Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #1


Many of us are in agreement that we love bookstores. My favorite establishments are those that also offer used books and assorted vintage goodies, such as magazines, music and other miscellany. Although not widely traveled, I have wonderful memories of great bookshops spread from Duluth, MN, to Williamsburg, VA, with many in Michigan and Canada sandwiched in between.

As you can well imagine, I’ve made memorable “finds” in those visits. These items tend to fall into two groups: something specific I was looking for, or a totally unexpected piece. The coup that I will relate today definitely falls into the “unexpected” category.

Prior to my recent move to Texas, I had also lived and worked in this state for some years when my children were young. Before heading back to my home state of Michigan, I began studies toward earning elementary education certification and fulfilling my quest to become a teacher. Denton, Texas, being the home of two universities, is a logical place for a used bookstore, of course. Recycled Books, Records, & CD’s , at the time I lived there, was already bursting its seams at a small location, and is today housed in a larger spot within a former opera house in the picturesque town square.

That day, I had at least one of my daughters with me, and we were just scanning the small children’s section. An author’s name on a hardcover picture book caught my eye…Don Freeman of Corduroy fame. The title, Hattie the Backstage Bat, wasn’t familiar to me, so I decided to take a look. It was a former library edition, in good shape, with no tears or other visual damage. I then looked toward the front of the book to notice that it had belonged to the local, Emily Fowler Library, and at one time been sold out of the library’s used bookshop, before ending up at Recycled Books and priced at $1.50. Turning the page, I was astounded to discover this:

Don Freeman jpeg 001 (2)

I can just imagine Mr. Freeman visiting the library during the year following publication of this book, meeting the eager listeners, and producing this original drawing for them right on the spot. Yes, Hattie’s blue hat did get a little smudged, and unfortunately an uninformed or overworked library worker  stamped “discard” in the middle of her left wing. I love it, just the same, and will treasure this book always! As an added bonus, the story is charming, and I shared it (along with other Don Freeman titles) with countless children during my years in the classroom.

In doing a little more research on this author, who died in 1978, I find on a lovely website, run by his son, that he was not only an author and illustrator of children’s books, but also a painter and lithographer who “vividly portrayed the street life and theater world of New York City in the 1930s and 40s.” That site contains a wealth of information and images, so you may want to take a few minutes out of your day for a visit.

What is your favorite “find” from a bookstore?



29 thoughts on “Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #1

  1. As much as I love new and used bookstores, I can not remember a single “find”, other than books I went in looking for and others I never expected to find. Recently in a used bookstore in the Shenandoah Valley (forgot the name of the town and the bookstore, unfortunately), I found some old Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames books from my childhood. The books were in fair to poor condition and the store owner wanted $25 each for them. (In the 60s these books probably sold for no more than $1.25). I did not both to try to negotiate a better price and I certainly was not willing to pay that much for books in less than good condition, so I left without them. I have not found those series anywhere else, so I’m not sure if I was happy to leave them behind or not. Congratulations on finding that signed author copy.

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  2. What a wonderful find, Becky. I was browsing a second hand bookshop a few years ago (I just can’t help myself) and found an 1899 copy of “The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll” by S. Dodgson Collingwood (Lewis’ nephew). I can’t remember how much I paid for it but it wasn’t expensive. The previous owner was obviously interested in Carroll and Alice Hargreaves because many of the pages are interspersed with old newspaper clippings about them. Some of them date back to the 1930’s and are such a fascinating snapshot of the time. I had to buy it – I was just so curious to read through all the old clippings. Your post made me think of it and I’ve just had a very enjoyable 20 minutes leafing through them again.

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  3. There’s a similarly beloved used bookstore in the town next door – Niantic, CT – called the Book Barn. It carries so many books that they have four local locations spread along the main street through town. My son has worked there for a little over two years and comes home with unbelievable treasures. I couldn’t name my favorite, but I’m always astonished at the number of author-signed copies that he finds. My house is overflowing with sensational and surprising picture books and novels for all ages. Thanks for this wonderful post!

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  4. Browsing used bookstores is my favorite activity in the world! One of the best I’ve ever seen was a huge used bookstore in Milwaukee that was several stories of old, musty and intriguing books. As I was looking through the fiction offerings on my only visit there about 40 years ago, I happened upon an old volume titled” Lydia of the Pines” written by Honore Willsie Morrow in 1917. My heart started pounding and my eyes filled with tears. Just a few months before, my grandmother, a German immigrant, had mentioned the first book she had learned to read in English, Lydia of the Pines!! She had said that she’d love to read it again. I was so excited to find that treasured book. I bought it and gave it to her, and she was so pleased. The funniest thing about that store was that the drawer for change faced the customer, and you could make your own change!!

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  5. When I was a kid I got a book called Stories of the Supernatural through a program at school where kids could order books from a list. One of the stories was “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood. I found it terrifying at the time, and still consider it one of the best of its kind. Anyway, I lost the book at some point and was thrilled to find a copy years later in a used bookstore. I love used bookstores, especially the kind that are a bit seedy and sell mostly mass-market paperbacks. At a slightly better class bookstore in Vancouver, BC I found a complete edition of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories — an enormous volume. Every few years I re-read the whole thing cover to cover.
    Thanks for inspiring this excursion down memory lane!

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    1. Both excellent finds, Audrey! I know what you mean about the somewhat “seedy” stores, especially the ones where books are piled on the floor, here and there, or in paper sacks waiting to be shelved. It’s like a treasure hunt!


  6. What a fun find!!! My best find was a small pen and ink drawing of an American Indian playing chess with a white business man. The artwork was tucked into a book on U.S. history. The very detailed, realistic drawing was unsigned.

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