bargains, books, can lit, canadian authors, Canadian Literature, children's books, Children's literature, first edition, great finds, jean little, kate, library, library discards, mine for keeps, signatures, signed books, signed first editions
So, we were at the library, and on our way out we stopped to browse the discard pile because we can’t help ourselves. It’s a sickness.
Anyway, I made a couple of good finds, including another Indian In The Cupboard book that I never knew existed: The Key to the Indian. I had always thought the story ended with The Mystery of the Cupboard in 1992!
We were also horrified to find a book on “Healing Homosexuality,” which we decided to buy just so that no one else would.
And then, just as we were about to go to the cash, I spotted a Jean Little book.
I love Jean Little.
Her books are a little dated, in that her characters go to church and don’t use computers (somewhat ironically since she has used advanced voice recognition software to write all of her books since 1985), but the warmth and the heart in them is timeless.
If you’ve read any of her books, you probably know Mine For Keeps, a book about a girl with Cerebral Palsy who gets a dog and gains some self confidence in learning how to train it.
She wrote it because she was tired of books like The Secret Garden and Heidi, where the disabled character miraculously gets cured for no obvious reason.
She wanted to write a book about a kid with a real disability, who overcomes it without being cured.
That’s the kind of person she is.
I grew up on her books, as well as her autobiography, Little By Little, in which she describes what it was like growing up during World War II with severe vision impairment and a passion for books.
She talks frankly about the teasing she received and speaks honestly about her own personal flaws – hesitancy, fear of new experiences, a compulsive love of books despite being legally blind, and even occasional flights of fancy verging on dishonesty.
Jean as a child was someone you could love and bond with – someone fallible, but also someone deeply special. I always thought of Jean Little as a friend, growing up. I would love to meet her some day, but considering that she lives in Ontario, that opportunity has never arisen.
Anyway, this book was called Kate, and was the sequel to a book I already own. I remember Jean talking about it in her second autobiography, The Stars Come Out Within, in which she documents the loss of her remaining sight and the joy of getting a guide dog.
So of course I glommed onto that book in two seconds or less and handed it to PH.
Jean Little books aren’t always easy to find. I’m still trying to get my hands on a copy of Willow and Twig, one of her newer ones and also one of my favourites. Book stores rarely have it in.
“Uh…” PH said, flipping through the book. “Look.”
He held it out, open to the frontispiece, and I saw that someone had scribbled on it with marker, making a happy face and some barely legible words.
“That’s okay, it’s not on any of the other pages,” I said.
“No, look at it.”
Did the last two words say… Jean Little?
“I think this book is signed by the author,” said PH.
“I doubt it, that looks more like a kid’s scri… Oh. RIGHT.” I felt like an idiot. “She’s blind.”
We stared at the scribble and the happy face. Was this a kid scribbling about Jean Little and drawing a happy face?
Or was this signed by JEAN EFFING LITTLE, a woman who is now completely blind and can’t even see the paper she is writing on?
We bought the book and left clutching it possessively.
When we got home we did some googling.
We couldn’t find any pictures of recent signatures. I did find this picture:
That is a signed first edition of Mine For Keeps, clearly signed when she still had some sight.
But compare the two signatures. Sure, mine is a lot messier, but the J is the same, and the L, and the words are written in cursive, which I don’t think kids even know how to do these days.
PH also made the following discovery:
“Keep reading a little,” is one of her preset phrases that she writes.
I JUST BOUGHT A SIGNED JEAN LITTLE BOOK FOR A DOLLAR TWENTY FIVE.
I mean, it isn’t definite.
People forge signatures on books all the time, it’s a problem.
But as much as I adore Jean Little, she’s no JK Rowling. Her signed books aren’t worth hundreds of dollars. Thirty dollars, forty maybe. Nothing worth forging. And the “keep reading a little” is a known catch phrase of Jean’s.
It’s signed by the author.
AND THE LIBRARY DISCARDED IT.
Oh, and here’s the kicker:
That’s right. A FIRST EDITION book signed by the author.
…For a dollar twenty five.
Life makes me happy, sometimes.