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Mikeharvey

Children's Books We've Read

The recent TV programme about illustrated children's books drew my attention to a new one (2008) by David Almond called "The Savage". I found a copy and read it in a sitting in about twenty-five minutes.
It's a story within a story.
The storyteller, Blue, is remembering a time in the past when his father died, and how he and his mother and sister coped with it. He also remembers his problems with a school bully. And, more especially, he remembers how at that time he wrote a story for school called "The Savage" about a wild inarticulate boy who lives in the woods and kills things.  His other self?
The book is told in alternate chapters - one strand being Blue's narrative in the present - the second is "The Savage" printed in a different type-face and with spelling mistakes as Blue might have written it when younger. Just when you think you have the story, and Almond's theme, sussed, he then he pulls the rug from under your feet as reality and the story of the "savage" begin to blur, and you don't know where reality ends and fantasy begins.
I thought this was a beautifully conceived book.  Expertly told, innovative and touching. The chapters of the book telling the story of the savage are illustrated by David McKean with splashy seemingly undisciplined, blue/ green pictures which capture the savage's life and locations beautifully.  
Recommended.  I should think for thoughtful readers about ten years old.
Mikeharvey

I read my second children's book in a week.  "The Boy In The Dress" by David Walliams (Little Britain). It's an entertaining and amusing read about Dennis, a twelve-year old, who, as well as being a first-class footballer, happens to like reading Vogue and dressing in girl's clothing. As might be expected, this gets him into all sorts of bother and conflicts with parent, teachers and friends.  The resolution is charming and not quite believable. There is no suggestion in the book that Dennis is an embryonic gay.  The book seems simply to be advocating a tolerance for differences.  It's an effective and plainly written story. Walliams is no Phillip Pullman. I thought he was overfond of strident typographical effects, like two full pages of HAHAHAHAHA when the school is laughing at Dennis. And I could have done without the numerous topical references to modern products and TV programmes - including "Lttle Britain" - which I thought were an attempt to make the book seem modern at all costs. They'll date the book very quickly. I was also irritated by the use of the Americanism "like" instead of "as if" in the main narrative (boo to his editor) , although I suppose it's acceptable in conversation. I smiled a lot and laughed once or twice. The drawings are by Quentin Blake. (Harper/Collins H/B/£12.99/2008)
Mikeharvey

Yesterday I read quickly J.K. Rowling's new book "The Tales of Beedle the Bard". It's a collection of five fairy tales supposed to have been written in the 15thC for the entertainment of wizards and wizards. Muggles are permitted to read them.  However, the stories reveal rather a lot about Wizard/Witch prejudice towards Muggles which, as a Muggle myself, I found somewhat distressing.
Rowling has attempted to capture the style and flavour of stories like Grimm's Fairy Tales, and for a lot of the time she has succeeded. Although occasionally there are awkwardnesses when something doesn't feel quite right.  They are rather dark in tone and there is a surprising amount about Death.  "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" for example, is a grim story about a wizard who rejects love which ends with two violent deaths. The most traditional is "The Tale of the The Three Brothers" in which the protagonists try to outwit Death (shades of Chaucer). My favourite was "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" about a foolish king who wants to be a magician.  The other tales are "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" and "The Fountain of Fair Fortune". I thought this was the weakest with more incident than its short length could happily contain.
The stories are supposed to have been translated by Hermione Granger(from Harry Potter) and there are entertaining and Learned Footnotes with all kinds of references and afternotes to each story, allegedly written by the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore.  
I was amused by Rowling's invention of W.A.D.A. - Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Art.
evangeline

One of my favorite children's book is controversial.  It is the 1899 original Little Black Sambo.  This was the very first book I ever owned and could read.  I loved it!  It is a story of a Indian boy who outwits 3 tigers.  I can distinctly remember the words and the pictures.  Sadly, in our ever PC world, the book is actually banned by many libraries and of course, out of print, because "Sambo" is a derogatory term in some countries for dark-skinned people.  As an innocent child, though, it was and still is my favorite children's book.  As an adult, I still have never heard the word Sambo used in a negative connotation.  I intend to purchase a copy of this on E-Bay when I can find one in good condition and not too expensive.
evangeline

My second favorite children's book is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons.  This is a delightful book about why commas make a difference!  I have purchased this for several of my adult teacher friends and they love it!  The illustrations and situations are so silly that they can bring a chuckle to most!

