Saturday, February 25, 2006

SHOULD YOU FORCE A KID TO READ A $350 BOOK?

We had out biggest book find yet when my husband Brian came home from a library bag sale in early February with the book Winter of Enchantment by Victoria Walker. Brian didn’t know that this was an extremely rare and scarce book, but the book is from 1969 and is a fantasy book for children written by a British author. That was enough to prompt him to put the book in the bag.

It doesn’t have a dust jacket but I was able to price it at $350, making it the highest price book in our inventory. If it had a dust jacket, and if it was the UK edition rather than the American edition, it would be worth more than $1000. Mere paperback copies of the book, in not very good condition, sell for $100+.

When we get rare books like this I set them aside to read after I list them. I feel a sense of responsibility, almost, to read the book and discover the treasure within it. I’ve read half of the book so far, which is about a 13-year-old boy named Sebastian who is summoned into a magical world by a teapot and a cat from 19th century London. There is an imprisoned girl trapped in the past who needs to be rescued and she teaches Sebastian some of the sorcery he'll need to accomplish this. The four seasons become incarnate. There is a huge emerald and an enchanted forest. Surely my 13-year-old daughter, who has read the Harry Potter books at least a half dozen times, would like this book.

I found this Essay by the Author posted on the Independent Bookseller’s Network and after reading that I encouraged my 13-year-old daughter all the more to read the book. Here is an excerpt, which may be encouraging to young would-be writers out there:

"Thirty-five years ago, when I was twenty-one, I was idling away time at my parents’ house in the country, wondering what to do next. I had been living in London and taking music lessons and it had dawned at last that I had no musical talent whatsoever. So with no particular end in view I found my mother’s portable typewriter and wrote a story for children. Of course I wrote it for myself, really. I may have looked grownup - a heavy Juliette Greco fringe, so much eyeliner that my father complained that it was like looking down the barrels of the guns of Navarone over breakfast, reeking of Shalimar and French cigarettes (rolled in papier mais for super sophistication) - but I was extraordinarily naive. It simply never occurred to me to get a job or to think of a career. Instead I spent eight months, off and on, writing this story just as it came into my head, sentence by sentence, with no idea of how it would finish or what I would do with it when it had.

One evening I went out to dinner with a friend in London. In the late Sixties the Bistro D’Agran - I’m not sure how you spell that - was a well-known Hooray Henry haunt behind Harrods. It was unlicensed so customers had to bring their own bottles of wine. I can’t remember who the friend was but at the table next to us were two men who asked to borrow our corkscrew. During the conversation that followed one of the men revealed that he was a publisher. Without a blush I told him that I was within days of finishing a manuscript. It did not occur to me that he might be constantly bothered by people asking him to look at unsolicited manuscripts. Generously he said I could send it to him for appraisal. I did. A few weeks later, during which I had heard nothing and had practically forgotten about it, he sent me a contract. That was Bill McCreadie of Rupert Hart-Davis (now of Aurum Press) and the story came to be called The Winter of Enchantment.

" I was mildly gratified and grateful for the fifty pounds advance. The book sold quite well and was made into a television serial.


There are reviews on the Amazon website by kids who love this book and lament that it is out of print. Knowing this, you’d think my daughter would jump at the chance to read this book, would feel a sense of privilege and gratitutde. Plus it’s only 150 pages and even has some illustrations. But no. She’s read one chapter so far. I’ll keep insisting, even though I know someday she’ll probably say to her peers, "My mom used to force me to read rare children’s books, can you believe that? Ugh. Such oppression."

(Filed Under: The Books)



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1 Comments:

Blogger Mimi said...

Yes, I hear that too - "Mom, you said The Outsiders was a good book" well, it is. Grin.

Congratulations on the find!

10:30 AM  

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