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Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
The Diary of Anne Frank
The library closed at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Displaced patrons ambled over to the store in the late afternoon, but they didn’t usually buy anything. Library goers and book buyers were typically two different types of readers. The teenage girls who turned out to be sisters couldn’t quite contain their giddiness as they entered the store. They sent a signal that they wanted to be left alone to discover the titles and perhaps experience for themselves the difference between a place to buy books versus a place from which to temporarily loan them. I also felt uplifted by their presence and pretended, from my computer reconciling inventory, not to observe them. I did point out the section marked “Young Adults,” but I was not exactly sure where they fell into these classifications.
The fun for them seemed to be also that whomever was driving them choose to remain in the car. Their world perhaps had just expanded into a universe. Since it was growing colder and darker by the day, I poked my head outside the shop to tell their driver that we had a couch and tea or coffee. Their grandmother – also driving her father – replied merrily that she was perfectly happy staying in the car with her dad. She would wait for however long it was going to take for them to choose a book.
I offered my assistance to the pretty, tall, blond girls but they did not appear to want it. Instead they pulled out title after title, holding it up in the air for me to see.
One by one, like a flag, they waved titles in the air.
Science. No. Boring. Mr. So-and-So, their teacher, was deadly.
History. No. Boring. That book was so big it could pose as a door stop.
Thrillers. No way. Scary is for fun on October 31. Nothing else.
We went around in circles, from fiction to nonfiction, back to science fiction to travel writing.
The taller of the two girls recognized a book from the Young Readers section, which she kept returning to, and brought it over to her younger sister to see if she would agree to it.
“I know this book,” she said with a mixture of pride and hesitation. “We have to read it soon.”
The younger sister took it from her and after reading the back cover, nodded. It was o.k. with her. She had sat down on the couch awhile ago, resigned to her sister’s desire for exploration.
“Which one?” I inquired, gently. There was going to be no need to defend taste. She needed to know there would never be a need for this from the outset. She was at the beginning of her career collecting books.
She held it up, having chosen one of the world’s most recognizable and important books – The Diary of Anne Frank.
I tried not to transmit an opinion. All of a sudden, however, a spell of doubt came over her as her shoulders collapsed and her head sunk from her thin neck.
“Wait,” she said. “Isn’t this book really depressing?”
“Oh no,” I answered. “She might have been a lot like you. She had a massive crush on Peter, the boy from the other family the Franks were hiding with. She had terrible fights with her mother. The Nazis were the least of her worries.”
Appalled at my glibness, I immediately back tracked.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant. I meant that despite the Nazis and being trapped in this tiny apartment, she lived an inner life a lot like you might have, and despite the problems she had – with her growing up, her crush on a boy, not getting along with her mom – she was very hopeful. Anne Frank had a spirit the size of the ocean.”
This did it. They ran out to ask their grandmother if they could buy it. They brought back ten dollars. As a reward, I offered for them to pick out two Halloween cards. They choose the funny ones. Of all the books they could have had, the one they wanted would be the one that I knew – I also hoped – they would keep in their own library forever.
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