I don’t know about you, but every now and again I look at the “to read” shelf and can’t be bothered with another book about adulting. What happened to the excitement and adventure and talking rodents?
So I have a rummage around the ever groaning “read” shelves and see if I can find a classic from my dim and dark past to kick start my reading again.
Some of them have fallen totally out of favour with today’s mini readers but some are still just as popular as ever.
So I thought I’d take you on a trip down memory lane with some of the books I loved and make myself feel antique in the process.
My parents and I were talking about these books the other day. Allan and Janet Ahlberg pretty much defined my generation with their ace books based on the card game. I loved all of them and am chuffed to see they are still popular with kids today. I talked myself out of buying them, just. I think my favourite was Mrs Plug the Plumber from what I can remember.
Did you know: Allan Ahlberg has written over 150 books for children, the 20 Happy Families books are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended).
Badjelly the Witch
This one has more than likely fallen out of favour but is by the late, great Spike Milligan and I loved it. Just reading the book was an experience with the handwritten font that Milligan had done weird doodles amongst. It was a bit of a Hansel and Gretel type tale about an evil witch who kidnaps two children to eat with peanut butter and then attacks God who tries to rescue them. The best bit about it was it was a bit naughty with Fluffy Bum the Cat and the overall book is quite chaotic. Perfect for kids and a bit baffling for adults.
Did you know: Milligan’s six year old daughter drew the opening double page spread, thus setting the tone.
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers
I grew up in the Lake District so clearly there was never a Beatrix Potter book too far away. I love that they are timeless and my number one favourite is celebrating his 110th birthday this October, the devilish Samuel Whiskers. Another kidnap tale (I’m starting to see a worrying trend here) where Tom Kitten, on the run from his stern mother Tabatha Twitchit, meets the rodent world’s Bonnie and Clyde, Samuel and his wife Anna Maria. They decide Tom will make a delicious pudding and there is a race against time to save poor Tom.
Did you know: As with most of Potter’s tales, there is a grain of truth in there. When she first bought Hill Top in the Lakes, it was infested with rats and Samuel Whiskers was born.
Mr Galliano’s Circus
Everyone of a certain age will have a favourite Enid Blyton book, whether it’s Noddy or the Magic Faraway Tree or the Famous Five. I will accept that they definitely have not stood the test of time but I still have a soft spot for the Circus Tales. I loved the idea of just upping sticks and travelling around in a caravan. One thing Blyton did well was writing stories where children are treated like adults and solve mysteries.
Did you know: The Circus Books were some of the first Blyton published at the dark beginnings of World War 2 which played a huge part in her popularity, providing children with pure escapism.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Another set of doctrine infested tales for children but as a kid I just loved the adventure of it all and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the absolute best of them. Who couldn’t love Reepicheep, Prince Caspian’s rodent bodyguard as well as Eustace, the misery guts who finds his bravery in the end. I must have read this book a hundred times and it still makes me happy.
Did you know: The world of Narnia was named after the Italian town Narni.
For a lot of people, myself included, Narnia gave way to Middle Earth and the entry level book for this is The Hobbit. It is hard not to read and re-read The Hobbit with fondness. It doesn’t have the plodding pace of Lord of the Rings and to be honest, I haven’t read any of the others. Bilbo is one of the most likeable characters in fiction to me and the ragtag band of followers he puts together to defeat evil Smaug are irresistible.
Did you know: There isn’t one female character in The Hobbit, some are mentioned but never appear. Make of that what you will.
James and The Giant Peach
No list of childhood fiction would be complete without the granddaddy of them all, Roald Dahl. He is quite simply the perfect children’s author, just enough badness mixed with just enough morality to make a winning formula worthy of Mr Wonka’s chocolate factory. For me, the best tale is James and The Giant Peach. It has adventure, magic; talking bugs and was a little bit scary. The Cloud Men were really horrible.
Did you know: Dahl got a lot of criticism for the book and when asked by a young fan what he thought about that, he said “A whole lot of grown-ups have written reviews, but none of them have really known what they were talking about because a grown-up talking about a children’s book is like a man talking about a woman’s hat”. Fair enough.
So I’m definitely showing my age with these books (a lot had been in a print a while when I found them…honest), but they still make me go all misty eyed.
I’d love to know what books make you think back to when you were a little reader. Let me know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.