I was prompted to think of my favourite childhood books while doing a spring clean today. I have my favourites grouped together in a place of honour in the spare room where I can easily see them when I enter the room.
Why are these few books my favourites? I am not really sure, but they evoke a certain response of warmth and security in me. I loved to immerse myself in books from a very early age, and found a safety, certainty and consistency within their pages. I knew that when I returned to the school library next time, my friends would be there - unless borrowed by someone else - and the worlds and characters within remained unchanged.
Below I share my special favourites with you and a few words about what I especially remember about each one.
‘A is for Apple Pie’ by Kate Greenaway
I love the art-work of Kate Greenaway, but for me this story was more about the alphabet. I am a calligrapher now and trace my love of letters and decorative alphabets back to this book. The various things happening to the apple pie throughout the story were only of minimal interest to me.
‘Millions of Cats’ by Wanda Gag
I loved the artwork of Wanda Gag in this book as well as the story. I was always fascinated by the concept of the cats eating each other one by one until they were all gone. I remember lying in bed for hours at night, trying to visualise this happening.
‘The Funny Thing’ by Wanda Gag
The second Wanda Gag book on my list. Again, I love the artwork of this book, but remember as a child believing that ‘jum-jills’ were real food. I thought my mother was so ignorant, not knowing what they were or how to make them. I remember cooking as a child trying to make something close to ‘jum-jills’ but with no success. I also have a vivid idea in my mind of the exact shade of blue of the points on the Funny Thing’s back and tail - I’ve always called it ‘jum-jill blue’. I also wanted to live in a cave like Bobo.
‘The Little House’ by Virginia Lee Burton
I loved the changing of the seasons around the Little House and wanted to live there. To my childlike mind it was an idyllic setting. It was quite alarming to see the city gradually encroaching upon the countryside around the house. I also remember my young mind trying to come to grips with the concept of generations as written on the very first page - ‘The man who built her so well said, “This Little House shall never be sold for gold or silver and she will live to see our great-great-grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren living in her.”’ I developed a passion for genealogy when older - maybe this book had something to do with it.
‘The Story of Little Black Sambo’ by Helen Bannerman
I loved the brilliantly coloured illustrations of this story and believed literally that tigers would turn into butter if they ran around in circles fast enough, holding on to each other’s tails. I think of this story every time I make pancakes.
‘The Cow Who Fell in the Canal’ by Phyllis Krasilovsky
This story sowed early seeds of ‘wanderlust’ in me, filling my mind with brightly coloured, naïve imaginings of what Holland was like. I always remember being really excited seeing my first real tulip many years later. I remember guessing at some of the Dutch words in the illustrations, and was also fascinated by the illustration that depicted round Dutch cheeses in balls. I nagged my mother to buy round cheese but there was no such thing in the supermarket where I grew up.
Do you have favourite books from your childhood? Share them here.