Audrey Tautou in Amélie, Miramax Films, 2001

From The Chronicle Review:

Remember that scene in Amélie? Our heroine finds a forgotten box of toys hidden in her Paris apartment’s bathroom wall and seeks out its former owner. Finally she learns his identity. She leaves the toys in a phone booth and calls him there as he walks by. Miraculously, he goes into the booth, cautiously picks up the phone, sees the box, and discovers a time machine: his lost youth returned.

I felt like this fortunate character when I rediscovered the children’s encyclopedia that I had read every day as a child. It turned out to have been the bridge between my childhood play and adult work.

Every time I return to my hometown of Crossville, Tenn., I visit a modest used bookstore called the Book Cellar. A few years ago, I saw there a matched set of tall hardbacks in the front window; they looked oddly familiar and drew me across the room. As I knelt down before the low window shelf, the shock of recognition was like meeting my child self in a dream. I was looking at several volumes of The Golden Treasury of Knowledge. This series was published in the late 1950s and early 60s by Golden Press, which also created the pocket-size Golden Nature Guides that introduced me to the world outside the window.

Finding these volumes again was like having Amélie plant my childhood toys for me to discover. No, it was like finding the key to the Secret Garden and discovering that, although I am an adult outside the wall, within it I am still a child. From an early age, I felt safe in the garden of books, where I could quietly discover everything at my own pace.

The Golden Treasury of Knowledge (Vol. 15). Illustration by Ned Seidler

“Remembering a Golden Age of Reading”, Michael Sims, The Chronicle Review