This was one of my favorite grades at Morningside. At one point we got to pick a book to read, and I picked Gone with the Wind. Although I had been reading ahead of myself all along, it was at this point that I took flight, I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I went to the library and checked out 15 and 20 books at a time, read them and turned them back in 4 days later, checking out 15 and 20 more. The librarians were befuddled. I’m sure they must have encountered *readers* before, but they acted as if I were the first one.
My Momma had to sign permissions for me to check out the books kept behind the librarian’s desk (things like Gray’s Anatomy, Childbirth Without Fear, and various other books considered too “sexual” and advanced to be on the general shelves. There were the “adult” bookshelves that I had to have permission to checkout books from, too. Those were the shelves that were not labeled specifically for “children.” They had “regular” books on them – like The Iliad, The Odyssey, the Song of Roland and Le Morte D’Arthur (the un-bowdlerized versions, thankyouverymuch!), and the novels by Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers, Daphne DuMaurier, and Leslie Charteris. These were kept hidden from children, and I had to have permission from my Momma to read them. Even with that permission, the librarian would frequently call Momma and ask her about a specific book. Momma was kept on her toes trying to keep up with me! She didn’t worry too much when I got into du Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas, pere and fils; nor did she worry about Sir Walter Scott. I went through all those in one summer. No, not all the Scotts, all the French and English authors I just listed.
This was the year I read nearly every book in the local branch of the library. I would go on Saturday morning, read books until lunchtime, go across the street to the drugstore and get lunch at the counter, return to the library and read until about 3, check out 15 or 20 books and come home.
I can’t remember all the books I read that year. But I had a great grounding in English and French (translated, of course) literature and poetry. It was great. I continued my forays into literature, science, and mythology over the next 4 – 6 years.
I’m so grateful to my Momma for letting me read everything I wanted to – anatomy, physiology, great literature, lesser writings, mythology, religion, poetry, prose, fiction, science fiction (actually didn’t get much into Sci-Fi until I was about 17 and that is another story), mysteries, romances – all of it. Maybe I didn’t understand all that I read, but I gained a broad basis for challenging life when I grew older.