Books I remember fondly (but not their titles)
July 19, 2008 6:24 PM   Subscribe

What is the name of the book I read in 5th grade (as part of the curriculum) about a boy who finds a magic traveling alleyway in his neighborhood and meets the inhabitants, including an old "bag lady" who sews sweaters from bits of trashed yarn and an adolescent girl who ... wears roller skates, maybe? To clarify, these people live in houses that are inside the alley, and the alley itself (or the entrance to it, at least) moves every so often. I've been wondering about this book for years and can't seem to find reference to it. Thanks! (Bonus questions inside)

Bonus book: A mousy boy with brown hair and eyes discovers that he takes after his mother, who he's never met (whereas his brothers all look like dad, big and strong with blond hair and blue eyes), and also that she was some kind of witch, and he sets out to discover more. also I remember fondly the fetishization of eating hunks of bread and cheese with fruit for meals while traveling (anybody else notice this as a teen fantasy novel trope?)

Also there was something to do with "runes," possibly this was even part of the title.

Another bonus book: This one was about a girl who is vacationing on an island with her family and comes to realize that her next-door-neighbors for the summer, a couple of guys, are involved in this creepy sort of board game, the outcome of which has implications for their real lives. There's something to do with drawing cards that have special abilities on them (suits of armor? weapons?) After I read this book I was inspired to create a deck of "abilities" cards to be used while playing checkers, but the concept didn't translate very well.

ANOTHER bonus book: This one I read when I was super small. It was a children's picture book about an Asian (Japanese or Chinese?) prince or warrior who goes on a quest. The main thing about this one is that the art was GORGEOUS. I also remember the story being surprisingly dark (perhaps the hero dies?). I think it may have won an award (gold seal on the cover?)

I would have read all of these in the late 1980's - early 1990's.

K thanks again!
posted by radiosig to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The second bonus book sounds a bit like Interstellar Pig, with the reversal of the protagonist's gender.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 8:10 PM on July 19, 2008

I, too read this book in the early 90s, and have been troubled by my inability to find it again. If I'm right, the alley was "detached" from time by a kindly mad-scientist type with fears about the Cold War or WWII?
posted by Alterscape at 8:57 PM on July 19, 2008

The first book sounds kinda similar to a scene or two from The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death. That was my favorite book for a few years just before Jr. High. I can't remember the specifics right now, but maybe?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:33 PM on July 19, 2008

The first book is The People of Pineapple Place by Anne Lindbergh. The third book is almost certainly Interstellar Pig by William Sleator, although it's a boy not a girl. The second is familiar but I can't place it; I'll think on it.
posted by smoakes at 10:33 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

The first book sounds sort of like A Wrinkle in Time.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:01 AM on July 20, 2008

I also read the third book, about the board game. I had a feeling it might have been called The Game, but not too much luck searching for that. Another detail I'm certain of is that an element of the game was the 'the piggy' -- something like whoever had the piggy got to move, or one of the objects was to get the piggy and prevent one's opponents from stealing it. And it was creeeeepy!
posted by ecsh at 7:25 AM on July 20, 2008

Got it! Interstellar Pig.
posted by ecsh at 7:28 AM on July 20, 2008

Was the last book Everyone Knows What A Dragon Looks Like, by Jay Williams illustrated by Mercer Mayer? Such a great book. (Amazon)
posted by doift at 7:39 AM on July 20, 2008

You people never cease to amaze me! The first and third books have indeed been identified; People of Pineapple Place, and Interstellar Pig. The fourth one could be Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like, it certainly seems possible, but I'd have to look inside to know for sure; maybe I'll head down to the library today to see if they have that one to confirm it.

It was such a rush looking at the covers of these old books again. Thanks so much!
posted by radiosig at 2:08 PM on July 20, 2008

the fourth book (the picture book) sounds like a Caldecott award winner, with the gold medal on the front. (Gold medals are used for winners, silver for honor titles) so you may want to check lists of caldecott winners--it's a long-standing award, but there aren't that many winners:
posted by kumquatmay at 7:01 PM on July 20, 2008

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