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Tuesday, February 02, 2010
It didn’t take a lot of time for me to come up with my very first favorite book. Even at age five, I was already horse-crazy, so when this secondhand book somehow got passed to me, it was like the album of my dreams.
The book was called Album of Horses, by Marguerite Henry, and even at first glance, it was magical. I was used to glossy picture-books with shiny jackets and retina-scarring primary colors. But this book had a matte hardcover, painted in muted earth-tones, which made it seem grown-up and antique. The binding was nearly worn through, but that didn’t matter—it gave it a sense of age, like it had been rescued from a store of ancient scrolls and shuffled down through the ages until it came to rest with its true owner—me.
Hey, I was five.
Anyway, the book was no less magical when the cover was lifted. The illustrations (by Wesley David, in case you’re interested) were so realistic I used to pass my finger along the broad back of a finely captured horse and imagine I could feel the hair.
This was another reason the book captured me—I was quite the firm realist as a child (which is really funny if you know me now), and believed animals should look like animals, not neon pink or green and dressed in clothing. If someone gave me a teddy bear or something dressed in an outfit at that age, you could rest assured it would be stripped down to its natural state within the hour. Clothes on animals was just something I couldn’t handle, probably the main reason I never got into Dr. Seuss.
This book, though—I used to sit for hours, reading the words, absorbing the paintings. It has been on my shelf from that day until the present. And every now and then, I still take it out and look at it. It's a piece of my childhood, and I treasure it.