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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Growing A Reader with Melanie Conklin, author of Counting Thyme

Growing A Reader
by Melanie Conklin

The Benjamin Branch Library held a special kind of magic for me as a kid. Growing up in a small town (that was really more like a crossroads) outside of Greensboro, North Carolina, my summer days were filled with rambling woodland adventures and creek mud formed into lopsided pots. My mother let my sister and I roam wild on our five acres, and often we didn’t come back for hours, leaving her shouting off the back deck for us to come eat our lunches, darn it. But my mom worked, too, at a variety of jobs. These jobs often required her to spend an hour or two in town, and on many of those occasions, we got to visit the library.

As soon as I walked through the doors of the Benjamin Branch Library, the smell of books filled me up the same way the horse barn did. Instead of a heady mix of hay and manure, the library held the timeless scent of so many thousands of pages—of wood, and ink, and the bodies who visited them. I remember breathing in that smell and wishing I could take it with me. I visited my favorite series one by one, flitting from section to section of the library in hopes that there might be a new book on the shelf.

First, there was The Three Investigators series by Alfred Hitchcock. The Secret of Skeleton Island had my name inscribed on the library card approximately ten times in a row. The series was on a low shelf, right next to the floor. I would huddle on the low pile carpet, scanning the teal colored spines, hoping for a new book—not knowing that by the time I was reading them, these books had all been published. I didn’t realize then that I could request some of the other titles from my librarian. I just showed up faithfully, hoping, and thrilled when on rare occasion a new title appeared. 

The Babysitter's Club held my attention just as well as Hitchcock’s mysteries. Thankfully, these books were just coming out, so there were new ones arriving all the time. What books we couldn’t buy, I checked out. I swapped still more with my cousin Keri, who was as much of a book nerd as I was. Usually, when I found a new BSC title at the library, I pretty much managed to read it before mom even came back to get me. But I still took it home so I could read it again. And again. I stared at the cover of Kristy's Great Idea so long I still have that heart-patterned sweater memorized. At ten years old, who wouldn’t aspire to that level of fashion greatness? 

When it was time to leave the library, I was always a little sad, but fulfilled. I got to take a few friends home with me. Plus, I knew I would return. When I think back now, what I miss isn’t so much the books, but the place. Of course, now I spend plenty of time in my local South Orange Public Library. But I also keep books with me, all the time. The library isn’t just a place I love to visit, it is a place I take with me, everywhere I go.

Melanie's local library
Melanie's regular work space at the library.


About the Author

Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs, who are thankfully booklovers, too. Melanie spent a decade as a product designer and approaches her writing with the same three-dimensional thinking and fastidious attention to detail. Counting Thyme is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnams Sons on April 12, 2016.
About Counting Thyme

When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.
  Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here! 


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