While I’m in a nostalgic mood, and inspired by Jackie Morris’ blog post, First Love, I spent time this week reminiscing about the books I enjoyed as a child. Although I never read the ‘classics’ when I was younger, the books I remember have become classics in their own right. They are still in print and I was able to borrow all of them from my local libraries.
Little Old Mrs Pepperpot
Written by Alf Prøysen and illustrated by Björn Berg
Whoever heard of an old woman becoming queen of the crows? Or riding through the snow on the back of a cat? Or tricking a mouse into cleaning her house?
Well, with the amazing Mrs Pepperpot, anything can happen-and usually does-especially when she can shrink to a few inches high without a moment’s notice! But being small can have its advantages, especially when it means you can also talk to the animals…
Mrs Pepperpot is an ordinary lady until she shrinks to the size of a pepperpot (obviously). I loved the idea of ‘smallness’, being able to see and experience the world from another perspective. This is also a theme in another of the books I read as a child: Five Dolls in a House by Helen Clare (no longer in print).
The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook
Written and illustrated by Joyce Lankester Brisley
The stories of Milly-Molly-Mandy and her friends have charmed generations of children since their first publication in 1925. Perfect for reading aloud, these twenty-one stories with original illustrations will bring back happy memories for parents and grandparents and introduce younger readers to an enduringly popular heroine.
These were simple stories of friendship and everyday happenings in a small village in the English countryside. The setting was very different to my childhood in inner London, but I yearned for the woods and fields and wildlife that were found in the books. I particularly loved the map of the village on the endpapers and would follow the route that Milly-Molly-Mandy took to school.
The Enchanted Wood
Written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Victoria Ball (cover) and Jan McCafferty (interior)
When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to the country they are amazed to find an Enchanted Wood and a magic Faraway Tree on their doorstep. They soon make friends with the magical characters who live there. Together they visit the strange lands that lie at the top of the tree and have the most exciting adventures-and narrow escapes!
Trees that go wisha-wisha; Moonface, Silky and Saucepan Man; the ladder into the clouds. What adventures the children had in the different lands at the top of the magic Faraway Tree. When I read this book to my classes, the children loved it, especially going to the Land of Do-As-You-Please. But no-one wanted to visit the school run by Dame Slap (later Dame Snap)!
My Naughty Little Sister
Written by Dorothy Edwards and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
My naughty little sister is stubborn and greedy and full of mischief. She tries to cut off the cat’s tail, she bites Father Christmas’s hand, and she and Bad Harry eat all the trifle at Harry’s party!
How much trouble can one little sister cause?
This was the Horrid Henry of my generation! The stories are vignettes of life with my naughty little sister and her friend, Bad Harry. And the illustrations are by the wonderful Shirley Hughes, who wrote one of my favourite children’s books, Dogger.
The Famous Five
Written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (cover)
Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog find adventure wherever they go.
The Secret Seven
Written by Enid Blyton and illustrated by Tony Ross
It’s their very first adventure and the Secret Seven super-sleuths are already on the trail of a mystery!
The gang are dressed in disguise, following a lead to a spooky old house in the snow…
Whenever I read these books, I would try to solve the mystery before the ending. This was the beginning of my love for whodunnits, which led to Agatha Christie and then Ellis Peters and other historical mystery writers. I also loved the freedom the children had to roam the countryside and have adventures (whilst drinking loads of ginger beer). As children, we roamed the local streets and park, but sadly were never called on to solve any mysteries! Both series have been repackaged with cover illustrations for the Famous Five by leading UK illustrators, including Quentin Blake, Chris Riddell and Babette Cole, and illustrations for The Secret Seven by Tony Ross.
Written by E. B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams
This is the tale of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of a friendly spider, saved her pig, Wilbur, from the usual fate of nice fat little pigs.
This book is wonderful and has an ending that broke my heart. I adored Wilbur and still have a soft spot for pigs. Dick King-Smith’s The Sheep-pig (aka Babe) is another book that captures the intelligence of these delightful creatures.
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe
Written by Penelope Lively and illustrated by Oliver Burston (cover)
Bottles have been smashed, doors slammed and strange messages scrawled everywhere. And James is being blamed.
It’s not fair. Why won’t his parents believe in ghosts? Because the ghost of Thomas Kempe is very real. And he’s got it in for James…
This ghost story scared the life out of me when I read it! I had a vivid imagination and kept expecting a book to go flying across my bedroom. Yet, despite being terrified, I kept reading and finished the book.
It’s been fun thinking back to the books of my childhood. Since I’ve borrowed them all from my local libraries, I think I’ll re-read them and see what I think of them now.
What about you? What books do you remember reading as a child? Please share your memories in the comments section.
All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb of the book.