Finding old (book) friends

17 07 2010

At my mum’s house, there is a bookshelf of mostly picture books that were ours when we were younger. My brothers and I raid the shelves from time to time so the numbers of books have diminished. But they are still well-stocked with childhood favourites.

This week on twitter, Sandy Fussell mentioned her love of mermaid fiction when she was younger, and it made me think of a favourite picture book from my childhood, Marina. At least, I thought it was called Marina. I haven’t seen my copy for years (decades even, oo-er) and couldn’t remember the author or the illustrator or anything that would be remotely useful for tracking it down.

In vain did I google phrases like ‘Marina picture book’ and ‘Mermaid with orange hair’ ‘true land friend’ (something the mermaid had to find) and even ‘d-o-o-on’t wait’ (a phrase I remembered from the book). Nothing. (And it turns out that many, many mermaids in books are called Marina. So if you ever write a mermaid story … )

Meanwhile, back at twitter, ReadUpsideDown suggested the magical book-naming powers of thinkthinkers. Based on my sketchy plot outline, thinthinkers identified it and located a library copy here. It was indeed called Marina. But there was no cover image.

Today I was talking to my mum about the book. And she idly wondered if it might be in the crate of kids’ books in her garage.


And it was there. Along with Hubert Hunts His Hum, Harry and the Lady Next Door, and a huge stack of other friends from my childhood.

Old friends!

And just in case there’s another poor soul out there searching fruitlessly for information about Marina, here’s a bit about it (Marina, by Jan Harper, ill. by Judith Crabtree):

"Marina by Jan Harper, ill. by Judith Crabtree"When swimming in the sea as young girls, Marina and her sisters happen upon the cavern of the sea sprites, who cast a spell on them to keep them their prisoners. The girls are turned into mermaids and told to fear the human world. Only the kiss of a true land friend will break the spell. The sisters pass seven years waiting, combing their hair and prettying themselves. Marina is dissatisfied, and makes herself a flute from seal bone, and Aqua, the mistress of the waves calls to her. In exchange for the flute, Aqua takes Marina to shore to search for the true land friend. But false friends abound. Can she find a true land friend before sunset?

My copy was published in 1977 (a ‘Sugar and Snails Book’ by Women’s Movement Children’s Literature Cooperative Ltd).

Are there any long lost childhood books you’re hoping are in a crate in someone’s garage, waiting for you?




14 responses

18 07 2010

It’s not necessarily a “rare” book, but I was thrilled to be reunited with my childhood copy of The Night Before Christmas – The Little Golden Book version. I didn’t own many books as a child, so the ones I remember most are the middle grade ones I checked out of the library once I got older. As such, I almost wet myself when I found an old copy of Brighty of the Grand Canyon at a library book sale last year – lol!

18 07 2010

My mum was laughing at me as I was diving into the crate of books and getting so excited. Most of the copies are extremely well-loved and and ratty looking. I was thrilled to find them again, especially when I thought they were lost forever. A whole crateful—Ah, bliss!

20 07 2010
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think » Blog Archive » The Mysterious Case of the Avid Childhood Reader

[…] Newman (@_boobook_ ) was hunting for a book she had read as a child. (You can read about how we did here at her blog. )  I do possess mad googling skillz, and was one of those kids who read every book in the […]

20 07 2010
Sandy Fussell

Now that’s a magical story. I have to admit I searched the net for your mermaid’s footprints and found none. Kudos to the cleverness of thinkthinkers!

20 07 2010

Yes, clever thinkthinkers! And now she’s blogged about her book sleuthing on her blog. Got a childhood book mystery you need solved? thinkthinkers is on the job. 🙂 (That feels a bit like it could be a Sesame Street episode … )

20 07 2010

PS mermaids footprints. Hee!

20 07 2010
Susan @ Reading Upside Down

Thinkthinkers does indeed have mad google skillz that enable her to find the answers to even the most vague and sketchy book queries. 🙂

A whole crate of books? How divine. I would love for that to happen to me, but I doubt it ever will. I’m the oldest of three girls and most of my books were also read by my younger sisters, one of whom was not particularly gentle with books. 😦 I do have some that I have rescued, but I doubt that I will find a treasure trove of other favourites stashed away anywhere.

There was a picture book about an owl that I loved and I’m not quite sure if I have that already. I’ll have to go and search. I had some Golden Book favourites like Julie. One GB that I really remember though was a GB version of Little Red Riding Hood. It used to absolutely terrify me – the pictures were so dark and menacing.

20 07 2010

I think I know that Red Riding Hood one! I loved the illustrations even though it was dark and menacing (if it’s the same one. It was a GB.) I think they looked folk-artish. And there was something else about the pictures I liked too but I can’t quite remember- something about the food in the basket. The bread rolls looked good or something?!

20 07 2010

But wait! I found LRRH in a stash of my husband’s GB treasury volumes. Written and illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones. It wasn’t the food pictures (trust me to think it might be), it was the tapestry title page at the beginning that I really loved. 🙂 (And now I see that LRRH looks eerily like my 4 yo. Scary.)

20 07 2010
Tweets that mention Finding old (book) friends « Boobook --

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rebecca Newman, Rebecca Newman. Rebecca Newman said: .@thinkthinkers @ReadUpsideDown @sandyfussell My copy was in a forgotten crate in Mum's garage: #marinapicturebook […]

11 08 2010

Dear (young) book friend,

So now I know that I am totally ancient when compared to you. I was on my way to university when your friend Marina was published. That is bad. Really bad.

I’m at my Mum’s at the moment, and have been enjoying raiding her book shelves for my old faves. (Really old, that is. Like me, not like you.) Amongst the books I’ve been remembering are Goldy by Kathleen Mellor, Scuppers The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown and Feed the Animals by H A Rey. That one was really cool – it had fold out flaps, would you believe it?!!

I can’t find the one about the rabbit though. He cooks everything the he likes up in one big pot, thinking that it will be delicious, only to discover that things like carrots and chocolate cake and green veges and so on do not taste good as a mixture at all. That book’s missing. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try the garage. Maybe there’s a crate of kids books in my mum’s garage as well. You never know!

Yours anciently, Me.

12 08 2010

Hi Jeanne,

Ooh, you can stop by whenever you like and tell me how youthful I am. 🙂 What I find most fascinating, is that my favourite childhood books (especially the picture books) often seem to be out of print. It’s just so sad! How could ‘They’ let this happen?!

You could try the magical book sleuthing powers of thinkthinkers ( for tracking down your rabbity book. I hope your mum’s garage has a secret crate of books for you—everyone should have a secret crate of childhood books stashed away for them somewhere!

28 01 2011

Hi There,
i’m whiling away the afternoon and found this post after seeing it mentioned on Meredith’s blog. I had a similar experience with my favourite LGB jsut before Christmas. It completely blew my mind to hold the aCTUAL copy of a book I had such fond memories of. here’s a link to the post, just in case you’re interested –
Great blog!

28 01 2011

Isn’t it amazing how quickly you are transported back to your child-self when you open a long lost book friend? 🙂 I’m so glad your very own copy turned up. Heading over to your blog now …

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