To tell you the truth, I think I’ve lived my whole life with “my nose stuck in a book,” as my grandmother, and my mother, used to say. Not that they weren’t great readers themselves, they were. It was just that whenever I was needed, or wanted, or was supposed to be doing something else, I had my nose in a book.

This affliction started early. And was aided and abetted by my mum. I remember her reading to me from both of these old books. I don’t really remember much about The Castle of Grumpy Grouch, except that it was a great favourite. Mum and I talked about it a few months ago, about where it disappeared to, and how much we loved it. Then when I was writing a blog post about how Hubby had been a teensy bit grumpy in the past few months, the title just came to mind. So I looked the book up. And found that Kessinger Publishing had made available “facsimile reprints” of “this rare antiquarian book” because they considered it “culturally important.” Cool. So I ordered one from Amazon and sent it to my mum. The Hungry Tiger of Oz I remember better. How I loved the concept of the vegetable man who would take root if he stood too long in one spot. I remember puzzling over that as a child. How did he sleep, or eat his dinner? Would slippers help?

I think that my grandmother Burpee bought me, The Shiniest Star. I always loved this tale of the little angel Touselhead who could never make her star as shiny as the other angels. The book had pop-ups, and little pockets with things tucked into them, and I adored it. When my niece Susie had her first child, I thought I would wrap it up and give it to her, from one Susie Burpee to the other.  It was a bit beaten up, some of the pop-ups didn’t pop any more. I had written my name in the front, along with my signature drawing of a lady, in high heels, a triangle skirt, holding her purse in one hand and a yo-yo in the other. I have absolutely no idea why I drew this lady in all of my books, and why she always held a purse and a yo-yo. Kids are weird, aren’t they? Anyway, when Susie and her husband came to Ottawa one weekend, I went along with my parcel to meet her for coffee. I feared that Susie would think this was an exceedingly stupid gift. But I needn’t have worried. She loved it. When she opened it, she got all teary and cried…”Oh, look there’s your little name!” And then we both cried.

These are the first books that I remember reading to myself. Maggie Muggins and her creator Mary Grannan were kind of an institution in New Brunswick. And especially at our house. Grannan wasn’t only a writer, and later a radio and television personality; she had also been my mum’s grade one teacher. And like many Canadian kids, I grew up reading her books and watching Maggie Muggins on TV.

After Maggie, I graduated to books like these. Some were cast-offs from my older sisters, some were my own. These are two that I rescued when my mum moved from the old farmhouse into her new little home. We took many of our old books to the Salvation Army Store, but I brought a representative sample home with me. Like these two.

And these ones that had belonged to my father when he was a boy.

I had to be selective. We have a small house and I had a whole lot of books already. Especially old books.. I love old books. These are a few that used to belong to a school teacher who lived near my mum’s parents and taught at the Devon Superior School. When Kelsey Gregory, who had never married, and her bachelor brother died, my grandparents bought her house with all its contents. Kelsey was a great reader, and over the years, I appropriated quite a few of her books. This Gene Stratton-Porter book, The Keeper of the Bees, is one of my favourites.

And this one too. Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch  by Alice Caldwell Hegan, published in 1911. Mrs. Wiggs is a “philosopher” whose entire “philosophy lay in keeping the dust off her rose-coloured spectacles.” She is a widow raising her five children alone after “Mr. Wiggs travelled to eternity by the alcohol route.” I love that bit. Kelsey’s taste definitely ran to melodrama, with a bit of tragedy and sacrifice, where everything turns out all right in the end. Can’t argue with that, I guess.

