Nevada City

Toad Hall Books

reminiscence  / reməˈnisəns | noun

  • a story told about a past event remembered by the narrator
  • the enjoyable recollection of past events
  • (reminiscences) a collection in literary form of incidents and experiences that someone remembers.

I have never forgotten my first visit to this tiny bookshop. It was some 16 years ago. 

It was there I found a set of leather bound classic stories for children that I remembered from my childhood. The whole magical store is chock-a-block with reminiscence. While the proprietorsa venerable pair of bookwormsappear to sell books, their real trade is in memories. 

There is nothing quite like the feeling of coming across a long-forgotten book from childhood, the immediate recognition of the cover, with the instant flashback to another time. Books can be little time machines this way.

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I was on a mission when I returned to Toad Hall Books yesterday. I had recently been reminded of a special visit with my aunt, Roxanne Twitchell Sly [Jan 29, 1923 - June 4, 2017], in Brooklin, Maine. That visit was in the early summer of 1982. The weather had been inclement and we spent many blissful hours sitting by the hearth, reading Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. With my sister Susan, we read aloud both the French and the English simultaneously, back and forth, both to enjoy the languages and to compare them.

It was an armchair adventure of the heart that stayed with us. 

So I ducked into this little shop on my way back from a business lunch and hopefully inquired if they had a copy of The Little Prince among their thousands of titles. Much searching ensued. It was debated by the couple, somewhat stiffly, whether it should properly have been shelved under D or S or E for Author, or whether it belonged in the Children's Books or instead, in the Illustrated/Picture Books section.

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The shop has much more than children's books: many exquisite rare books, poetry titles, very early science tomes and exploration journals, collectable and leather-bound beauties, and other marvels.

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A small tattered paperback was located, but it wasn't quite what I wanted. The owners were convinced they had recently seen a vintage copy of the hardback book. After some time, when we were all about to give up the hunt, a copy was discovered on the shelf with French language books. Aha!  The copy was in French, c. 1954, with all the beautiful color illustrations by Saint-Exupery himself. I was delighted! Clarinda said that they had purchased the book many years ago at an estate sale, and she thought then: "Well, this is silly. No one will ever buy this book. It's in French!"  So it sat and sat, waiting for me.

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I purchased it and left my business card with them, by way of introduction, promising to return some day soon. But it was only an hour-and-a-half later that my phone rang and Clarinda chirped that they had located another copy in the store, one in English, and it exactly matched the first, if I was still interested.

This may be a small town, but it holds many hidden treasures. Nevada City was not stumped by my desire to locate twin copies of a vintage children's book in both French and English. Merci Toad Hall Books!

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Beth Ford