Monday, June 04, 2007


I have quite a number of books here but this one is the oldest
and best loved for a reason.

This is the book that started it all.

I must've been around 8 when my folks bought it for me because
they bought it as the Stop & Shop in Dorchester on Gallivan Blvd.
There were three books, actually. One of the others was “Hans
Brinker and the Silver Skates”. I can’t recall the third one, but
this is the only one of the three I still have some 50 years later.

Its age shows physically. The binding is loose and frayed and
there’s some red crayon on the cover. Some of the black and white
illustrations inside show where I traced them with a pencil so that
the carbon paper underneath would copy the image to the notebook
paper beneath that.

The first edition was published in 1924 but this one is the third
edition dated 1956, which would confirm the year I think it was
given to me.

From this book, I dove into mythology. The librarian at the
Codman Square Library steered me to the “Age of Chivalry”
in Bulfinch’s Mythology and I devoured the whole book. As
I got older I read any books I could find on ancient and medieval
history and I still have quite a few of them that I’ve bought over
the years within easy reach as I type this. I also have quite a few
Arthurian novels and nonfiction books on the subject. And I've
seen nearly every movie or tv show ever made about Arthur
and his knights.

It sparked a lifelong love of history and reading that led me to a
college degree in History and later in life nearly 18 years as a
bookseller. I suppose it's fair to say that it eventually thus led
me into genealogy.

I wonder how many people’s lives have been shaped by something
they read as a child?


Janice said...


I saw the book cover and broke out into a smile. I had that exact book given to me years ago (I'm afraid I don't have my copy today). Reading that book eventually led me to my still favorite book, "The Once and Future King," by T.H. White....

Bill West said...


You're the first person I've
ever heard from that recognized the book!

Miriam said...

I didn't have this book, but it looks like a Whitman Publishing book, and I had many of those: Eight Cousins (by Louisa May Alcott) and other classics, and many of the early Trixie Belden mysteries (we genealogists loved mystery books as children...and probably still do!). I grew up in the 70s, and these old Whitman books were passed down to me by my younger aunts and uncles, who'd ship them off to me in Alaska from Michigan. Thanks for the memories, Bill! One of these times, I will write a post (or a series of posts) of good historical books for kids to hook them into genealogy.