Stone wall around the Old Burying Ground, Jaffrey, NH
Yesterday I made a pilgrimage to Jaffrey, NH to visit the graves of Willa Cather and her life-long partner Edith Lewis. The last time I visited, in 2014, there was snow up to my thighs in some areas. I wanted to avoid that to be able to see more of the old headstones and so squeezed in a drive yesterday. It was a gorgeous fall day — the leaves are dazzling now in southern New Hampshire — and the rain held off until I left the cemetery.
The back of Willa Cather’s headstone — the lighter grey one in the distance — as you approach from the cemetery entrance.
I asked Lory of The Emerald City Book Review for bookish recommendations in the area and she suggested Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough. Without delay, that’s were I headed after paying my respects.
Toadstool Bookshop storefront in Peterborough, New Hampshire
What you behold upon entry. To the left are shelves of Local Interest & New England books and to the right is a cafe. This is a big store with a fantastic selection. Whoever set it up has great space planning skills as each section seems to be in its own cozy space. Things got so cozy that when I went to pay I realized I no longer had my bag on my shoulder. I retraced my steps and found it where I left it, on the floor next to a chair where I stopped to read for a bit.
One of the special things about this bookshop is that in addition to their primary focus on new books, they have a fantastic, well-curated used section as well. These model planes fly over the military history section and there were more hanging in other areas as well (not pictured: model tanks).
I’m not typically draw to the children’s section, but seeing a whole wall of gently used picture books so well displayed drew me in.
“No way!” I exclaimed aloud when I spotted Saucy by Martha McKeen Welch. This is one of my favorite books from childhood. I was overjoyed with happiness at stumbling upon it. I read it and carried it around while I browsed and then put it back in the hope that some child will find it and love it — but only a child whose parents understand the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
Another childhood favorite of mine — Cannonball Simp by John Burningham. I read it as well and still enjoyed the story. Spoiler alert: I’m still appalled that people just dump animals (at the dump, no less!). Also, provides a bit of a balm if you suffer from Coulrophobia (clown phobia).
Another one I remember from childhood, The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber. These childhood favorites are all part of Houghton Mifflin’s Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club.
When Emily and I put out a call for suggestions for the next Book Cougars read-along on our Goodreads page, listener Robin suggested Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks. I was thrilled to find this copy at Toadstool! I wasn’t aware that Brooks wrote novels. My exposure to her was as a poet. I had the honor of attending a talk Brooks gave at my college in the early 90s and she made a lasting impression on me, one of kindness, good humor, and intellectual curiosity.
Thanks to Lory for recommending I visit Toadstool! They have two other locations in New Hampshire (in Keene and Milford) that I definitely hope to visit soon. Check them out: toadbooks.com.
I’d love to hear what some of your favorite childhood reads are.