303B: The dead man’s childhood mementos

I am 66 years old, but when I was in elementary school in Mountain View, CA, I read a short story in some reading textbook (probably from the 1950s) that I have thought about ever since. It was a “Western”. I do not remember the story’s title, but there was an illustration showing a rough-looking man in black who was an outlaw and who was being hunted by a sheriff (I think for murder).

The outlaw made it to a place where he had buried what the reader was led to believe was a treasure box. When he was killed, and the authorities opened the box, it was filled with the dead man’s little childhood mementos.

There was an illustration of the open box as well.

It had a profound effect on me, and I would love to be able to read it again.


302M: Gray binding and Wild Swans

I am trying to identify and purchase a copy of a children’s lit anthology I had as a child. The copy I had was hardcover, gray binding with a bright green repeating motif on the cover. Among the stories included was HC Andersen’s “The Wild Swans.” There was another story about a princess sent to live with a family that had five girls whose last names ended in “-belle,” and a youngest sister Echo.

301X: Shoes that looked like ballet slippers and a string of pearls

The book that I have been unsuccessfully searching for is a book of short stories for girls that was published in the mid 1960’s.  I recall purchasing it at a school book fair, most likely in junior high.  The stories were mostly coming of age stories for teenage girls.  One story told of a girl who did not fit in in high school, and she wanted new clothes that she believed would help.  I remember she wanted to buy “shoes that look like ballet slippers and a string of pearls.  I seem to recall that she also played the piano.  Another story was about a girl who felt very unattractive and her dad said something to the effect of she was not a pretty girl but she was going to be a beautiful woman.  I have searched for this collection of short stories for many years and have found many collections, but not this particular one.  I would be very grateful if you might have any information about this elusive book.  Thank you for any suggestions you may have.

301V: Two girls and a worm monster

For years I’ve thought about a short story I read some time between 1997 and 2007.  I’d estimate 2000 – 2006.  I imagine it was in Harpers, Atlantic, or New Yorker.  I’ve never been able to find it.

In the story there are two girls.  I think English, maybe Canadian.  They are in the woods and they see some horrible creature.  I think a worm, a giant worm.

Then it’s 60 years later and the narrator sees the girl, now all grown up, at a sight-seeing visit.

The atmosphere really affected me.  I was reminded of Alice Munro and then I suppose later of “My Brilliant Friend” by Ferrante.

I can’t find it because googling ‘worm’ or ‘monster’ or ‘two girls’ gives too many silly hits.

Any sleuths out there?

293J: Domination of other by using weakness as a status symbol (Solved)

Science fiction short story where one planet maintains control of another by elevating some people to power on the subject planet. These elevated people have hereditary obsessive compulsive disorder which sets them apart from the common people and also disables them from actually leading their people who are then subjected to producing for the benefit of the alien overlords. The main character’s obsession is to follow a wood grain pattern. It takes her all day and she is exhausted from it. Somehow she meets a commoner and discovers that she might live a different life. I’ve tried very hard to find the story but no luck so far.

293H: A Hole and Three

A book or possibly short story about 3 elves and a hole in the wall that speaks to them.

This story was read to the class by my third grade teacher at Hubbell School in Des Moines, IA, in 1949.  I remember that we were entranced by it and insisted on making it into a drama.  For our play the “elves” dressed in red long johns and the boy (Kenneth Brown) who devised the “hole” was cast in that role.  I would be grateful if someone could direct me to it because I don’t remember the story and would like to see whether, as an adult,  I can fathom what it was that charmed us so.

293G: Dell

A boy opens his eyes and begins to see Not a book, but a short story I read in 1959 in sophomore English, a slight “a-boy-goes-on-a -journey” kind of story and the first piece of literature in which I recognized myself and one that I still recall with goosebumps. I think it was named “Dell,” the name of an adolescent boy living on a Midwestern farm. He is awakened one summer night by distant honky-tonk music coming through his bedroom window, a foreign intrusion into his otherwise quiet life. Arising, he goes outside looking for its source. Following the sound, he crosses several dark fields, climbs a small hill and looks out in the distance to see, far away but close enough to clearly discern a highway truck stop, ablaze with tall lights and neon signs, like a light-bomb on the black prairie floor. Some rigs are parked, their radios blaring; others are pulling out into the night with the shafts of their headlights illuminating their journey into the darkness, going—where? That’s what Dell wants to know, with an immediacy, an insistence previously unknown to him. From that story to a degree in English several years later. It was my “first step” in the journey and I would love to recover it if possible. Any help would be sincerely appreciated.

293C: All the superhumans die

I’m looking for a book that I have only heard a colleague speak very briefly about. He is a teacher and remembers reading a short story within a book of a collection of short stories, when he was studying at Uni, which would have been approx. 1998-2002. But it could have been published much before that. He said the story was about a boy who caught the measles/mumps/chickenpox. He found this other planet/dimension/bubble??? (sorry) where everyone that lived there were basically superhumans. They hadn’t been ill at all. Then this boy entered their “world” and all of these superhumans died because they had been so protected from diseases that they had no immune system, so contact with the measles/mumps/chickenpox killed them. That is all I know. I’m guessing the moral of the story was to do with the benefits/detriments of vaccinations. I have tried searching everywhere with no luck. I searched this site and found one called “Brave New World” but that doesn’t sound like it. I would love to find this book – my colleague said he is so fond of it but doesn’t remember the title or book it was in.

Thank you for your help.

292S: Numbers who get angry

This is a book from my childhood that I have thought and talked about often.

The year was 1949-52.  Not sure!

The book had several short “stories” for young children.  The one I keep remembering was a story about how letters/numbers became upset when they were written backwards!  For example, the #3 was hurt or angry when a child wrote it backward.  He wanted to be written correctly. The numbers we’re living and capable of feelings.  Any thoughts/ideas?!?!

Thank you!

291V: Fox Trapped in a Smokehouse

This is a book of interconnected short stories. It was an oversized hardcover book with full-page text and color illustrations, meant for an older reader. The stories all concern a community of animals who live in the woods adjacent to a farm. I’m fairly sure the title of the collection has the name of the animals’ home in it — maybe the lake they all live around, or the name of the woods, or the name of the farm? The book was published in the 80s or 90s. Each short story ends with a well-known moral or saying. I think there is a story about a badger or raccoon who is sick of it all at home and doesn’t want to get out of bed. There might be a story about an animal collecting (quail?) eggs that then get destroyed or eaten — the moral is don’t count your chickens before they hatch (or don’t put all your eggs in one basket?). The story I remember most is about a fox (perhaps the main character in the book) who gets trapped in the farmer’s smokehouse. He sneaks in to steal some of the farmer’s ham (I think?) and gets his leg stuck in a claw trap or gets locked in, and he has to beg another of the animals to help him escape before the farmer finds out and shoots him with his shotgun. In one of the later stories, I think the fox runs away from the animal community. I loved this book as a kid but can’t seem to work my Google magic to identify it! Thanks in advance to all you sleuths out there!