When I was making the Shelfari site, I asked our readers to share their favorites. Denise Reynolds told me about 24 Days of Before Christmas by Madeline L’Engle. She used to check this book out from the library each year and read it to her girls. Later, she decided to purchase copies for them, but the new copies didn’t have the same special look and feel—they didn’t smell like the old library book, and the cover wasn’t the same. The girls appreciated the thought but spotted the imposters right away.
I know the feeling. My dad, when we were small children, would read The Night Before Christmas to us on Christmas Eve. I have a vivid memory of him in an armchair with three of us (Susan was not yet born) sitting in his lap. This is a real memory, or, perhaps, the memory of a wish. Did he only do this once, and I’ve romanticized it into a series of Hallmark greeting-card sentimental moments? Maybe. However it happened, I have the 1970’s version of the Big Golden Book still. The insides are torn and fallen away from the cover. Yet, in all of these years, I haven’t been able to bring myself to update or replace it.
Each holiday season, I look over newer versions of The Night Before Christmas. It’s a classic poem, but any other illustrations (no matter how much more artistic) don’t satisfy. They are either too “cute” or two serious or too something.
The newer books don’t smell like my book either. An E-reader can’t take the place of that old, musty book smell.