It was the first and most important book I never read. Back in first grade, although I was already a big Dr. Seuss fan and could read picture books on my own, what I truly craved was some sort of talisman of my ability to read the same books grown-ups did, something I could hold on to, carry around at school, and put under my pillow at night to imbue myself with advanced reading powers. I found this book in the discard bin outside the third-grade science classroom -- people thew books away? -- and immediately adopted it as my talisman. Whenever I had an idle moment at school, I sat or leaned against the wall, opening it to some random page, and assuming an air of profound readerly engagement. Only I never read it, not until many years later when I found it in a box of my old childhood things. It turns out to be a lovely book, published in 1936, and filled with quaint questions and answers ("In what ways are land animals fitted to move?" "How is the mole fitted for tunneling through the soil?"). But the greatest thing about it, to me, is that it worked -- not as a mere book, but as a gateway, a door, to an entire universe of others.