Example:

Eat here, and get gas  v Eat here and get gas.

Becky walked on, her head a little higher than usual.
Becky walked on her head, a little higher than usual.

Slow, children crossing v Slow children crossing!

My 7 year old grandson loves this book, also!
Apple

I remember reading a book when I was younger called There is a happy land by Keith Waterhouse, looking at life in a northern town through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, living (I think) between the two world wars, or could be later, but the 11+ is mentioned and going to grammer school, and the feel of the story was of that era.

I remember it had a profound effect on me when I read it as a child - a group read at school, and then a few years later I managed to get hold of a copy which the local library was selling.  I don't know what happened to it though.

I always remember the title but the story now seems to be a bit vague, and lost in time, but I do recall a little girl getting murdered in it or something like that (or am I making that up or thinking of something else?)
Caro

Our library has a huge edition of Little Black Sambo - it is about 60cm high (2 feet) - and it is a modern version, though the words are identical to the original.  But I think the pictures are different.  I found it delightful.  It doesn't go out much, probably as much because of its size and where it therefore has to sit in the library (up high on a shelf instead of mixed in with the others).

I don't think of Eats, Shoots and Leaves as a children's book.  I would think much of the grammar in it is far beyond most youngster's abilities.  Or perhaps there is a children's version of this that I don't know.

Cheers, Caro.
Thursday Next

I have been reading a lot of Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler books with my son who is nearly 2. I think they are a bit over his head, really, but he enjoys the repetition and I find them funny and cleverly written. The Gruffalo and Monkey Puzzle are favourites, but we recently got Charlie Cook's Favourite Book out of the library and we both love it Smile
MikeAlx

My boy's almost 21 months but still won't sit through an entire book (eg 'The Gruffalo'). He was an early page-turner, and likes very much to be in control himself! However, he is starting to show an interest in letterforms - particularly 'O's, which are his favourite at the moment, but also 'A's and 'B's. But I think the mixture of upper and lower case letters is confusing him somewhat. English is so confusing for a beginner anyway - when he presses the lift button we tell him to press 'G for George', but of course it's 'G for Ground' really.
Mikeharvey

I try to keep up to a certain extent with current children's writers and have just finished "Noughts and Crosses" by Malorie Blackman. First published in 2001, it's been very popular and reprinted often.  
It takes place in an imaginary Britain where the dominant class are the Crosses (who are black) and the Noughts (who are white).  The Noughts until fairly recently have been the slave class to the Crosses. Black and white are right and wrong.  The story is told in alternating short sections by Sephy (a Cross girl) and Callum (a Nought boy). They are close friends, but their friendship is fraught with difficulties. Eventually when Callum gets older he joins a terrorist group and the book ends tragically.  
Blackman cleverly reverses stereotypes, and the book will certainly cause teenage readers to consider attitudes to race and class.  
I don't think Blackman is a very elegant writer.  Her prose style is very basic and unadorned. But that might be because she is writing in the first person as two teenagers.
I must say that I was struck by the uncompromising nature of this book and refelected on how much teenage books seem to have changed since I was young.  There was no optimism. Is that acceptable in a children's book?  It ends very bleakly.  I wonder if the two sequels offer any hope.
Thursday Next

Mikeharvey - I really liked Noughts and Crosses but have never read the sequels, partly for fear they would spoil the original.

I found a book in the library the other day called 'And Tango Makes Three' about two boy penguins who adopt an egg which is, apparently, based on a true story. You don't often see gay characters in children's books. It's quite a nice story if a little heavy handed with the 'all families are different' theme...I wonder if it came from the special shelf for 'books that deal with issues' along with 'Goodbye Mog'.

I also found a book called Frankenstella and the Video Shop Monster which is fun.

