Jan 13, 09
Read in January, 2006
To explain why I recently re-read Roller Skates, it is necessary to delve into my sometime strange reading habits. I have already mentioned the young adult books from my parents’ house that got burnt up in the fire. Prior to the blaze, I had been in the middle of carrying out one of my strange reading projects. To put it simply, one day I came home from law school, and decided to: 1) alphabetize all the young adult books in the guest room (at least 300 hundred books) and then 2) read them all, in alphabetical-by-author order. Since most of the books in the room were either ones that, as a child, I had determined were too boring to read, or books that my younger siblings had added to the pile, it meant that I ended up reading many books for the first time – and finding lots of great books I had overlooked because they had boring covers, or bad blurbs on the back. I got pretty far, too, until they all burnt up (or, more precisely were totally destroyed by smoke damage).
Which leads me to Roller Skates. This was definitely one of the books that I had disdained as a child because of the dull cover/title. I was not a particularly athletic child, and had no interest in Roller Skating. The cover showed a drawing of a girl on, you guessed it – Roller Skates. No thanks, I said.
What a fool I was! As I saw, when I read it for the first time (at the ripe old age of about 23) and as I saw on my recent re-read, this is an absolutely charming book. Set in 1890’s New York, it tells the story of Lucinda, a society child who has a year-long adventure when her parents go abroad for her mother’s health, and she is allowed to stay with her teachers at their boarding house (rather than her snobby Aunt Emily and her “four docile ladylike daughters”). Lucinda, who is absolutely lovely and charming and Anne-like, takes this opportunity to explore her world and meet people from all social stratas, including a cab-driver, a policeman and a fruit vendor’s son. She makes friends of all sorts, she learns about life outside of the Social Register, and we benefit from her experiences through their charming re-tellings. Totally deserving of the Newbury Medal – which it won in 1937, and as fresh today as it was then. I am so glad that I ran across a copy in Green Apple books – and even more pleased that it was the same copy, “boring” cover* and all, that I owned before.