"It's a book about Girl Scouts", said the book dealer as I lightly turned the pages of Bright April, a children's book by Marguerite de Angeli. "Actually, it's a book about diversity", I quietly responded.
I am well-acquainted with Bright April as it is a story I read often to my daughter when she was small. I spent a lot of time selecting books for my child's personal library. If even one illustration seemed "off" to me, the book went back on the bookseller's shelf. But Marguerite de Angeli's books filled up prime bookshelf real estate in my daughter's bedroom and she left them here for me. For the time being.
Bright April had me at the fringed placemats in the illustration above, so enchanted was I with the details of the picture. De Angeli's work is so vivid and cheerful and her stories are often about things dear to my heart - like home. But in Bright April, she tackles a serious issue and she does it gently and with honesty. Admittedly, the book is just a bit politically incorrect - but there is only one line I would alter for today's audience.
I did purchase the bookdealer's edition - it is in much better shape than the one I have at home. The spine and the boards of my copy have frayed and broken apart and are only held together now by strings. But when I brought the new book home I found not one but two copies of Bright April on my shelves. One was the 1945 edition that was falling apart and the other one, had a stamp on the inside cover from a church I regularly attended when my daughter was still a pre-schooler. Suddenly, I remembered I borrowed the book from the church's library and did not return it in the flurry of moving to a new state.
Right now, my old copy is at the bookbinder's being repaired - I discovered from the bookseller that it's a first edition and therefore, should be preserved. When I collect it, I plan on sending it to the church as a gift along with their missing copy. It will be dispatched with a note of apology. Mine, I will keep on my nightstand to dip into for pure beauty and for the comfort of a bedtime story.
It will also remind me to resume my lifelong search for fringed placemats.
More beauty from Marguerite de Angeli: