GUESTWORDS: My Favorite Pastime

By Dianne Moritz

    Maybe it’s me, but I can’t imagine curling up with a Kindle on a cold winter’s night. Its slick, hard surface has no cuddle factor and just doesn’t appeal to me, not like a much-loved, well-thumbed book, and it never will. I’m a bookworm, a lover of books — printed, bound and glued, paper-covered books.
    There I am as a toddler in an early photograph, gazing at a picture book. I have dozens of my childhood books stashed on my bookshelves, complete with raggedy pages, rips, stains, creases, and crayon marks. Most of these are Golden Books — “I Can Fly,” “Our Puppy,” “Robert and His New Friends” — and cost 25 cents in the late 1940s and early ’50s. I still can’t bear to part with them.
    Story time was one of my favorite things about school, and my teachers presented the classics: “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf, “Caps for Sale,” “Make Way for Ducklings,” and tons of other great books for kids.
    In Iowa, where I grew up, our neighborhood school, Harriet Beecher Stowe, had a small library in an upstairs converted classroom, but the highlight of the week was the arrival of the bookmobile, a traveling library serving the Des Moines schools, a huge truck stocked with all kinds of books that we could check out and take home.
    Back then, not that many people had cars, and a bus trip downtown to the main library was daunting, especially during the bitter Iowa winters. My family didn’t own a television, either, so we spent lots of time reading, not knowing, at the time, that a love of books and reading is essential to a child’s educational development.
    Books and reading were a natural part of our lives, our culture. Even today I can recall the excitement I felt when I received my first official library card. We lived in Ames by then, and Friday nights were reserved for weekly trips to the library. I read all the preteen fiction I could carry home in my arms.
    Oh, how times have changed!
    I went to Pennsylvania for a few days recently and scheduled a trip to the Antique Car Museum in Hershey to meet the young son of my friend’s co-worker. I took along a few kiddie books for him. He barely glanced at them or me as he clicked away on some sort of technical device about which I hadn’t a clue. He jumped around, high on cookies and soda, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the room. (Are all kids today hyperactive monsters with BlackBerrys, iPads, or Game Boys glued to their fingers, or am I just out of it?)
    This past summer I exerted a lot of energy trying to create buzz for my first published children’s book, “Hush, Little Beachcomber.” I did readings, gave away copies by the carload, and joined Facebook to promote my book. I might have been better off looking for a real job.
    No one, but no one (except Mom and a few folks counted on one hand) could have cared. When I asked the woman across the street what her youngsters thought of my book, she said, “My daughter liked it, but she likes books.”
    Anyway, the other night I saw an ad on TV for a Kindle. Did you know they can be had now for only $79? (I’m not that brain dead, because I remember when they cost $300!) I wish gasoline prices were plummeting that fast.
    No matter how cheap Kindles become, I’m not about to buy one. And Santa, take note, I don’t want a Kindle for Christmas.
    My holiday photo will show me sipping a cup of homemade hot chocolate, buried under the covers in my cozy bed alongside a couple of furry friends, reading the newest Ruth Rendell mystery, a memoir or three, and Calvin Trillin’s latest, reveling in the beguiling dust-jacket graphics, the scent of new paper, and the whisper of flicking pages.
    Cheers to books and book lovers, libraries and librarians everywhere!
    Dianne Moritz is a longtime Star contributor. She lives in North Sea.