Hanna's Holy Grail or White Whale

I feel like everyone has a childhood book that is either a holy grail or white whale, depending on your feelings towards said book, in which you remember the plot, perhaps the characters, possibly even the cover, but cannot for the life of you remember the title of the author.  For years I was haunted by a book that I knew involved an older male figure that could be anywhere from an eccentric uncle to a mad-scientist type grandfather, a vehicle of potentially magical means that I was pretty sure was a van (I always imagined a VW Westfalia), and a GREAT, quite possibly deified, popsicle.  I knew my father had read this book aloud.  Yet when I repeatedly asked my parents if they could recall this book I was always met with a negative.  Off and on through my early adult years I would try and unearth this mysterious tome to no avail.  One would think googling ‘book with giant popsicle and van’ might do the trick.  No dice.

Then one day I applied for a job at Rediscovered Books and after working for a couple of months decided to put my newly acquired skills to the test.  It is not uncommon for people to come in with only vague descriptions, plot lines, and character knowledge hoping we can work a miracle and produce a title.  And amazingly, a lot of the time, we can.  In fact, one of my favorite customer interactions was helping find their holy grail of a book.  The best part was after listening to them talk about the plot and characters I knew what book they were talking about but could not for the life of me remember the title either.  So, out came my google sleuthing skills and I eventually came up with the book.  It was The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt.  With this success under my belt I decided to turn to my once holy grail now definitively white whale of a book.  I was going to figure it out even if it killed me.

Eventually I managed to generate a google prompt so detailed that I got a page with five results.  Four of which were absolutely useless.  And the last one was a blog post.  I was skeptical but decided to read it.  And there, three-quarters of the way through the article was a book title.  I googled the title, read the book description, and nearly burst into tears.  After close to a decade of wondering what the popsicle book was I now had an answer: Borgel by Daniel M Pinkwater.  Tragically Borgel is out of print so I could not acquire a shiny new copy for my shelf.  Instead, I turned to Biblio.com, the trusty site of indie bookstores selling used books, to get a copy.  When it arrived I carefully opened the package and smiled.  Here, at long last, was the fruits of my labor.

No, I did not reread it.  And frankly, I don’t plan to.  I like my memories of the plot and characters just fine; skewed and time worn as they are.  That used copy sitting on my shelf is a trophy of a quest.

While Borgel is out of print in its original form, it is part of a bind-up collection - 4 Fantastic Novels (ISBN: 9780689834882), a compilation of four popular Daniel Pinkwater books: Borgel; Yobgorgle: Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario; The Worms of Kukumlima; and The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror.