Wednesday 14 March 2018

Bookish Wiles

It was coveting a copy of Peter Pan and Wendy, owned by two sisters around the corner from where I lived as a child, that inspired me to become the neighbourhood's librarian.

Theirs was a glorious blue-bound hardcover with numerous colour plates and line drawings by Mabel Lucie Attwell, however the sisters didn't seem to find it as enchanting as I did. We had books galore at home growing up, but not a copy of J.M. Barrie's classic tale.

In order to have a legitimate reason for spiriting it away, I came up with a Cunning Plan: I suggested that we should play Libraries. Memory doesn't reliably tell me how enthusiastic the little local gang members were with this rather pedestrian new game, however I do recall setting about and cataloguing the children's books across our several homes, making everyone's little library cards and borrowing slips, then imperiously informing the neighbourhood children that I was now Their Librarian.

My love for books made this the perfect prospective pastime. I envisaged I would oversee the whole operation, make borrowing recommendations for reluctant readers based upon my possession of the Catalogue, enforce any late fines with our imaginary money and, of course, innocently borrow my prize on a slightly more permanent basis.

For a while there was a mild flurry of borrowing and lending, and then other more playful divertissements called. Not before time, as I realised rather ungenerously that I didn't enjoy my own books being in the hands of others, as I couldn't be sure if they would receive the same reverence I had for them. It was quite a price to pay to be able to pore over the charming art deco-era illustrations of Neverland at my leisure.

It was many months later that I returned this by-now very "overdue" book to its rightful owners as they were moving away to Melbourne. Fortunately, none of we children actually received any pocket money, as my late fine would have cleaned me out!

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