May 14, 2008
When I was four or five, I had a hideout in the front yard, behind a shrub and next to the front steps. With enough room for myself and a couple of stuffed animals, this little spot made an ideal retreat. The dirt was powdery and fine and comfortable to sit in; azaleas and other flowers grew nearby if I wanted to jazz up the decor. I could peak around the greenery and be available in a flash if anything interesting happened: my neighbors' arrival home from school, or the appearance of the "fog machine" (a city truck that sprayed insecticide for mosquitoes) on our street.
In the picture book Secret Places (Greenwillow, 1993), Charlotte Huck collected nineteen short poems about such "joyful places that we love intensely, or places of refuge where we run to hide, or places visited in our imaginations." The anthology came highly recommended by my son's third-grade teacher, who uses the poems here—by Aileen Fisher, Karla Kuskin, and David McCord, among others—as writing prompts for her class. The titles of the works chosen by Huck—"The Maple," "A Path to the Moon," "The Chair House," "If Once You Have Slept on an Island"—indicate some of the irresistible locales that children claim as their own.
An excerpt from Byrd Baylor's Your Own Best Secret Place captures the spirit of the Huck's book and of the long-ago places that I remember, too.
It was just
a sandy gully
but that gully
a whole world
and I was
I checked out Secret Places from the library, and Junior and I looked at it together recently. Usually sparking with energy, my boy grew more and more still as I read, and kept asking me to continue. Having remembered the book from school, he wanted to hear every poem. I was happy to oblige.
I bought a townhouse with a little hidey hole under the stairs and EVERY KID who visits has gone under and wanted to sleep there. I made it over as a book nook with tap lights, pillows and a bookshelf. And, of course, I slept down there myself a couple of times! This is a great find!
Posted by: TadMack | May 14, 2008 at 03:40 PM
TadMack, that sounds perfect! It's just the kind of place kids love.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 14, 2008 at 03:54 PM
TadMack, your hide-out sounds perfect! I would love to spend some time there myself!
I just added this book to my "must read" list (which is getting longer by the minute) -- it sounds spectacular. Thanks for the review!
Posted by: Jenny | May 15, 2008 at 06:37 AM
Jenny, I hope y'all enjoy "secret Places." It would definitely work with children younger than third grade, as well. After reading the excerpt from the Byrd Baylor book, I'm going to find that one at the library, too.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 15, 2008 at 08:49 AM
Oh, I do like secret places...this sounds like a neat book. Thanks.
Posted by: Charlotte | May 15, 2008 at 03:47 PM
It has lots of kid appeal. Tell me what you think if you check it out, Charlotte.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 15, 2008 at 04:08 PM
Both of my children have secret places. We'll put this on our summer list.
Posted by: Wisteria | May 15, 2008 at 09:48 PM
Wisteria, I think y'all will like "Secret Places." Definitely worth seeking out at the library.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 16, 2008 at 08:25 AM
I had forgotten about SECRET PLACES until I read this post. I have so many children's poetry books that I lose track of some from time to time.
Kids love to have secret hiding places. My cousins and I once had a little "clubhouse" under my grandparents' porch.
Tadmack's hidey hole sounds like a a cozy spot.
Posted by: Elaine Magliaro | May 16, 2008 at 09:40 AM
What a neat sounding collection. Now you've got me thinking about my secret places too. It concerns me that my kids don't have the same freedom I did; they're usually under my watchful eye. I guess there's a good chance their secret places will be interior ones, rather than outside.
(At our summer camp growing up, we called it the "bug truck." :-)
Posted by: writer2b | May 16, 2008 at 12:47 PM
Elaine, a clubhouse under the porch sounds like a grand place. I do love porches, too.
Writer2b, we actually played in the "fog" of the fog machine. It was probably DDT or something. Gads.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 16, 2008 at 01:37 PM
I'm going to seek out this one over the weekend. I had occasional secret places (under the dining room table, leaves folded down, with stereo speakers facing in at either end; up a birch tree) but always really wanted one like the cottage in Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards. Or my own tree house.
Posted by: Kelly Fineman | May 16, 2008 at 04:12 PM
Kelly, I really enjoyed the poems in the book. Tell me what you think when you read them. I know the third graders liked the book, too.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 16, 2008 at 04:50 PM
This sounds like a wonderful book. I'll have to look for it. I am another one that always had secret places and my boys are the same. Right now they like to hide behind the couch or in the back corners of the yard. I am growing lilacs and forsythia with more secret places in mind.
Posted by: cloudscome | May 17, 2008 at 06:27 AM
I can just imagine the boys finding secret places in your lovely gardens, Cloudscome. I'm so glad Jr.'s teacher mentioned this book as one she loved because over and over I've found that other people's favorites make splendid reading.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 17, 2008 at 11:43 AM
I had lots of wonderful hiding places, both inside and out, as a kid. I'm going to have to check this out. Lovely excerpt. Brought back memories of creating my own world in the niche in the shrubs in our sideyard.
Posted by: Laura Salas | May 21, 2008 at 01:55 PM
Laura, we are still reading and enjoying this book; the subject seems to speak directly to readers' hearts--which is neat. I hope you like it, too.
Posted by: Susan T. | May 21, 2008 at 02:15 PM
Sounds like a wonderful book! When I was about six I had a hidey-hole at my grandfather's house, where I spent time almost every day. There was a certain tree in the backyard that I loved to climb, with a branch that came very close to the patio roof. I remember making this pulley out of a rope and cardboard box, and I would haul toys up there and stash them on the patio roof so I could play with them while I was up in the tree. My grandfather wasn't so hot on the idea, though...
Posted by: a. fortis | May 21, 2008 at 03:23 PM
A.F., sounds like a grand kind of place, up in a tree! Grandparents' houses were great for this kind of hideout, weren't they?
Posted by: Susan T. | May 21, 2008 at 05:22 PM