Guest Post: Jodi Lamm

Guest Post and Giveaway by Jodi Lamm, author of Titan Magic

A Book is a Treasure with Delicious Cream Filling
There's something about finding unexpected treasure, especially when we're children and pretty sure these things never happen twice, that turns us into mini-pirates… or terriers. It could be either, really. We're just so sure our treasure is the only one of its extra-special kind and must be guarded with our lives. That's when things usually get buried. But I had a much more elaborate plan for safeguarding my most precious treasures, one of which happened to be a book.

It was a book I'd discovered by accident in some buy-a-book event at my elementary school library. I think it was a dollar. I bought it, along with one or two others, and when I finally opened it to read, I didn't close it again for two days.

I loved the book so much that when I was finished reading it, I gave it the highest honor my eight-year-old self could bestow. I locked it in a box. Then I locked the key to that box inside another box and shut both of them into a hope chest. I stashed the whole thing at the back of my closet. The last key I hid behind a painting in my room, and I composed, divided, and scattered a poem containing consecutive clues to the hidden locations of each following stanza, the last of which would lead to the vital key. It all made perfect sense at the time. The perfect plan. Only serious treasure hunters would pose a threat to the world's most important book.

The book that turned young me into a mini-pirate was called Behind the Attic Wall and was written by Sylvia Cassidy. I had no idea who the author was at the time, because the book wasn't about its author. I could have given you a basic rundown of the story: an unloveable girl lives with her aunts in an empty boarding school and discovers self-worth through her secret relationship with a family of talking dolls. But really, the book wasn't about its story either. The book was about Maggie, who played solitaire with a sticky deck of cards. It was about Timothy John, who always read the same old newspaper, and Miss Christabel, who threw the best imaginary tea parties. It was about Juniper the dog. And it was about Uncle Morris. Oh, was it ever about Uncle Morris. Of all the characters in that story, he was the one I wished I could bring to life and keep as my very own.

In short, Behind the Attic Wall was really about its characters. They were its delicious cream filling, and they affected my writing enormously, though I may not have known it at the time. To this day, characters are everything to me.

I should probably confess that the all-important book is still locked in a box inside my old hope chest and shoved to the back of my closet. I did pick the lock and take it out to read again several years ago, but when I finished, I had to put it back. If I didn't, I feared my childhood self would look at me wide-eyed, like I'd discovered a chest full of gold coins and just left it out on a public beach in California. No, that book was my treasure once, and it deserves to keep the honorable place bestowed upon it by mini-pirate me. After all, If I had my way, I would still bring Uncle Morris to life and keep him forever. I mean, honestly, wouldn't you?

"I love the name Maggie," he went on, and she glanced up at him suspiciously -- nobody loved the name Maggie but his face was serious. "It makes your teeth feel good to say it. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie. It feels like eating peanuts. Try it," and he paused, waiting for her to recite her name aloud.

She turned away, but she did try anyway, to herself, and she felt a surprising tingle around her upper molars. Maybe like eating peanuts, maybe not; she couldn't really remember what peanuts tasted like.
"I am your uncle Morris," he said. "There is nothing remarkable about the name Morris at all, although I am told there is a chair by that name and also a dance. I can't imagine why anyone looking around for a name to give his chair would finally settle on Morris, can you?"

—From Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy

Jodi is providing a SIGNED paperback to one winner!
Open internationally!


Unknown said...

How fun! Reading this story made me want to go lock one of my favorite books up in multiple boxes, and hide it away somewhere (maybe a time capsule is in order). I love that a book can do that to you; make you want to keep it hidden like the treasure that it is. Great post, Jodi!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Penelope! It was great to reminisce. Books were always a happy place for me. I probably safeguarded them for that reason: they were my own hiding place.

Gabi said...

Oh my gosh! That is the exact passage that comes to mind when I think of this book. That is so weird. I haven't read this in a long time, but it was one of my favorites! We had a family friend who used to be a teacher, and he gave us the library that he had collected for his class room when he retired. This was one of the books - I don't know if I would have found it otherwise. I found a lot of my favorite books from his library. :] Thanks for sharing!

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