Today I is going old skool. Shout out peps…
Yup, this week I have mainly been reading forgotten favourites from my childhood. Classics that have stood the test of time and some that haven’t but are still worth delving into.
Reading these books has been an absolute joy. It has brought back faded memories of my happy younger days, it has reminded me why I love to read so so much and reading children’s books is just a truly delightful thing (I am not including re-reading Dig Dig Dig five trillion times at bedtime to my digger-obsessed son). The books (generally) are light bright pure escapism and hurrah some of them can be read in 15 minutes. Reading them through the eyes of an adult entirely changes your perspective. Most of the time I was rooting for the mum character rather than the hero.
I am not suggesting that all these book are suitable for modern day kids living in a fast-paced world, some of the references in books such a little Princess and Heidi will be utterly foreign to them (not that there is any harm in that, children will take from these books what they want and all of the ones I have chosen are perfect for continuing to read to or with an older child). But for a mentally exhausted parent with little or no capacity for concentration then these books are just the ticket. The stories and themes are familiar and simple, the plots are are untangled and some are even illustrated (love that).
Quite frankly my dears the following books are wasted on children.
Here is my top ten count down, in no particular order.
- FLAT STANLEY by JEFF BROWN (1964)
I’ll come clean with you this was the only book in this list that I read without crying buckets at one point or other. I have loved this book since I was young, I mean when Stanley’s parents post him in an envelope to his friend’s house – how genius is that?
The book is written at a zippy pace that flies along. I adored Stanley’s weary hippie parents and the fact that everyone was so accepting of this new flat Stanley. For me the best bit of this book is the language used, good ole-fashioned Americanisms. Definitely starting a campaign to bring back the words darndest and phooey.
To be read while eating an egg sandwich and drinking a soda pop.
- A LITTLE PRINCESS by FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT
In the fly cover of my copy of A Little Princess it says this book is mainly suitable for girls aged eight to twelve. Phooey! Buy yourself a copy now, read it and hand it on to everyone you know.
To me this book is Dickens-lite. The same Victorian themes of poverty, orphans and London. The story concerns Sara, who is quite annoying to begin with but then has such dreadful experiences you will feel sorry for her. She is a fabulous heroine for girls; bold, headstrong and unbreakable. A magical read.To be read on a cold winter’s night in front of a crackling log fire.
- MILLY MOLLY MANDY STORIES by JOYCE LANKESTER BRISLEY (1928)
As a child this was one of my absolute favourite books and re-reading it I could see that it had made a huge impression on me in the 70s. I blame Milly-Molly-Mandy for my fondness of Laura Ashley patterns (don’t tell), smocks and patchwork. I adore the general feeling of nostalgia that this book evokes. The stories are short and uncomplicated, but utterly charming in their plain simplicity.
Most of all I love Joyce Lankester Brisley’s illustrations. Clear line drawings that are every bit as beautiful and gentle as the stories themselves
Everyone should read these stories just to be reminded of the pure and honest pleasure that simple activities can bring, such as painting the handle of a lawn roller or cleaning brass or making apple turnovers. A quintessential children’s book and easily one of my favourite books ever*.To be read while eating raspberry drops and aniseed balls.
- HEIDI by JOHANNA SPRYI (1881)
Da da da dada da da who can remember the poorly dubbed late 70s mini-series of this book that was broadcast in the summer holidays? I was familiar with the story of Heidi but had never read the book. Orphan Heidi goes to live with her gruff grandfather in his mountian hut. After some time she is taken away to live in the city with Clara and her governess Fraulein Rottenmeier. Oh gosh, I cried and cried along with poor little homesick Heidi.
I loved the descriptions of the mountains and the valleys in this book. And how Spypri captures that belief that hope and the simple life (and gallons of goats milk) can cure everything. I wasn’t to keen on the pious nature of some passages, but hey this book is well over 100 years old and has certainly stood the test of time.
To be read in the summer, preferably in a pasture.
- TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN by PHILIPPA PEARCE (1958)
This book had passed me by as a child but reading it as an adult was a jolt of pure delight. It echoed many parts of my much-loved Secret Garden and the way Philippa Pearce captures the scenery of the garden and the feelings of lonely Tom really resonated.
The book concerns young Tom Long who is sent away to live with his Aunt and Uncle after his brother contracts measles. Here he discovers a grandfather clock that strikes thirteen and so his time travelling begins.
To me this book was an allegory for growing up and losing the child you once were. I read it as a metaphor of childhood leading into adolescent and beyond. .
It is also about the passing of time and the changing of the scenery around you and a loss of innocence in a way. Tom travels back to a time when the house his uncle and aunt live in is surrounded by fields and meadows not the roads and houses of the modern world. Seriously I could analyse this book ’til the echos come home and I’m sure somewhere someone has.
Suffice to say I adored this book and will be re-reading it again soon.To be read while wearing striped flannel pyjamas and drinking warm milk.
* Disclaimer: I may say that many many books are ‘my favourite ever’. I m quite indiscriminate in my choices.
What were your favourite books as a child? Have you re-read them since? Can you recommend anymore children’s book for me to read?