As a child, my mother’s favourite book was A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, published in 1909. So naturally I wanted to read it growing up. I checked it out of the library when I was 11 or 12. However, part way in, my mom took the book away from me as she said my behaviour was changing as a result of reading it – and not in a good way. I do really disappear inside of books, so it is possible I was reacting to my mother as if she were the cold and self-absorbed mother character in the book.
I recently bought the book for my mom and read it myself. In the end, the mother reforms and all ends happily ever after. But what struck me about the book then and now was the real life Limberlost itself, a fertile wetland and forested area in Indiana that was already under threat from logging and resource extraction. Under the tutelage of the Bird Woman, the young “girl of the Limberlost” becomes a naturalist herself. I remember falling in love with the Limberlost when I was a child, and relived the magic when I read it all the way through this time. My love of nature was strong even back then and perhaps it was that book that first stirred my inner activist. Sadly the Limberlost is no longer, but the issues the book raises are still with us today. Any young person would be inspired by the young naturalist that Stratton-Porter brings to life and the very real and beautiful natural world she defended.