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May 4, 2016

Helen Simonson: A Mother’s Love of Books

Posted by emily

For Helen Simonson --- the bestselling author of MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND --- reading was a beloved family ritual, one that included weekly trips to the library and chores done in exchange for an extra hour with a book. Thanks in no small part to her mother, Helen passed on her love of books to her own children…even if they’re not always surprised by the rectangular-shaped gifts she gives. Her latest novel, THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR --- a love story set on the eve of World War I --- is now available.

I remember my mother making books one of life’s rewards. Saturdays meant dad was home from work, and mom made sure we marked the day with mornings at the library, where my sister and I always checked out the maximum books allowed and then watched my parents choose their own books from the tantalizing grown-up area. When I ran out of kids’ books, my mum signed a very official library form to allow me early access to an adult library card. Camping vacations always began by finding the bookshop at our destination and being allowed to choose a brand new book to buy. We often begged an extra half an hour to read in bed at night, and my mom would say that since we’d been good and done our homework, or cleaned out the rabbit cage...

When my own two children were young, our favorite game was “book marathon.” Any one of us could yell this, and then the two boys would scramble to collect stacks of picture books and climb on our big bed to read them all. Bedtimes, Sunday mornings, middle of the afternoon --- nothing feels better than to drop everything for an armful of books. Like my mother, I insisted on a few minutes of reading before every bedtime. And nothing filled me with more joy than to hear my boys beg and plead to stay up an extra half an hour with their books. Of course, I often caved to their demands! I still send my grown sons books. In fact, I’m known for sending books to all family members. My sister once laughingly reported that when she told her youngest son he had a surprise package from Auntie Helen in America, his less than delighted answer was, “Is it rectangular?”

This Mother’s Day, I have a book all picked out for my mother: a glorious coffee table book on Venice, a city so beautiful that she and my father have returned several times for their annual vacation. Unlike the younger generation, I know she will be thrilled to see a book-shaped gift arriving in the mail. Happy Mother’s Day to all.