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Monday Memories: Tales of Time and Space ed. by Ross R. Olney

This is the second of my Monday Memories series of posts. In these posts, I pull a book off my shelf, somewhat randomly, and tell you a bit about it. It's not a review of the book so much as a memory of the book, a bit about what might have been going on in my life when I read it, and my thoughts on who might like this book. 

The Book

Tales of Time and Space edited by Ross R. Olney. Hardcover edition, A Whitman Book published by Western Publishing Company. Copyright 1969.

Why This Book?

This book sits on top of a pile of books in my bookcase right next to my pile of "To Be Read" books. Every time I rummage through my pile of books to find my next read, I look at this book cover. It's a book I've owned for a long time, maybe longer than any other book currently on my shelves. Yet I haven't cracked the cover in years. 

So I decided to explore this book again this week.

What's This Book About?

From memory:
This book is a collection of science fiction tales in a volume aimed at teens and pre-teens way back when "tweens" were called "pre-teens". If I remember right there is a story in here that has something to do with missing persons. I think that's right because I remember finishing this book and wondering enough about who Judge Crater was that I actually asked adults in my life and searched the encyclopedia (yes, an actual bound, paper-based encyclopedia) to learn who he was.

From perusing the book after I pulled it off the shelf:
Ok, so I looked in Wikipedia to learn that Whitman Books was for years (from the early 1900's through the 1980s) a publisher of children's books. They still exist today, but now they primarily deal in books for coin and stamp collectors. If you are one of the people who bought one of those cardboard book-like things to hold your US State or National Park quarters, it's probably from Whitman.

I wonder if we'd call a book like this a children's book today? As I said above, I think it was aimed more at teenagers than youngsters when published. There are eight science fiction short stories in this book, from names like Arthur C. Clarke and Frederic Brown and Poul Anderson. In the acknowledgements it appears that about half these stories were originally published in magazines aimed at adults. I often wonder if we expected more from kids in the way of reading ability in the 1960s than we do today. But of course, as a child of the 1960s I'm likely to be very biased on that subject.

And guess what - the last story in the book is called "Of Missing Persons", by Jack Finney (he wrote the novel The Body Snatchers - the movie was based on his book.) It's the story of a visit to a unique travel agency, one that offers one way tickets to a new world, tickets like the one Judge Carter may have purchased there... 

What Was Going On In My Life When I Read This?

In my family's house when I was a child, there were certain things you could depend on receiving from Santa Claus each year. Clothes would have been under the tree every year, maybe socks and underwear one year, maybe a belt and a sweater the next. Books would have been under the tree too, and one year this book was one of them. 

I think that Santa's helpers at our house shopped at stores like K-Mart, where stacks of kid's books would have been readily available, and Whitman Books may just have been a "blue light special" the year I received Tales of Time and Space. I can't tell you what year that would have been, but it's likely it was 1970 or 1971. 

I am pretty sure there was another Whitman Book under the tree that year too, one full of detective stories. But I don't seem to have that one anymore.

I think this book helped spark in me a love for science fiction stories that has survived right up until today.

Why Would Someone Like This Book?

Well, first you'd have to find this book! Out of curiosity I searched online for a copy, and surprisingly you can buy this same Whitman Book from Thrift Books in "good" condition for $6.89. Abe Books has a paperback with the same title and editor (different cover, publisher and publishing date, but it looks like the same contents) for only $3.98. So it is possible.

If you have a tween who likes to read and is into Star Wars or Star Trek, a book like this one would, I am sure, find a happy reader. Maybe not this particular book though. I have to think that a kid today would find 50 year old science fiction somehow lacking. But if you have a 60 year old who likes to read and is into Star Wars or Star Trek, well this book might just make for a surprising and memorable Christmas gift! 

So that's my "Monday Memories" book post for this week. Do you still have books in your collection that you received for Christmas as a child? Leave a comment below.