If I Were Going: The Alice and Jerry Books - The Most Memorable Book of My Life
How my love for reading started
I love reading ever since I could remember. Comics written in Tagalog (or in Filipino language) were my first books. I love seeing the characters in drawing, and since the text is written in our vernacular, it is easy for me to understand them. My Mom would rent some comics, then after lunch she would read it aloud for us kids during our siesta. All of us kids loved hearing her voice reading the comics. That was our bonding moment when we were kids for we don't have television yet. I practiced my mastery in reading words by reading them aloud.
How I come across with this book
When I was in Grade 2 (year 1978), I became fascinated with the English language. I tried reading as many English books as I can. Of course, those I read contains only simple English words as my brain can only grasp words with simple meaning.
One day, a fire hit our school library. Good thing it was a Sunday or else there will be much confusion among the kids. I saw kids in my neighborhood running with books in their arms. They were told to salvage as many books as they can and they can keep it if they want. Upon hearing that, I ran as fast as I could to the school in the hope that I can also retrieve some books for myself. Unfortunately, all the children's books that were appropriate for my age have been taken by other kids. But since I really wanted a book, I grab some pieces not knowing what their contents were about. If I remember right, I got a thick book entitled American Literature, 2 other pieces which now I have forgotten the title, and the colored blue book which bears the title If I Were Going by the Alice and Jerry Books. This book was written by Mabel O'Donnell and it was published in 1941.
When I first browse the book, I was fascinated by the pictures I saw. So without reading the content, I browsed and browsed up to the last page looking only at the pictures. In my mind, I already have some made-up stories about the pictures. Then I started to read the book. After reading a few pages, I became so engrossed that I never wanted to stop reading. After I finished reading the book for the first time, I felt happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I finished reading the story and know that Mr. and Mrs. Sanders were back safe and sound from their vacation, and sad because I knew that I will miss the book and all its characters. I felt that they have became a part of my young life.
What the story is about
If I Were Going is the story about the town stationmaster, Mr. Sanders, who lives in Friendly Village together with his wife. He was given an around the world ticket by the train company where he had worked for many years. The story opens as Mr. and Mrs. Sanders were talking about the ticket and of going away. At first they were apprehensive, thinking it has been a long time since they went away on their own. Mr. Sanders had a way of traveling even before he was rewarded an all around the world ticket. He traveled by pictures by way of postcards sent to him from the steamship company. As he was looking at pictures of mountains or villages by the sea, he would often say that if he was going across the ocean, he would be sure not to miss going to that place. But when their neighbors decided to give them a send-off party, it was then when they finally decided to go. They went to different places like Norway, in Lapland, then in England and Brittany, in Spain and last in Africa. They have met with old friends and relatives and made new friends, too. They learned new things about each place they went. It is a one continuous story happening from one place to another, which also taught you about other cultures as the story happened in different countries. While reading the book, it is as if you were doing the traveling yourself because of the vivid way the author described each place they visited and because of the beautiful pictures illustrated in the book. Because of this book, I have dreamed of going to other countries and be able experience their way of life.
How I wish I had that book again...
I was so in love with this book that I also encouraged my younger siblings to read it. They did and were fascinated by the book and the story. We keep reading and reading it until the pages have been torn because of old age. Up to now, I still wish I could visit Brittany and sleep in cupboards or go to the Fete of the Blue Nets. Or maybe stay in England and experience riding in a Mystery Bus. I still recall some of the names mentioned in the book like Einar, Numpy, Ola, Ali, etc. Now that I have my little nephews and nieces, the more I wish I still had that book so that I can read it to them. I'm pretty sure they will enjoy it too, just as I did 40 years ago. This book really made a lasting impression on me.