By Amy Courage
Three of the things I love most in the world (apart from my husband and a good sandwich) are books, cats and nature. Books and nature have the ability to inspire you and take you on a journey. And cats, with their comforting sameness, (they’re always waiting for you at home) make me feel safe and cozy.
The Montague Bookmill in Montague, Massachusetts may not have any cats, at least not any that I could see, but they do have an abundance of books, sunny nooks to read in, and several windows from which to view a rushing river and stately trees. There is also a café and restaurant on the premises in case you get hungry while sitting for hours looking at used books, as I did on a recent visit.
I plopped down in front of the picture book section and browsed for a couple hours. Since this is a used bookstore, I didn’t find a lot of bestsellers and newest/hottest releases, but I did discover many unique and thoughtful children’s books, and a few of last year’s trendy titles.
The Hungry Clothes is a collection of 22 traditional Jewish folktales. I enjoyed these stories for the writing and their message. These tales are funny, insightful and profound. They speak to virtues like courage, cleverness, kindness, and loving family. The illustrations by Gianni De Conno have a rich painterly depth and add intensity to the emotions in the stories.
Reading the stories in The Hungry Clothes reminded me of the Jewish-American writers I read in college, such as Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Saul Bellow. Similar themes run through their work as these folktales for children. Many of the stories in The Hungry Clothes are very old, passed down from generation to generation, told to children to inspire them to be brave, shrewd, and loyal. I like to think that perhaps young Singer, Bellow and Aleichem were told these same stories, or some variation thereof, when they were children, and that these stories inspired their work as adults.
The Hungry Clothes would make a great addition to any children’s library for its humor and characters, and I believe, also invite meaningful conversation between parents and older children about more complex family and social issues.
Coming back to the bookmill—I hope I’m able to visit it again soon. The comfy chairs, plenteous books, fresh air, and dappled light are calling me. The Bookmill’s motto may be “Books you don’t need, in a place you can’t find,” but it’s a welcome place to spend an afternoon, or a whole day if you have the time. Even without cats, it feels like home.
What bookstore getaways do you enjoy where you live? Any recommendations?