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December 25, 2013

Sarah Jio on the First Book She Fell in Love With

Posted by emily

Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER and THE LAST CAMELLIA. Her latest novel, MORNING GLORY, imagines life on Boat Street, a floating community on Seattle’s Lake Union --- home to people of artistic spirit who for decades protect the dark secret of one startling night in 1959. In her Holiday Author Blog, Sarah writes about how you can sometimes forget the title of the first book you ever fell in love with, and how that can make your reunion with it even sweeter.

To say that the Christmas season is special to me is the understatement of the century. Let me put it this way: I start listening to holiday music the day after Halloween; and the moment eggnog cartons appear at the grocery store, I set one in my cart. And when I think about my Christmases as a child, it's the little things that made them magical --- the box of gifts from my grandma, shipped from San Diego to our home outside of Seattle (I can still remember what those boxes smelled like). The Bing Crosby music (“White Christmas,” anyone?). The nativity scene my brothers and sister and I would help set up, all of us hoping that we'd be the lucky one to unwrap baby Jesus.

But also one book.

Have you ever fallen in love with a book as a child and grown up only to discover that you, tragically, cannot recall the title of the book?

That's what happened for me. This special book --- this Christmas book that I recall loving as a youngster escaped me. I spent hours hovering over its pages as a child, remembering in detail the illustrations, and yet, in my 20s, when I longed to read it again, I couldn't place the title. I only had vague details to go on:

It was a children's book, about a mouse.
There was an old, haunted-looking house in it.
I recall something about chewing gum on a later page.

And so Christmas after Christmas passed, and I was completely stumped.

In some ways, I wondered if I'd imagined the book. My parents didn't remember reading it to me. I couldn't find it in the children's section of my favorite local bookstore. Perhaps I'd dreamed it?

Then, on Christmas morning, 2004, I received a gift from my sister, Jessica. To my complete surprise, inside the box, was the book. THE book.

SANTA MOUSE by Michael Brown. SANTA MOUSE! I cried when I opened it. I turned each page slowly, poring over the details, the words. And there they all were: the house, the tiny boots, the chewing gum. SANTA MOUSE! Of course it was SANTA MOUSE. The search was over --- finally. And I will be forever grateful to my sister for that very special present. It was a homecoming for me, and the legacy lives on. Tonight, I read the book to my three boys before bed. But I'll be sure to keep this copy safe, just in case they come looking for it in 20 years.