Books might have been substitute siblings

Published 3:00 am Saturday, October 20, 2018

One of my favorite past times has always been reading. Maybe my parents set me on that path when I was a child by providing me with delightfully illustrated children’s books. In my junior high years, they even bought me a set of encyclopedias. I think keeping favorite books at my reach compensated somewhat for the time I missed playing with siblings, since I was an only child. It was and always has been easy to lose myself in a book, whether it is a volume of poetry, a contemporary novel, a classic read, biographies, or whatever else catches my eye.

All along as I search though my bookshelves, my hands fall upon my favorite poetry book, “Rainbow in the Sky.” My husband discovered it at a yard sale years and years ago. It was edited and collected by Louis Untermeyer and published by Harcourt, Brace and Company of New York, with a 1935 copyright. A notation revealed it was a wartime book, produced in compliance with government regulations in regard to conserving paper. I wondered if it could be found today and was delighted when I located it for sale through the Internet. One reviewer, a teacher, said she read some selected poems from it to third graders. It kept their attention through the whole period.

One of the chapters is devoted to riddles in rhymes. They all rhymed, of course, but some of them stumped me, like “A houseful, a roomful, you can’t catch a spoonful.” Then there is an easier one, “”Railroad crossing, look out for the cars. Bet you can’t spell it, without any Rs.”

Another chapter focused on weather and included “Rainbow at night is the sailor’s delight.” This one certainly proves true on summer days: “A sunshiny shower won’t last an hour.”

This one fitted in with the chapter’s theme and immediately brought back childhood memories: “Star-light, star-bright first star I see tonight…” I wondered how many times I repeated “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…”to my children when they rushed to the porch or in the house when a shower interrupted their play outdoors. I think most of us, young or old, are fans of Clement Moore’s beloved “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which brings a rush of memories stretched from my children’s childhood to their own children. I don’t even have to close my eyes to imagine old St. Nick’s chubby body and his overflowing bag poking halfway out of a fireplace chimney.

Have you heard this nonsense rhyme, “Nicholas Ned, who lost his head and put a turnip on?” Or “Niminy, piminy, who ate in the chimney?” Neither had I until I read “Rainbow in the Sky.” Equally nonsensical is “Fiddle-de-dee, fiddle-de-dee, the fly shall marry the bumblebee.”

I leave with the book’s “Lesson from a Sundial.” It advises us: “Keep count of only shining hours.” What better way is there to do just that than wandering through the pages of my prized “Rainbow in the Sky?”