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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Picture Book Mischief

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Just talking about The Wind in the Willows with a friend in a favourite book forum, left me besotted with longing for my younger self and the colourful picture books that ruled my life at the time; better than any maternal persuasions or secret friendship games could.

But do you remember any mischevious secrets associated with your first library collection?

I recall 2 short devious crimes of a somewhat heinous literary nature - enough to portray my gullibility for life and which robbed me of peace until I had the good sense to let my mother know what was going on.

I studied at the Convent complete with Irish nuns but it was a day school and I didn't board there.
At 6+, I won a prize in class quite unexpectedly but cannot remember why I did.

It was a swell looking picture book. I still remember its tall size and flamboyant splashes of colour. It held wonderful stories on fairies, elves, gnomes and all the usual going-ons associated with magic wands and toadstool parties.

I cherished the book and even tried to hide it in my tub during bathtime until my irate father became convinced that I was going to destroy the beautiful pages in 24 hours. I carried it with me everywhere and left it under my pillow when I went to sleep. I remember I liked it THAT MUCH!

Not long afterwards, I was approached by a classmate who insisted that I give the book to her or her uncle who was a 'police inspector' was going to catch me and throw me in jail. I don't know why she picked on me. Was it my buck teeth or my starry eyes? But I was a willing target for intimidation. "Bring the book tomorrow", she growled but I never did.

Her threats grew larger and sharper and she kept winging me stories during recess and in the schoolyard of how her uncle caught crooks and took them away and threw them in jail and they wouldn't be released.

Prisoners were said to live with very little food, water, no sunlight and no friends. There was also no telly available so my favourite Moby Dick cartoons were out of the question.

She insisted that particular book was solely hers...that I had stolen it...that she was not aware of the book prize I had won but that I had taken HER picture book WITHOUT permission. She gossiped with enough malice to a few friends - bad hatters, all - in another class. They promptly sent me to Coventry. I was quite wary thinking that I may have had no one to play 'Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Pot", with anymore.

Either that or she would turn up at my house at midnight to kidnap my book properly once and for all, came the new threat. My beloved picture book was going to be kidnapped and I, the victim, held for ransom!

The bullying got so bad and she gave me no peace and one day, she said that her uncle was coming the next day to catch me at the school gates if I didn't return the book to her. I cried to my mother who had a word with the teacher.

Nothing happened really. My classmate was let off with a right ticking off and it was discovered that she had no uncle and no police in her family. In fact, her familyl ties lay heavily bound to a couple of robbers with passions devoted to the beer bottle and locked cars. She just wanted to rip me off. Not a tale I'm proud off but still... it was my first bullying adventure associated with a picture book.

I had another one the very next year when I accidentally made a little tear on another classmate's picture book. She had just bought it at the school fair. It was a 12-page tale on a duckling who was afraid to swim.
I had to pay her money for compensation - from my school allowance for a week, yes, she extorted money from me on the sly for that tiny tear. She kept waving the picture of what I then cursed to be the idiotic yellow duckling in front of me. The open-beaked bird appeared to be cracking up at my displeasure!

That too came to a stop when I had to lamely explain to my mother why my tuckshop money went missing so quickly and she said to tell the girl that she knew what was going on and if the nonsense didn't stop, she would give her an unforgettable bit of what-for! There I was finally perplexed and caught in the middle of 2 fierce females! The girl never approached me for another cent again.

Silly little episodes but heartwarming now in a strange forgotten way. What I would have given for that childhood innocence, already gone and never to return. Did you have any strange episodes associated with your books when you were a kid?

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