A pink taxi

A pink taxi

December 15, 2010

Hand Me Down Books

My favorite books have not always been my own. My first memory of books are by Richard Scarry, which my parents used to read to me. When I was old enough to read myself, my grandmother bought me English fairy tales.

But I was most fascinated with French books since a very young age. They weren't easy to find in Dubai, and so we had very few at home. I devoured the classic Martine collection at one of my cousin's house. I still remember the joys of visiting her! Another cousin had an important collection of MiniRose, Bibliotheque Rose and Bibliotheque Verte. I would borrow them when I was on vacation in Lebanon, growing up with each level, volume after volume. Most of my Lebanese vacations were about catching up with my reading.

In Dubai, when we commuted with our dear friends, the Wongs, I used to wish that my ride from their home to mine would be delayed, so I could run to their Tintin collection and read from where I had left off last. My school luckily had a small collection of books in their makeshift library and I read every recommended book by my teacher: essentially the French classics and Pearl Buck in translation.

Eventually, we spent more time in  France and Switzerland and I was then able to build my own collection of French books. My children are more fortunate than I ever was. At an early age, they have the Martine collection, a few Caroline, an extensive collection of Franklin and many from  the Ecole des Loisirs and especially Le Pere Castor, the classics from the 1950s.

How can we read these books, re-read them, one sibling after the other, without sharing them with our New York cousins who are also growing up as francophone? They don't have as much access  to as many French books as their cousins do. Besides, the hand me down books that we gift them are offered with love because they are shared. Sometimes when my kids realize that their books are missing they rejoice at the fact that their cousins are reading them. My kids themselves have received Dr. Seuss books from my own cousins and have loved them, despite the wear and tear.

Hand me down books are precious gifts. In a similar way, when I lend a book to a friend, I do not ask them to return it to me, as I hope it will continue living in the hands of many, rather than sitting lifeless and dusty on a shelf, untouched.


  1. This is such a nice posting, especially as we will get to see you soon, and you will see many of your kids books in our library. I have always believed that books are the best gift for children, because they have so much entertainment and educational value for kids! We always remember you when I read to them your kids french books.

    You forgot to mention all the Comtesse de Segur books we read also, and Fantomette, Club des 5 and Nancy Drew in French. I think I read every single bibliotheque rose and verte that was out there. Don't forget Oui Oui also as the first book we ever read. But yes Martine has a special place in our hearts, with the pretty illustrations and the simple old fashioned stories.

    See you soon PinkTaxi!

  2. And now Saad is fortunate to be able to chew on the same books that were chewed almost a decade ago by his big cousin. It's very touching to find the bitemarks left by a cousin almost like a personal stamp of approval. Though he doesnt understand its meaning, Saad loves the sound and rythm of Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Dr Seuss.

    I'm also very fortunate to have two sisters who always recommend excellent novels for me to read and my father who recommends the best non-fictions. Many times, they hand these books down to me. It's always very special to open the latest non-fiction and find my father's signature and the date he completed the book on the first page.

  3. Hand me down American comics and TinTin in French were the luxury hand me down from my cousins in the 50s.I used to sneak into their bedrooms and loose myself for hours lost in the fantasia of Superman and Rintintin!Since I was Arabo-Anglophone, I used to wonder what TinTin would be exchanging with the Captain or the two detectives.I guess I formed my own stories,and my imagination went wild.
    Today my two year old grandchildren surf their IPads for the latest cartoons,stories and applications.My four year old grandson grabs my new BlackBerry Torch to get the latest games that are not found in his father's Bold!Is it the end of the friendship with the printed colorful material?I sincerely hope not!