On Tuesday I went to Bromley Library, South London, to return The Life of Pi (a brilliant read, if you haven’t read it) for my son.
For me, no trip to the library is complete without a peruse around the For Sale section, the library book graveyard. Occupying a shelf all by itself was the awesome (and I never use this word) Times Atlas of the World, almost the size of the world and just as heavy. (I know I am supposed to be writing about Aliki, but bear with me).
I have always admired this book. As a child, I would look at it for hours in the reference section of my local library. The paper is good and thick, and has that mattness I lust after. I still love looking at maps. I never, tire of the London A – Z.
In the nineties I worked at Stanford’s in London. If you don’t know it, it’s a travel book and map shop on Long Acre in Covent Garden. I had recently graduated from art college. It was a great time in my life. I had just met my husband, he was working nearby for a small graphic design company. In Stanford’s, The Times Atlas of the World had a special display table with just one book on the top. I would open it to a different page every day. I can’t remember ever selling a copy, I think it was about a hundred pounds, even then.
The Bromley edition was a mess. Sad, but made me happy because I would have no problem with the butchering. Many, many, many people had enjoyed this book. Dreaming of far off climes, or maybe showing their children a relative’s birthplace.
I always knew the book would never be mine. I knew before I picked it up exactly how heavy it was. Even during my excitement at spotting it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry it home. I have spine issues. That’s my spine, not the book’s. I have carried forbidden things in the past, and painfully regretted doing so for months afterwards. I left the library extremely forlorn, I’m not exaggerating.
I hope it went to a good home.
About ten minutes later I called into a local charity shop. I still can’t believe my luck. There it was, My Visit To The Dinosaurs (first published in 1969, this edition 1972) by Aliki. I fantasize about finding a book by Aliki. I once did, but its condition was too good to use in my work. This one has lived a thousand lives. It is no stranger to sellotape. Most of the pages are not attached to the spine, some have been reattached, quite obviously, out of sequence. It was once owned by a V. Stephens, who once owned a blue Biro and had neat handwriting.
I can’t wait to breathe new life into it.
Aliki Brandenburg was born in 1929, and grew up in Philadelphia as part of a big Greek family. She writes and illustrates the most beautiful of books. She says “Children’s books are a combination of two things I love: words and pictures”. Her two children, Jason and Alexa, appear in most of her illustrations. I believe that she now lives in London, although that may be wishful thinking.
There are a few groovy dads visiting the dinosaurs, so if I can get my act together I may make a couple of Father’s Day cards. However, I may not. I am really on a roll with those old uniforms.
*4.7.16: Six cards left. They can be found in the ‘Cards For Teachers’ section.