My taste (as many of you know) definitely runs to murder and mayhem, with lots of Canadian lit, and a good dash of literary chick lit. This is the appellation I like to give to those books that are intelligent, and really well written, but are most definitely favoured by women readers. Books by writers like Nancy Mitford, Anita Brookner, and Barbara Pym. Not necessarily written for women, but which are mostly about women, and probably read primarily by women. I’m not a big fan of non-fiction, unless it’s a subject that already interests me… like the Mitford sisters. But I’m trying to cultivate that.
Anyhoo. These are the books I currently have my nose in. Or should I say, in which I currently have my nose? Not wanting to end a sentence with a preposition, you know.
I’m finally getting around to reading the newly published Harper Lee book, Go Set a Watchman. I’m also reading two non-fiction books. Me, Myself and Us, by Canadian professor and writer Brian Little, is about “the science of personality.” It’s really interesting. But I’m not good at reading non-fiction books at one go. I usually dip into them over the course of several months, and eventually finish them, maybe. The other non-fiction book I’m working on is The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills. Ironically I’d just started reading this memoir about Marja Mills’ relationship with the Lee sisters, Alice and Nelle (Harper), when I heard the news that a “new” Harper Lee novel would be published this year. Let’s just say that I have lots to say about that event, but I’m waiting until I finish reading the novel. I’ll get back to you about both books later in November.

This is my “on deck” pile. The new Sharon Bolton mystery Little Black Lies. Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bollick is a non-fiction book that I’ve been wanting to read since last April. I stumbled upon an article about the book when I was writing this post about Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner. And the Margaret Atwood book Madd Addam has sat unread on my shelf for over a year. Shame on me. I know it will be fabulous.
So, this week. When I really should have been cleaning my house, I wasn’t. Because, well, I had to finish the Laura Lippman that was due back at the library, and there was the Harper Lee novel that I needed to read before my book club meeting. And as I sat down with my book and my cup of tea, I chuckled as I thought of my grandmother and my mum. And how I still have my nose in a book when I could be doing something else, and probably should be doing something else.

But, if my penchant for avoiding just about anything in favour of reading is exasperating, they have no one to blame but themselves. If they hadn’t been such avid readers. If there wasn’t always a pile of books somewhere in our house to read, or if Grammy didn’t always have boxes of her books ready to give to us. If my mum hadn’t read to us kids so faithfully when we were young. If we didn’t always get books for Christmas; I mean, it wasn’t Christmas if we didn’t get a book or two. If Mum and Grammy didn’t always have at least one book on the go themselves. Well, maybe I’d have been better at dusting or cleaning my bathroom, less dreamy, or so unable, it seems, to remember what the heck I’m supposed to be doing if I spy my half finished book before the task is completed.

Yep. I have to say, Mum.

If my nose is always stuck in a book. Not my fault.


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29 thoughts on “With My Nose in a Book”

    1. Trixie Belden was my favourite of the two as well. I still think of her when I see rolled up jeans…or dungarees as they called them in the books.

  1. I'm the same Sue & you brought back the memory of my mum saying just those words . Now it's my husband , coming into the kitchen to the smell of burning toast etc – " you get your nose stuck in a book ! " . I don't know any of the books you loved , our favorites here were all totally different but are still vivid in my mind – Rupert Bear , Toby Twirl & my beloved Famous Five by Enid Blyton . I do remember once getting hold of a book about the Bobbsie Twins ? & liking the sound of something called maple syrup – perhaps that was Canadian . I wonder if children's lit was always homegrown ? It's lovely to see all those books treasured by others & now being treasured by you . Great post
    Wendy in York

    1. Thanks, Wendy. We read Enid Blyton too. But I have never read the Famous Five series. And the Bobbsey Twins… Nan and Bert and Freddy and Flossie. I loved the adventure on a houseboat best. But I don't remember the maple syrup. Probably because it didn't stick out to me, being such a regular thing where I come from. We made maple syrup every spring at home with the sap from the trees that grew along our brook.

  2. My parents' budget didn't easily accommodate book ownership, although I remember that Mom once enrolled in a book club that yielded copies of Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses along with some A.A.Milne, and gems such as Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and, yes, Mrs.Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. And I read my mom's beloved copy of Lorna Doone and we memorized The Lady of Shalott from her gilt-edged leather-bound copy of Tennyson. But most of our books came from trips to the library, several times a week, walking the mile or so home (this was pre-metric, of course!) with our arms laden. There was always much housework to help with in our very large family, and as the oldest, I was generally the first name called, so sometimes I'd lie on the floor of the shared "girls' bedroom" between two beds with my book held above my face, low enough to escape detection by cursory search. I wasn't precisely hiding, but if I was so lost in a book that I couldn't hear myself being called to set the table or fold the laundry, well . . . . Kindred spirits, sounds as if we were, and you host many of us here at your site.
    Have you read the first two Atwoods in that trilogy? I read MaddAddam some time ago, but I want to get back and read the three through again from the beginning. Might be stalling because dystopias aren't comfy places to hide out. . .

