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The case of the missing books

I’ve always been a huge reader.

I don’t remember when I first learned how to read, but since I did, I’ve rarely been without a book somewhere near by.

As a girl, the arrival of the monthly Scholastic Book brochure was a highlight of the month. I remember eagerly reading about all the books available, choosing the ones I wanted and then trying to figure out how many of the books I could get for the dollar or two my parents would let me have.

I didn’t read many of the traditional children’s classics, although I do remember reading “Five Little Peppers,” “The Black Stallion” and “Little Women.”

I was a huge fan of horse and dog books, but the books I read the most were probably the girls series books.

Yes, in the days before the Babysitter Club books and the Sweet Valley twins books, there were other girls series books.

I still have all of my Donna Parker books and my Trixie Belden books. I will even seriously date myself by admitting I have my Annette books (of Annette Funicello fame). Yes, I still have so many of my books, sitting on the lower shelves of my bookcases, but perhaps the books I cherished most of all are no longer mine.

I was once the proud owner of all of the Nancy Drew books. Good old Nancy, girl detective, beloved daughter of Carson, chum of George and Bess, and platonic squeeze of Ned Nickerson.

I loved those books. I’m not sure how many I had, but it was probably about 50 or so, beginning with “The Secret of the Old Clock” and up through every book that was available until about 1970.

Most of us of a certain age remember fondly the Sears Wish Book, but not many people might remember that Sears also sold books. There was a discount if you bought multiple quantities, and I seem to remember the price for six or more books one year was a whopping 77 cents each.

The story of what happened to those books still makes me sad. I was a teenager when my cousin married a woman who had a young daughter. My cousin asked if he could buy my Nancy Drew books for his new stepdaughter, and in a moment of near-sighted greed, I agreed.

My cousin later got a divorce, and the books left the family for good.

So now I have a Don Quixote-type quest to find my books. Every time I go to a used bookstore, especially in the Quad Cities area where I grew up, I eagerly open the cover of any Nancy Drew book I find from that era.

You see, my books had one special feature. My dad had beautiful handwriting, so in the cover of every book I had as a child is written “Barbara Bunge.”

I know the odds of ever finding even one of the books are very small, but I continue to search. The chance of finding a piece of my father’s handwriting and the memories of the girl I once was is too valuable to pass by.

BCR Staff Writer Barb Kromphardt can be reached at bkromphardt@bcrnews.com.

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