All of these are a bit old for Friday but they amuse me while he reads Kipper Counts to ten for the umpteenth time....
Chibiabos83

I was given And Tango Makes Three as a Christmas present, though I haven't found the time to read it yet...
Thursday Next

It doesn't take long to read, and the penguins are very cute!
Chibiabos83

I didn't read any Robert Louis Stevenson when I was a child - I read lots of Roald Dahl instead, and it made me the man I am today. (For Clive James it was Bulldog Drummond - read his customarily fascinating article here. Going off at a tangent, the link at the bottom of the page to "Heaven and hell: Sir Donald Sinden talks about his best and worst travel experiences" suggests the Telegraph is running out of ideas fast. No, actually, it's moderately interesting.) Where was I? Ah, yes.

When pressed to name a favourite Dahl book, which I very rarely am, much more rarely than I would like in fact, the one that generally springs most readily to mind is The BFG, one of my favourite episodes of which involves the BFG showing Sophie his collection of bottled dreams. I used to yearn for that section of the book to be longer, such was the prodigiousness of Dahl's imagination. There is one dream about a girl who saves her teacher from drowning, another about a boy who invents a book that is so addictive that all who pick it up find the act of putting it back down physically impossible, and so on. And it dawns on me that Treasure Island is like an extended version of one of these. It's a fantasy that lets the boy reading it be a hero for the duration of the book. I never had fantasies like that as a little boy - I wanted to be a disc jockey - but I can see the appeal of them now.

I read a lovely copy of the book published as part of Heinemann's Tusitala Edition of the works of Stevenson in the 1920s. It contained four prefatory essays, two by Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, and one each by Stevenson and Mrs Stevenson. The origination of the story seems to be a bone of contention: Osbourne claims it grew out of a map he drew of the island which his stepfather purloined; Mr and Mrs S. think it was more of a collaborative effort. Osbourne is an engaging writer himself. I tried to find out whether he had written a full-length biography of his stepfather, but the Wikipædia offers little (though we are told that Osbourne's own son, Samuel, "died in 2006 in Los Angeles unmarried and homeless" - what an indispensable repository of information it is).

I'm not sure I've got much to say about the book itself, source of a million piratical cliches that it must be. Stevenson's writing is elegant in its uncomplicatedness, reminiscent of Conan Doyle in that respect - perhaps it's an Edinburgh thing - and what a masterful storyteller he is! It's tremendous fun to be immersed in such adventure. The character of Ben Gunn, with his dreams of toasted cheese, is particularly memorable and likeable. Having been a Stevenson ignoramus for almost all my life, I have read a handful of his more famous books in the past couple of years and feel encouraged to explore further. My mother recommends St Ives, which she loved as a girl.
miranda

Talking about positive endings in childrens' books.....I remember reading a version of The Three Little Pigs to my niece and nephew a few years back.   It was alright until the end when the pigs and the wolf made friends after the wolf tried to blow the brick house down.  The wolf saw 'the error of his ways' and it all ended happy ever after.  They liked the ending but to me it was very unsatisfactory.  So I told them the ending I remembered best....'And he huffed and he puffed...and he HUFFED and he PUFFED and he HUFFED and he PUFFED....and BANG! his head exploded!'

The kids decided they prefered my version.....  Very Happy

But the reason I found the book's version unsatisfactory is, I think, the lack of consequence to the wolf's actions.   'Making friends' is too unrealistic and idealistic a message to give to children.  I prefer the message to be that actions have consequences.  After all, it's the moral of the story.   The lazy pigs who don't build proper houses suffer the consequence of losing their house and getting eaten, or nearly eaten, depending on the version.    Why should the wolf get away with it?

Oh, and speaking of Roald Dahl...I love his version of Little Red Riding Hood!

Even if it does undermine what I said above!
MikeAlx

miranda wrote:
The lazy pigs who don't build proper houses suffer the consequence of losing their house and getting eaten, or nearly eaten, depending on the version.

It always worried me as a kid that in reality the third pig would have been attacked and eaten during the long months of laborious bricklaying. You need good makeshift defences whilst constructing something more solid! Of course, had they been really smart they could have set up a cunning wolf trap. But that's another story...
TheRejectAmidHair

Chibiabos83 wrote:
Stevenson's writing is elegant in its uncomplicatedness, reminiscent of Conan Doyle in that respect - perhaps it's an Edinburgh thing - and what a masterful storyteller he is!


