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  • Writer's pictureLinda Borromeo

When a Picture is Worth a Thousand (or More) Words

What I'll Never Know

Have you ever browsed in a used bookstore and wondered about an inscription?

I still remember one I found inside a picture book based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When I took the slender volume down from the shelf and opened the cover, I discovered this inscription:

"To Beth on Christmas Day.

Love, Mom and Daddy.

December 1953."

Does Beth still remember that Christmas day? Did she grow up to have a career, children, a happy life? I'll never know who she was or any of the events in her life after that Christmas day.

What I Do Know

I do know what happened to the owners of the books in my picture below. These vintage books belonged to my grandmother, my great-aunt, my mother and my father.

My Library Shelfie with a book handed down through my family. You can see, to the right, a toy coffee grinder belonging to my grandmother as a child.

The stories were shelved in a bookcase that seemed magical to me as a child. I grew up in a home built in 1920 with sliding pocket doors to the living room, beautiful glass door knobs, old-fashioned keys, and the bookcase built by my grandfather. As my "Meet Linda" page describes, the glass doors creaked when I opened them, and always afterward, I associate that sound with new story adventures.

How can you encourage wonderful story memories for your family? Here are some ideas:

1. Reading Aloud

My Dad's Gift to His Family

I can still hear my dad's voice reading to us from these books. After a long day of work, Dad still read to the whole family in the evening. I especially remember Dad reading Ralph Moody's books set in the American West.

Today, I found something I'd missed before—a note in my mother's handwriting tucked within the pages of a Ralph Moody book. She'd kept track of the stories he'd read to us from the series.

Peoples Book Club edition of "Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers."

2. Giving the Gift of a Story

Return to Oz

Beth received an Oz book in 1953. On another Christmas day long ago, my father and his younger sister, Grace, opened a present and discovered Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.

Dad kept the book through the years before passing it along to me late in his life. I like to think of my father attaching the Santa decoration (below, lower left corner) to his new book as a child.

3. Start Passing Down a Heritage of Family Books

Books are memorable both for their content and their connections. Here are three more ways to pass down a heritage of books:

  • Take your children on story adventures by visiting bookstores together,

  • Build a special bookcase together as a place for their treasures and discoveries,

  • Give well-chosen books on all special occasions and always write an inscription!

On my bookshelf, I see a rich heritage. It's the gift families and individuals can give to a child—the love of reading.

How did my family pass along a love of reading? Here are the books they shared and the inscriptions inside (from left to right in the picture):

1. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Inscription: To Marjorie, Christmas 1933 from Dad and Mama.

There's a surprise inside this book. I had no idea movie tie-ins were done in the faraway past too. The cover has an illustration of Mary Pickford as Rebecca. Inside, there are pictures from her 1917 silent movie. The book was handed down to my mother and now to me.

2. Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. To Blanche, 1918.

3. Five Little Peppers Midway by Margaret Sidney. To Marjorie from Aunt May and Aunt Laura.

4. Judith of the Plains by Marie Manning.

5. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado by John C. Van Dyke. July 1921

6. On Autumn Trails by Emma-Lindsay Squire. To Marjorie—a gift from Mama and Dad on our vacation trip Aug. 22, 1932.

7. Geraldine's Birthday Surprise by Alice Hale Burnett. To Marjorie from Aunt May Christmas 1928.


Originally owned by my great-aunt May, I enjoyed seeing that this beautiful book was published in 1893.

My first book, Mystery Shores, is set on a lighthouse island in the summer of 1893. Perhaps this edition of Five Little Peppers Midway was part of the traveling lighthouse library that made its way to Mystery Shores Island in my story.

Mystery Fair, the sequel to Mystery Shores, is set at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It will be available for pre-order soon.


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