    1. I remember going to the library too. I loved the old brick library in Marysville, where we lived before my mum married my stepfather. And it was a big day at school when the bookmobile visited and we all marched out class by class to choose books. My older sisters shared a bedroom…always referred to as the "girls room." Funny eh? I love the image of you secreted between the beds. Now why didn't I think of that?
      I have read the two early books in the Madd Addam trilogy. They were great. Especially Oryx and Crake. You might be right about stalling…. I think that's what I'm doing too.

    2. I wasn't very clear — I've read Oryx and Crake as well as The Year of the Flood already, before I read MaddAddam, but given that it's at least 10 years since I read O&C, I think I'd like to read all three back to back now. . . someday. . .

  3. Have you read the Louise Penny books? Mysrery, Canada…
    Loved my library, Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames

    1. I have read a few Louise Penny. She's very well thought of here in Canada. Read a couple of Cherry James, as well. I remember one where she was a nurse???

  4. Totally identify with this. I've always loved reading and spent many happy hours in our local library as a child. Can't imagine life without reading. It really is a wonderful gift. Always have a number of books waiting to be read and generally favour fiction or biography. Currently embarking on my second Adrian McKinty though might have to take a break from him to fit in the latest Robert Galbraith which is winging its way via Amazon. Iris

    1. I haven't read any of JK Rowling's post Harry Potter books. Do you like them? Any suggestions as to what to choose and which to stay away from, Iris?

    2. Yes, I've only read the two Robert Galbraith ones. Both are enjoyable mysteries and the central character, private detective Cormoran Strike is interesting. I think you'd enjoy them. ("The Cuckoo's Calling is first, then "The Silkworm"). I haven't read "A Casual Vacancy" but it was recently made into a tv series on BBC or Channel 4 and didn't get great reviews. Iris

  5. The Shiniest Star…I loved that story, the pop ups, the gold foil star. You are the only person I know who knows of this book. My copy has gone astray so I looked it up on Amazon…$46.00. :(. Still looking! ;). Robin

    1. I had forgotten about that gold foil star. Funny…you're the only other person I know of, as well, who has heard of this book. It's amazing isn't it how much impact our childhood reading had on all on us.

  6. I've enjoyed reading this post so much Sue … I feel I can picture you as a child! The Shiniest Star sounds wonderful …. such a lovely idea to share it with your niece. Like Wendy in York I don't recognise the books you mention but read all the Famous Five stories and a series called Mallory Towers about girls adventures at boarding school. I grew up wishing I was called George or Sam!!! Georgina or Samantha … 🙂 not sure why I wanted a name that sounded like a boys, maybe because these girls in the books appeared so feisty and always had the best adventures!

    1. Thanks Rosie. So glad you enjoyed it. I've heard of Mallory Towers… but never read those books. I also loved books about feisty girls. And it seems that most of our loved childhood stories had girls like this. Girls could do anything in these books. We didn't need The Spice Girls to tell us that.

  7. Aaah I share a love of books too — I was obsessed with all the Enid Blyton books when I was a child! And still love to read even now — when I have time 😉 I have literally just reviewed the most *beautiful* book I've ever seen, you would absolutely love it! It's called the Wonder Garden! Pop along and see the pics on my blog — you'll love it 🙂 xx

  8. I love reading but never make enough time for it!! I grew up on Trixie Beldon. She and Honey were my favorites. I never did get into the Nancy Drew too much. You've inspired me to hit the library!

    1. Me too. I much preferred Trixie and Honey to Nancy and Bess and George. Thanks for stopping by. Sorry about the "feed" thing…and the Bloglovin' thing:)

    1. I think it did Lisa. Or a better teacher, anyway. It's so much easier to get kids excited about something if you're excited about it as well. And so much more fun to teach something that you love.

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