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What to do when you can't remember the title of a long lost childrens' book

Book Collecting Guide

by Jessica Ferguson, Three Little Birds Bookshop, 2009

Finding an out-of-print or rare children's book can sometimes be tricky, but trying to find that book when you don't know the title or author can seem impossible! If you are not sure if that dolphin was named Squeaky or Squealy, or if he took a trip to Hawaii or Australia, here are some tips to help you track down your long lost book:

  • STORY--Write down what you do know about the story. Do you remember character names or where the story took place? Were there anthropomorphized animals in the story? Do you think the person reading the story to you may have "improvised" a bit?
  • ILLUSTRATIONS--What do you remember about the illustrations? Were they colorful or monotone? Very detailed or line drawings? Did they fill the page or just accompany the text? Do they remind you of any specific illustrator or artist's style?
  • BOOK FEATURES--Physical features are important, too: was the book you read hardback or paperback? Was it a picture book or chapter book? What color were the covers? Was there a dust jacket? How big was the book? Were the pages glossy or matte?
  • TRAVEL--Take a trip to the children's section of your local library. If you get very lucky, you may find the book you are looking for there, but at the very least you should be able to find similar stories and illustration styles to help steer you in the right direction. Ask the children's librarian if he or she is familiar with the story you are looking for. More than once I have reunited with a book this way!
  • MEMORIES--Personal information is also helpful. How old were you when you remember reading the book and what year was it? Were you able to read it yourself or did you need someone to read it to you? Do you think it was a book bought for you at the time or was it a hand-me-down from an older sibling or a parent? Was it borrowed from a public library for you to read? Did you read it in school or at home?

Once you have a better idea of what you know about your book, you can use search engines with the more unusual phrases. For example, if you know it was a picture book about triplets, try searching "book about triplets" or "children's book triplets." Adding "old" or "vintage" to searches can often narrow the field considerably. Of course, a bookseller specializing in children's books will be your best bet, and armed with your information, they will be able to do a more extensive search and reunite you with your friend!

Corrections? Comments? Suggestions?

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