Bibliophilia: Companion Library

 For the love of old books, I’ve done many things. For these, it was simple enough… a dollar and fifty cents, plus the time and energy to bring them 500 miles home with me, and the shelf space to keep them. It was, perhaps, a silly thing to do. You see, I don’t intend to read any of these books. I plan to repair one, if I can, as it will fall apart when read in the condition it currently is. But ultimately, they are both a memory of my past, and a hope for the future. 

We had several of these books when I was young, and my mother told me she had grown up with them, as well. Classic children’s stories, in a clever binding that gives you two in one cover. There are quite a few of them – I don’t know how many, as my initial search only gave me ones that are being sold online, instead of information on the publication and series length, which is what I wanted. I do know that we didn’t have Tom Sawyer Abroad/A Dog of Flanders when I was small, as I haven’t read the first, and we had the second in a standalone paperback copy I can recall vividly. I did love dog book, and horse books. I’m not sure we had The Little Lame Prince/The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, because I don’t recall ever reading Lame Prince, and yes, I have read Robin Hood, although perhaps not this version. The First Reader, when we were looking at these volumes together, zeroed in on this one, telling me how much he’d loved Pyle’s version of Robin Hood. I have to wonder if it holds up to re-reading? Perhaps these will be read sooner than I anticipated! 

I found it interesting to look at the wear and tear on these copies. They all seem to have been library books, marked from Carroll Lane School, and you can tell from the bindings which were the most popular amongst the pupils. Little Women/Little Men having been a favorite of my family, I am not surprised at this one being in the poorest condition, and I am hoping some book tape will keep it together for another generation’s reading. Heidi/Hans Brinker has already been mended, as they are also perennial favorites for young readers. Even those who might not have grown up with the goats, as I shared with Heidi while I first read her stories. 

These books will have a special place on the living room shelf, tucked in a low corner just above the toys we brought in for young guests to enjoy on the occasional visits we get. I think they may be worth re-reading as an adult, particularly if I want to write more children’s books myself. I’ll likely find a few others to join them – I do have most if not all of the Chronicles of Narnia, for instance. And a few copies of my own books likely should join them. I don’t know that I will go out of my way to pick up more of the Companion Library books, but I knew as soon as I saw these it would be worth my time to acquire them, for the nostalgia alone! 

9 thoughts on “Bibliophilia: Companion Library

  1. That’s a wonderful find! Your grandma got me those when I was about eight, I think. I don’t remember how many there were, but I think that’s the set that was supposed to come one book a month, and after the first two, all of the rest came in one box! Grandma was upset, because she’d hoped to stretch them out, and of course, I read all of them practically in one sitting! We didn’t have access to a public library at the time, and I didn’t have a lot of reading material (until I was given all of Zane Gray’s westerns the following year).

  2. I blundered across the kids’ classics in the usual way (and the Howard Pyle Robin Hood is still great). But where I really made my own mark in the family library was the way my meant-well-but-neglectful parents made up for sporadic attention by funding my depredations at periodic school Book Fairs, where I would end up with literally every dog or horse book on offer that I didn’t already have (and a few more).

    After I exhausted the school library, with no bookstore within walking distance, this was the only certain way I had of getting books in quantity (5/week minimum) not already on the home shelves, until my mother finally started taking me on book-buying expeditions at stores for the paperback revolution, esp. for SFF. (Ahhh… those lovely shelves with the stretches of Ace Doubles.)

  3. I snapped up the Time Life mythology series that I read as a kid, at the library sale, same reasoning.

    Even if I never opened them again*, that is my horde and worth having. 😀

    *and I have, and the kids have, because come on monsters!

  4. I bought a hardcover 1950s edition of the Howard Pyle King Arthur I had read growing up (in a Dover paperback). Still good, although I think the femme fatales (Vivian, Morgaine, and that one from the story about the knight favored by the Lady of the Lake) were probably a bad influence on me growing up.

  5. I remember these! We had them at our house! I was fascinated by A Dog of Flanders. The idea of a dog pulling a cart like a horse would just seemed so strange to me.

    1. My mother was a war bride from Antwerp, and I tried to get her to explain the whole dog-pulling-cart thing, but she wasn’t really into animals & their uses. (Other than edible rabbits…)

  6. I was looking to see if you had The Five Little Peppers but don’t see it. That was one of my favorites. We read A Dog of Flanders at school when I was in sixth or seventh grade, and well remember my teacher breaking down and asking me to read the rest of it. About as subtle as a sledgehammer, that ending was.

    1. I have Five Little Peppers in a standalone hardcover on a different shelf – although it will be moved to the new ‘children’s section’ of the home library soon – we loved that one when I was a girl. That’s one of the books we read aloud to one another, along with all of the Little Women series, Swiss Family Robinson, and Heidi.

  7. Reader’s Digest also published children’s collections, called Reader’s Digest Best-Loved Books For Children; they were hardcovers, similar to the Condensed Books. They were abridgements, of course, being from Reader’s Digest, but expertly done, as most RD books were. The Best-Loved Books each came with a hardcover in a single color: red, blue, green, yellow. Among the books collected were Robin Hood, Treasure Island, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Adventures of Tom Sawyer. They usually had illustrations commissioned just for these editions.

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