Books on the Bed: The Man Who Took the Indoors Out

Title: The Man Who Took the Indoors Out

Author: Arnold Lobel

Pub Date: 1974

Status: Out of Print

Number nine on the list of My 21 Most Influential Books, The Man Who Took the Indoors Out is incredibly difficult to find, and is not even listed on Caldecott Medal winner Arnold Lobel’s Wikipedia page. This obscure little picture book was something we must have checked out on a long-ago library card, because I did not own a copy until a few years ago, when my mother hunted it down for my bookshelf.

The man mentioned in the title has a lovely house full of lovely furniture and lovely things…but those lovely things are bored from sitting around the house all day. So the furniture asks the man if he might let them out to play for the day. The man does. The furniture is happy and dancing and having a great time. When it starts to get dark, the man tells everything that it’s time to go back inside, but the furniture has other ideas. Having now tasted freedom, the chairs and vases and paintings and sofa and piano take to the hills, leaving their poor owner in the dust.

The man is very sad, alone in his empty house. It is a very dark and stormy night, and the man is worried. Then there is a small knock. The man opens his door to find his furniture — somewhat worse for the wear — has returned home. It is dirty and worn and wet and more than slightly embarrassed, but the man couldn’t be happier to have his good friends back. He welcomes them all back in and they live happily ever after.

I’m sad that this little tale has disappeared into the bowels of the literary machine, because it had some great messages. It was all about love and acceptance, setting things free and valuing happiness over material goods. It was about loneliness and shame and fear and going to far. It was about doing what’s in your heart and having it all work out in the end.

I always carry pictures of dancing furniture in my heart and know that, no matter how far away my loveseat runs from me — or I run from it — we will be reunited one day if we’re meant to.

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Books on the Bed: Ronia the Robber’s Daughter

(Books on the Bed: Novels and stories I read as a child that still remain in my collection. Recommended reading for all ages. If you can find them.)

The first box I packed during my half-move from Tennessee was for my friend Ariell. She was the first person on Awesome Porch who I ever saw crack a book. (Everyone else here does, but in private apparently.) We started talking and discovered that we had a lot of the same interests. She recommended a few books to me — I’m currently halfway through Barry Lyga’s The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and I’m enjoying it immensely.

In return, I brought up a box of fun books for her to borrow that she’d undoubtedly never heard of…books in my eclectic collection that I’ve been promising to talk about on this blog as my recommended reading list. I started a “Books on the Bed” series late last year with They Call me Boober Fraggle. I’ll now be posting one every Friday. Here’s recommended reading title number two.

Title: Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
Author: Astrid Lindgren
US Pub date: 1983
Status: Available!

“I’ll carry this summer around in my memory as long as I live.”  –Ronia

Everybody knows about Pippi Longstocking, because she’s the one who had the movies. We all wanted to be like her, wearing giant boots, having friends like Tommy and Annika, going on Grand Adventures, and sleeping with our feet on the pillow and our heads at the foot of the bed. (I still do the last one. When I actually *have* a bed. It’s not quite the same on an air mattress.)

But my favorite of Miss Astrid’s heroines is the much lesser known Ronia.

Black-eyed harpie-haired Ronia was born to the Robber Chieftain Matt on the same night a terrible lightning storm split Matt’s Fort in two. When Ronia is old enough to explore the forest, her father advises her to: 1.) Stay away from Gray Dwarves, wild harpies, and Burka’s Robbers (Burka being Matt’s sworn enemy) 2.) Don’t get lost in the woods or fall in the river and 3.) Don’t tumble into Hell’s Gap — the giant split in the fortress.

Ronia encounters all these things…only when she visits the top of Hell’s Gap she finds a boy there about her age–the only other child she’s met in her life. He is Birk Borkason, yes, son of her father’s enemy, and they have moved into the abandoned other half of Matt’s Fort.

Despite their families’ quarrel, Ronia and Birk inevitably become friends. This, of course, leads to hardship and adventure and the limits of how far one must go to heal old wounds.

Ronia — like her cousin Pippi — is one of the original kick-ass heroines. She is beautiful and independent and headstrong and fearless and will fight for what and who she loves. She’s a fabulous role model for young girls today, and I wish there were more like her. Luckily, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is still in print, so she hasn’t gone very far.

Now I wish it was March already. I feel a Spring Yell coming on.

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Books On the Bed: They Call Me Boober Fraggle

I was thinking about it the other day — I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t know how to read. I knew the alphabet at eighteen months. At three, I was reading the TV Guide. Mom got me into Kindergarten at four, where a teacher’s assistant told my father, “Alethea can spell words I don’t even know.” By the time I was five I was reading myself sick. There’s photographic evidence.

My library card was smoking. I never checked out less than 20 books every two weeks (20 was the limit) — I started at the Juvenile section of the Richland County Public Library and worked my way through. My parents went to almost every single Friends of the Library book sale they could find…in every town we ever visited.

So, yeah. I read a lot. I read some really good books that are still around and some really obscure books you might never have heard of that are long out of print. Every time I think of one of these books I don’t have, I send it to my mother to add to her list. Every holiday I receive a blast from the past, as my mother pieces together the favorite library of my childhood. Some books, the cherished ones, I’ve kept from way back when.

So what am I going to do with all these books?

Well, I’ve decided to start a new section on this blog called BOOKS ON THE BED (an homage to that 5-year-old with one serious addiction). I hope to remind you of some old books and possibly introduce you to some gems you’ve never heard of to keep an eye out for at your next Friends of the Library book sale. If you have kids, they’ll thank you. If you are still a kid like me…you’re welcome.

Title: They Call me Boober Fraggle
Author: Michaela Muntean
Pub date: 1983
Status: Out of Print

Boober was always my favorite. He was the Eeyore of Fraggle Rock, always worrying about this thing or that. In this little hardcover given to me in 1984 and inscribed by my grandmother, Boober worries about what exactly makes him special. All of his friends have something special: Gobo is adventurous, Wembley is happy and easygoing (and essentially Wash from Firefly), Mokey is the poet, and Red is the life of the party. But what–other than socks and laundry–is Boober good for?

I have a special place in my heart for books that force kids to do a little soul searching. What exactly is it that makes YOU unique? Because you are, you know. Unique and special and awesome. Just like Boober.

[Edit: Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s realized this. But it’s Wembley pictured here, not Boober.]

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