Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tales from the Bookstore: Precicious Child #1

So I have acquired an exciting new job at a local independent bookstore. I am very happy there. I like my coworkers and I enjoy the work and the customers and the windows and everything. No more dogs. Except my own of course. I am mad at them right now because despite my best efforts they got into my Christmas candy today (I was only away for 4 hours, but that's all it takes) and made themselves very sick. I came home to a lot of vomit, which I guess is good because if they hadn't thrown up all over everything I own they'd probably have died. If they don't die I may still murder them. Right now the puppy is crying because they are confined to a cage in the living room lined with piddle pads. Tough shit Bertie. I'm not letting you sleep with me until I am completely satisfied that the bouts of diarrhea and vomiting are completely over. Anyway, this has nothing to do with the precocious child.

Thus far at the bookstore there have been several precocious children. There was one grandmother who came in with three granddaughters and let them all pick out their own books and they spent a loooong time pouring through the stacks. Another lady came in last week and asked to see the children's atlases. Her 9 year old grandson (or possibly nephew?) likes maps to the exclusion of all else. The maps in the children's atlases sucked so I suggested we look at the regular atlases that had all sorts of precise detailed maps in them. She said she was worried about him lugging a big heavy book around. I said I'd willingly dragged all sorts of heavy books with me when I was a kid. She replied that she wasn't worried about him, she was worried about his parents reaction because apparently he would insist on taking it with him where ever he went. He had even dragged one of his maps to the ballet and got very upset if he had to leave it behind. So I suggested maybe the small pocket atlas, or one of each, the big one for home and the pocket for travel. Don't know what she finally decided but it was hilarious listening to her talk about this kid. I figure he'll either become a cartographer or he'll grow out of it and be pissed when people keep giving him maps for the rest of his life.

But the best precocious child was the one who was in today. She was 9 or 10 and wearing one of those knit hats with the long strings and it had teddy bear ears. She came up to my register and said she was looking for the "grown up" version of The Secret Garden.

"Do you mean unabridged?" I asked. She frowned and I could tell she didn't know what that word meant.

"I want one with the whole story. Not one with parts missing."

"I know exactly what you mean," I said. "I don't like the ones with parts missing either."

I showed her over to the wall of Children's Classics. The Secret Garden was on the top shelf, and it's public domain so there are lots of versions both abridged and unabridged. I pulled one down at random and checked.

"See?" I said. "This is the one you're looking for. If it says 'unabridged' that means it's the whole book." She said something about wanting one by the real author and pointed to the version on our bargain rack. The bargain books are lots of 'childrens' books like Frankenstein or Dracula or Romeo and Juliet. All public domain and most are abridged to one degree or another. But they're also nice hardcovers that are cheaper than most paperbacks. The book she's pointed to has a note along the side that says "adapted from Burnett's original version."

"That's how I knew it wasn't the real one," she said.

"Ah, sharp eye!" I said. I was absolutely delighted with her, and moreso when she came up with her mom and her sister and a huge stack of books for all three of them. We can despair for some of today's youth, but not for this one.

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