• Genine Babakian

Parting with Fictional Friends


Few events are as motivational to me as my local library’s annual book drive. Prompted by a chance to support a beloved institution and unburden my bookcases, I cast my eye across the shelves. Taking silent inventory, I ask myself – will I ever read this again? Must I keep it?

Over the years, my collection of picture books, early chapter books, and middle reader series has diminished – but not disappeared. I have an unabashed fondness for picture books, some of which I’ve read aloud so many times I would not dream of parting with them. I consider it a victory to have whittled these down to the dozens. There’s Library Lion, which I occasionally managed to read to the end without brushing away a tear. And Edward in the Jungle, which my son requested about four times a day. And I still have my third copy of Zara’s Hats – having worn out the first two editions reading aloud to my daughter.

But this season, I was determined to dig deep and part with some perennial favorites. With steely resolve, I placed my full box collection of the Little House on the Prairie series in the shopping bag of give-aways. But when I carried the bag out to the car, one title caught my eye, and I wavered. Good old Harriet the Spy. There she was, in between Laura Ingalls Wilder and Farkle McBride.

A few years ago, a friend of mine conducted a Facebook experiment, requesting people to post a top ten list of books that have stayed with them. Harriet the Spy was in my top ten. Along with Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, Harriet has always been one of my favorite fictional girls. What pluck she had! What an enduring spirit! I was drawn to her from the moment she took her first bite of a tomato sandwich.

Naturally, I rescued Harriet at the last minute. I know it was selfish. There are plenty of girls out there who could use a role model like her. Perhaps I’ll do better next year. But for the time being, Harriet the Spy is back on the shelf. Right next to the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.


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