The Children’s Library – Part One
From a young age, I’ve always absolutely adored reading. When I passed by Grade Three Ballet Exam, my Grandma wanted to get me a gift to say congratulations and when she asked what I wanted, at age ten there was clearly only one thing. A trip to the bookshop. But in a time before Harry Potter, before Twilight, what did we read? In my case, a lot of different books. but there were a select group of stories that I would always come back to, and read, read and read again.
The book that my grandma ended up buying was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I absolutely adored this book. I loved reading the adventures of Moonface, Saucepan Man, The Angry Pixie and Silky. For a long time afterwards, and to be honest, to this day, I would look up trees on walks through forests in hope that I might discover the tree where all these wonderful adventures took place. And this was a time where the main characters were Jo, Bessie, and Fannie, oh and their cousin Dick. No longer. Today’s children have to read about Joe, Beth, Frannie and Rick, and aren’t they all the poorer for it?
But whilst poor Fannie and Dick may have not passed the test of the time, Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows has. My fondest memory of this book involves my father’s love of golf. He was a keen golfer and I vividly remember being looked after in the golf club with a plate of tuna sandwiches and a beautiful hardback copy of the Wind in the Willows whilst he nipped out for a cheeky round of golf. And don’t feel sorry for me, I wasn’t deprived or neglected, I absolutely loved this, this was most definitely my idea of heaven. The Wind in the Willows is a classic for good reason and the adventures of Badger, Ratty and Mole, and not forgetting the impassable Mr Toad are utterly timeless.
In a world away from the adventures of nature’s animals, and in a time before horrific attacks on members of the Bolshoi Ballet dominated the headlines, the most trouble the Ballet world went through (in my humble opinion anyway) was the sighting of a ghost in book two of Mal Lewis Jones’ stories from The Ballet School. And believe me, that was not a laughing matter, I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I’m not sure if anyone else remembers these wonderful stories which focused on Cassie’s various antics and dance classes, but I absolutely loved these books. I’m not sure how often I read the series, but I do remember being devastated when I lost the third in the series. I am still am to be honest.
Another favourite was Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom. I first read this book in my Year Six class when we were studying World War Two, and what a tearjerker of a story it is. It tells the story of William “Willie” Beech who is evacuated from his abusive mother’s house in London to live with the elderly recluse, Mister Tom. Not only is it a fascinating tale of the war, it’s a wonderful tale of love, and when I reread this last year, I was a quivering wreck for quite some time after. You’ve been warned.
A post about children’s literature would be unjustly incomplete without including the wonderful world of Roald Dahl. And whilst it’s near on impossible to choose just one favourite, if push came to shove, well, it would have to be Matilda wouldn’t it? I’ve previously spoken of Matilda taking her place in the female literary heroines hall of fame (you can read all about that here), but in a time before I worried about such things, I loved Matilda for what it is, a magical children’s story about good triumphing over bad. Not only that, it includes the formidable Mrs Trunchball, and just how fantastic is it when Matilda finally gets her revenge on her?