be back any time now. You're a nice girl. I'm sure Julie will let you ride on Panda when she gets here."
"Mrs. Bowen," Sarah said softly, "I'm going to take Panda home now. She belongs to me."
The woman stiffened suddenly and became fierce. "No," she shouted, "You can't! If you take Panda, I'll never see Julie again."
And The Lost and Found Hound is just a cute way to top off the trifecta, unrelated to the other two, but a very 70s-themed story about a ring of dog thieves rounding up pets to sell to laboratories. Foiled by a clever little heroine!
But that wasn't the only treasure I found. Oh no. Not even close. I blew $12.50 in the blink of an eye; price was irrelevant because my birthday is on Sunday and the Universe handed me this sale as my present. $12.50 is a totally acceptable amount for all this bounty:
Continuing on from the three above...
4. Tallulah Falls - Christine Fletcher: This is a book I read in...I want to say high school, but maybe college; I don't remember much except that I loved the name Tallulah and I STILL repeat this musical title to myself all the time. I really enjoyed the part of her runaway story where she winds up working part time in a vet clinic.
5. You Know Where to Find Me - Rachel Cohn: 2007-2008 Reading List entry #67 says, "I love this book SO MUCH. Not just for its gorgeous cover, but because I adore this author, who created an amazing main character who battles with depression and her weight and *doesn't* magically shed it, nor does she magically gain a boyfriend in spite of herself. She is a believable girl dealing with believable pain and loss (and even a believable pill addiction; hey, you know how I love my drug stories), and I love everything about what this story chooses to be."
6. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye - Deb Caletti: About a high school senior working as a waitress who receives a $2.5 million tip from a customer. I felt like I should own some Caletti, given how much I profess to love her. Read this the same summer as the above, ironically -- strong associations with college.
(FUN FACT: This book has the same cover image as Palms to the Ground, which I discovered upon pulling the latter book off a shelf nearby)
7. Holding Up the Earth - Dianne Gray: Dude! I literally read this three weeks ago - and was highly impressed; check #35.
8. Massive - Julia Bell: A new-to-me story I picked up as to read because it's supposed to be an anorexia novel (love those) and I really enjoyed the author's Dirty Work. Will re-donate if it does not live up to expectations.
9. The Snow Pony - Alison Lester: Woooo, new horse book! And it's so crisp and clean and new. Acquired 2005, but looks like it's barely been read.
Iiiii have no idea what drew me to this (I thought it was a memoir; turns out it's a novel), but apparently I want to read about a couple adopting a wild ragamuffin of a girl. Now an unforgettable television movie! In the 1970s. Oh, all right: what suckered me in was the husband being a veterinarian named Mac. I am, of course, immediately envisioning Mac Taylor, with the Claire who never was, PLUS ANIMALS.
11. A Walk Across America - Peter Jenkins.
1970s paperbacks always look so appealing. I have no idea if I'll like this, but this one really is nonfiction, about a guy walking across the country with his dog, and something about disillusionment with the times... Real reason I bought it: the gorgeous color photograph of his dog inside.
12. Smoky the Cowhorse - Will James: It's not in the greatest shape - the cover is really dirty and the binding's a bit loose - but come on. A classic favorite, nice old Grosset & Dunlap version. There were literally less than *20* old books like this, and they were grouped together under "nonfiction." All the other books were nonfiction, but this sneaky little juvenile novel was hiding among them. It's an old school library cull but also bears an inscription to a buddy from '47. I seriously love the little book fairies that follow me around and push treasure into my path.
13. Wild Horse Running, Sam Savitt: Another gorgeous juvenile horse novel, one I don't think I've seen before. 1973, 120 or so pages with lovely charcoal sketch illustrations. Back cover plus a random sample:
Whew! Hours later, I have finished fighting with all the pictures. Enjoy! If you need me, I'll be hugging the books and/or stroking their covers and mumbling, "My precious."