Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Kid Reads THE KID ...

When I was working on my memoir about my life as a reader (Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books and Libraries and Loss--available on your trusty Kindle!), I re-read many books from childhood, boyhood, adolescence.  I have a whole chapter in the memoir ("Sports Bookie") about my obsession with sports novels when I was in junior high--and, okay, probably later on, too, though it was an interest I concealed from many others.

In the memoir, I mention one of my favorites--The Kid Comes Back, 1946, by John R. Tunis, who wrote quite a few novels for the genre now called "Young Adult"--or "YA."  But I don't say much about the book--or my experience reading it.

But I do remember.  I read it for the first time--in cloth cover--a volume I plucked from the none-too-copious shelves of the Hiram School Library, arranged up in front of the large upstairs room principally used for study halls.  Later, I somehow acquired a copy of the paperback whose covers, front and back, adorn this blog post.  The copy you see is not the one I owned as a kid--but it's identical.  I found it on ABE, the used-book site that has sucked away so much of my "wealth" in recent decades.

I was thinking about Kid the other day, looked for a vintage copy on ABE, found it, ordered it.  And it came just a few days ago.  A confession: When I unwrapped it, tears visited my eyes, for it's been more than a half-century since I'd seen this cover.

And then the back cover!  I had completely forgotten that it bears illustrations of moments from the book.  I realized, looking, that I could have told you what they were, even before the book came.

I read the 231-page novel in two greedy gulps.  It's generously illustrated with line drawings by George Meyerriecks, a name I could not have come up with under any circumstances whatsoever.    I couldn't find much on him with a quick Google search--but I did come up with an auction notice about one of his pieces, Age of Transportation--see illustration at left!

For some reason, when I was reading the book at Starbucks yesterday, I felt that I ought not let anyone around me see what I was doing (I did the same thing when I read the first Twilight novel in public).  And, of course, two different people came over to visit--and their principal reason?  To look at the freaking book I was reading!  (I'm like that, too, though--I sneak-peek at books other people are reading in public.)  But these were not sneak-peeks; these were flat-out Why-are-you-reading-that visits to "my" couch in Starbucks.

I remembered the story very clearly.  Roy Tucker--slugging Dodgers' hero center fielder of Tunis' The Kid from Tompkinsville, is flying bomber missions in France during WW II.  Their plane has a crash-landing; he hurts his back and leg ... will he ever play again?  (Unsure?  See: title.)  Back home (after being briefly captured by the Nazis, then rescued by the French Resistance), he undergoes some surgeries that don't help, then deals with a doctor who must be a chiropractor (though it's not mentioned).  He gets some treatments, does some exercises, "comes back" with the Dodgers mid-season, leading them to the pennant, an achievement not decided until the final game when Roy rushes headlong into the railing to catch a pop foul (he's playing 3rd--that's another story), crashing into it with abandon, giving all for his team and for ... VICTORY!  (Tunis leads us to believe the damage is slight--certainly nothing to prevent Roy from starring in the World Series to come.)

I was surprised by a few things.  Roy shows a real sympathy for the black soldiers he sees in France, for example--not something you'd expect to read in a boys' book from 1946.  The vocabulary is not simple, either: desultory pops up on one page.  And the writing?  Well ... it's over-the-top sportswriting for YA readers.

An example: That day his fast ball was smoke; his curve was so sharp you could shave with it (189).  Writing!!!!

And another word I'd not seen in a long time--but a word that used to appear in newspaper accounts of baseball games--bingle.  Webster's 3rd has it--a singleThe Random House Dictionary of Historical American Slang traces it back to 1902, but, as I said, I've not seen it--or heard it--in years. (Word's spell-checker doesn't like it, either.)

At the time I was reading books like The Kid Comes Back, the mid-late 1950s, I was certain that I was going to be Roy Tucker.  There was no question about it.  None whatsoever.

Didn't happen.

But for a couple of hours the past couple of days, I found myself sliding (safely!) back into the welcoming arms of boyhood fantasy.  A nice visit.  But I wouldn't wanna live there ...

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