Because I've been cleaning and clearing and sorting, I've been thinking about what books in my collection to keep and what, if any, books from my youth are missing from the collection, and whether they'd even be any good if I could find them and read them again. I have in mind three very obscure books, two that I remember the titles of, and one that I only read once and have only a very vague recollection of.
First, do any of you remember James Reeves The Strange Light? I was trying to find it in ABE by title, but I had the title as The Blue Light (because the "strange" light was, if I remember rightly, blue). Then I somehow dredged out of my memory that it was by James Reeves, and a search on him helped me come up with the real title. It was a strange little book, a cross-world fantasy (sort of) about a boy who finds himself in another world, populated by people in costume from all different historical periods. He notices that every now and then, one of them is suffused by this blue light, then that character disappears. It turns out that these are all book characters waiting to be used in a story. There's some kind of drama about a group of characters who resist being put into books, and a bully, and I seem to remember the "real" boy has an uncle or maybe a father who writes and he gets rid of the bully by having his relative write about his character... I think. And I seem to remember it was rather good, and of course those who know me by now will note that it is, of course, all metafictional, and it's interesting that I was reading books like that even when I was about ten years old. Hmmm. And thinking about it now I'm reminded of that Diana Wynne Jones story about someone who dreams characters in a film (?) and wondering if she ever read that book... Anyway.
Okay, the next one I hardly remember at all, except that I read it once and would like to find it again. My recollection was that it was called something like The Enchanted Forest and it was about a young man in a vaguely European style fantasy world divided into little kingdoms or countries, and he sets off to meet the High King, I think. Anyway, he goes from place to place meeting all these different kings or dukes or something and chatting them up. I remember that he has a rather nice dog, who travels with him. And I remember that one of the kinglets or dukes or whatever that he meets has a truffle hound who hunts for truffles and I was surprised that there actually was such a thing. The other thing that I remember was that it was illustrated in a vaguely Jules Feiffer-ish style, everyone having long legs with knobbly knees and cheerful faces, and the cover was mostly green. Oh, and the young man turns out to BE the High King and he's meeting all these people in order to get them on his side and he knew who he was all the time but we didn't. (and it's not Lloyd Alexander, Taran Wanderer, even though it sounds vaguely like it). I definitely remember a nice whiskery dog. So if any of you recognizes it, please do tell me!
And finally, there's The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria Walker, which again I've only ever read once. This one is notorious in children's book collecting circles because Neil Gaiman mentioned it on his blog and there are only about 4 copies of the book in existence and if you look them up on ABE they cost thousands of dollars and it's really not that important a book. I remember it being a quite charming but slight fantasy. The illustrations were rather good - by the author in very sixties-ish line drawings, rather like something drawn by a sixteen-year-old, which I'm not sure they weren't because I think the author was very young. There's a sequel, apparently, which I've never read, nor am likely to, nor am I likely to find a copy because I'm not prepared to pay thousands of dollars for it. And I think the author has changed her name and now is a middle-aged sheep farmer or something improbable after having been this juvenile publishing sensation.
It's always a bit dicey reading books again that you loved as a child. Sometimes they are as magical as you remember, sometimes they're better than you remember, sometimes they are disappointing. But I'd like the chance to find out.