“The ink in the period at the end of this sentence has more atoms in it than there are people in the whole world.”
The words opened up concepts I had never even imagined. I read on.
“In a thimbleful of air there are more atoms than you could count if you lived to be a million years old.” (I was currently eleven years old.)
I’d been snuggled up in the corner of the couch, reading, but I was so astonished by this new information that I got up and wandered around the house reading the sentences to anyone who would listen.
I was like Belle, walking around with my nose stuck in a book. That in itself wasn’t unusual, but said nose was usually stuck in a Nancy Drew or Judy Bolton book. In the summer of 1963 I broadened my world in every direction. I set out to read straight through all sixteen volumes of The Golden Book Encyclopedia. And I did.
I read all the time and everywhere, but the memory that stands out most clearly in my mind, is taking my book and climbing up to the little tree house my dad had built for us in the cherry tree. It was a roofless structure with four-foot-high walls, and a couple of little windows. A fair distance up the hill from our house. I would lie on the floor of the tree house and read, and then look up through the branches and ponder. And eat cherries.
The books are long gone. But for some reason I’ve always remembered those exact words describing atoms. They sort of make the caption on my mental picture of the summer of the encyclopedia.
A few weeks ago John and I were at a library sale shopping for books for One More Chapter. Imagine my delight when I caught sight of the first volume of The Golden Book Encyclopedia! As I stood there and thumbed through the book every picture brought back a shining clear memory.
From time to time I get an e-mail from someone asking about a particular book, trying to replicate a memory from their childhood. (“Does your book have a picture of such and such on the cover?”) Nostalgia. I love it when I can send them the very book they describe.
As I reached the end of my new encyclopedia I realized that Volume One only covered Aardvark to Army. I would need to find the next volume if I wanted to read about Atoms again.
Now I was one of those people sending e-mails to booksellers, asking specific questions about a book from my childhood.
Volume two arrived a few days ago. Arthur to Blood. And there was the entry about atoms – word for word as I remembered.
And here I am again talking about it to anyone who will listen.
Post a comment and tell us your favourite book memory from your childhood.
February 25, 2012 at 9:55 am
I remember when you found that that book did not go as far as atom. You were very sad. My favorite book as a child was star of wild horse canyon.
February 25, 2012 at 9:58 am
I think you read “Star of Wild Horse Canyon” about 10 times. I hope you have a copy for Nathan. 🙂
February 25, 2012 at 10:55 am
My big sister reading “The chronicles of Narnia” books to me when I was little.
February 25, 2012 at 10:56 am
Not a golden book… however my only memory of reading books when I was small!
February 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm
I remember having my nose stuck in the book “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” as I left the house when my Mom trying to get me to go somewhere. I remember laughing so hard and being so into the book that I almost tripped over something in front of the car. Now my Mom was laughing that I was that much into a book and she loved it and that made me love reading that much more. I read more books that summer than I ever had any summer before.
I think I have a full set of those encyclopedias way up high in my library. If I remember right they are actually my sister’s so I put them way up there to store them for her. They aren’t in very good shape, mostly because we read them so much. 🙂
Thanks for the memories!!
February 26, 2012 at 4:11 am
You successfully started a montage of my life. An old Yogi Bear book that Grandpa Pete would read: “Then Yogi Bear and Boo-boo-boo…..” with his Italian accent. Mom reading The Children’s Bible with vivid pictures like the one of Jacob’s Ladder telling majestic stories. Cowboy Andy, not a great book, but the chilly Marysville Library had five copies of it, so whenever nothing else was available, I’d check it out. Reading Why A Duck at the Modesto Library which consisted of scenes from Marx Bros movies and photos. And Sac State where I’d take time out from my serious reading to discover New Yorker-style comics, the most memorable being one with an Asian family singing around a gleeful birthday boy, “Happy Birthday Tu Yu.” These memories, politically correct and otherwise, remind me how much artwork creates a lasting impression along with the sound of a special voice and, of course…..those words.
February 17, 2013 at 10:22 am
I love Golden Book Encylopedias I still have one volume a lot worse for wear. But how beautfully illustrated they were. I loved them. I was born in 58′ and when I was only 3 got the first of what was about only the first 4 or 5 of the 16 volumes. Thanx for posting this 🙂
December 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm
I remember buying the set one book each week at my local Kroger Supermarket in Huntsville, Alabama. Does anyone remember what the books cost each week? I seem to think it was a dollar, but I would be interested to hear if anyone can verify or correct that memory.