+ Reader's Digest Junior Omnibus +

RDJO cover this book belongs to I've been happily reading the Reader's Digest Junior Omnibus since sometime in 1959. It makes excellent sick day browsing: many of the stories remain fascinating after many reads, and I recover the feelings of wonder and pleasure I had the first time I read them or pored over the pictures. And now I know the answers to all the riddles.I scrawled my name and the year in the space provided: an (to me) ornate racetrack shaped this-book-belongs-to space. I don't have that copy anymore (I have two others) but I can still clearly see my name. I didn't do a very good job, but since I was born in 1954, if the book was a birthday gift, I turned five when I got it.

Beyond the excellent stories, the book itself has pleasurable features:

  • the cover had a clear plastic-ish laminated top layer that was fun to peel off
  • the back cover had a grid of illustrations from the book, each labeled with an alluring genre: Wonders of the Air; Marvels of the Deep; Thrilling Momments... you could read a story and investigate to see if its illustration had made it onto the back cover
  • because it was published in England and I was in Troy, New York and then Ottawa, Ontario, its mention of shillings and pences was very exotic and not just boring old cents and dollars.

I still tell jokes from it.

the lazy artist

what would you do?

What is the first thing you would do if you were piloting an aircraft and the Prime Minister fell out of the back seat? Royal Australian Air Force trainees gave all sorts of answers when asked this question.

"I'd swoop down and try to catch him," said one hopefully.

"Commit suicide," said another.

"Disappear," said a third.

The correct answer?

"Adjust ailerons to compensate for reduced weight in the rear section."

paris in the the spring

The stories cover everything from Pompeii to Annie Oakley to Lewis Carroll; have dogs, cats, horses and a seal that playes the trumpet; submarines and the stars. There are all kinds of puzzles and questions and tricks.

The vocabulary was too hard for me when I first got the omnibus, but I grew into it; that journey remains one of the greatest reading experiences of my life. An article on Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum has the title History & Horror in Wax. I couldn't read the word history, so I substituted. Hindus. Hindus & Horror in Wax. Before I could read everything I examined the llustrations for hours on end.

So now I've begun doing a bit of research into some of the stories and their authors and illustrators. Authors like James Thurber feel well-known to me; most I had not heard of before. It's really fun to learn about them. Most of the illustrators are not identified in the omnibus; their work isn't signed and there is no listing of their names anywhere. The illustrators I have been able to find information on—Dodie Masterman, Ed Verbell—are award-winning and have really interesting biographies. A few illustrators signed only by initials; if you have any clues as to their identities, I'd love to hear about it. Anyway, read on about stories you remember. If they're new to you, please believe me when I tell you they're all worth the time:

+ Man Overboard! + The City That Died to Live + Annie Oakley and the Wild West + Pigs is Pigs +
+ The Princess Who Wanted the Moon + The Night My Number Came Up + I Killed "Moby Dick" +
+ Hector, the Stowaway Dog + The Day I Met Midnight + Hunter + History and Horrors in Wax +

+ If you want to comment about the omnibus or see a particular story mentioned here, please write to omnibus@chebucto.ca
+ If you have an extra copy of the Reader's Digest Junior Omnibus, I'd be happy to send it on to someone who has lost theirs.
+ This site is hosted by Chebucto Community Net, providing free and low-cost internet in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, since 1994.
+ A labour of love by Jane Kansas, last updated on July 9, 2011.