It's a lovely walk from the birthplace of the creator of Sherlock Holmes to the birthplace of the creator of Jekyll & Hyde. Strongly recommended.

Treasure Island was so much part of my own childhood, that it's impossible fo rme even to talk about it without becoming nauseatingly nostalgic and maudlin. It was back in about '68 or so, I think, when BBC serialised it for Sunday afternoons: Long John Silver was played by old Grouty himself - Peter Vaughan. We didn't have a television set at the time, so I used to go to my mate's house (Kevin, I remember his name was) to watch the episodes. Then we used to play at being pirates.

Just about all the cliches about seafaring comes from this book: the White Whale seems to be the only one that's missing. There are one-legged pirates with parrots on their shoulders, buried treasure, castaways, the black spot... It's also a wonderfully terrifying book (the illustrations by Mervyn Peake capture thi saspect of the book very dramatically). I paticularly love the bit where Jim and his mother are alone in the inn with the corpse of Billy Bones, and knowing that the pirates will be there by the evening. And is there any figure more terrifying than Blind Pew?

Oh - there's so much in this book, I could natter on all day! What about that scene where Jim sees Silver knock that man down with his crutch, and then sink his knife into him? (Stevenson was definitely a disablist: if a person is blind or one-legged, then watch out!) Or Silver's blood-curdling cry "Them that dies will be the lucky ones!" ? Or that bit where thy rip out a page of the Bible, and put a black spot on it? Or where they hear the voice of the long dead Captain Flint? Or where Jim is at the top of the rigging, with Israel Hands coming after him with a knife in his mouth?

I love also Silver's relationship with Jim. If he needed to, he wouldn't think twice about killing Jim in cold blood, but he look safter Jim partly because he needs to keep on good terms with Dr Livesey & co (in case his own men turn on him), and because, also, he likes Jim.

I know it's impossible for me to have an objective perspective on this book, but it really is the adventure story.
TheRejectAmidHair

PS When it comes to children's books, I have long felt that girls get a bit of a raw deal. While I was reading exciting stories like Treasure Island or King Solomon's Mines, the girls in my class were stuck with the likes of Heidi and Little Women. I do hope there's a bit more parity in children's literature these days....
miranda

MikeAlx wrote:
miranda wrote:
The lazy pigs who don't build proper houses suffer the consequence of losing their house and getting eaten, or nearly eaten, depending on the version.

It always worried me as a kid that in reality the third pig would have been attacked and eaten during the long months of laborious bricklaying. You need good makeshift defences whilst constructing something more solid! Of course, had they been really smart they could have set up a cunning wolf trap. But that's another story...


You were far too sensible as a child!

Laughing
miranda

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
PS When it comes to children's books, I have long felt that girls get a bit of a raw deal. While I was reading exciting stories like Treasure Island or King Solomon's Mines, the girls in my class were stuck with the likes of Heidi and Little Women. I do hope there's a bit more parity in children's literature these days....


As far as I remember, it didn't really matter if they were 'girls' books or 'boys' books, I read them anyway!
Marita

miranda wrote:
TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
PS When it comes to children's books, I have long felt that girls get a bit of a raw deal. While I was reading exciting stories like Treasure Island or King Solomon's Mines, the girls in my class were stuck with the likes of Heidi and Little Women. I do hope there's a bit more parity in children's literature these days....


As far as I remember, it didn't really matter if they were 'girls' books or 'boys' books, I read them anyway!


The same goes for me. It never mattered whether it was a ‘girls’ book or a ‘boys’ book as long as it was a ‘good’ book.

Marita
TheRejectAmidHair

Indeed - that's the way to be ... But I'm afraid I am old enough to have grown up in a time when sexual stereotyping was all the rage, and there most certainly was a division between "boys' books" and "girls' books". I still bear the psychological scars of the ribbing I got when I was caught reading Little Women...  Confused
Evie

I think it's always been the case that it's fine for girls to read 'boys' books', but boys have had a rougher deal when caught reading 'girls' books'.  Bit like with clothes - lots of women wear men's clothes, but if a man wear's women's clothes he is labelled a transvestite and allotted some kind of stigma.

Can't imagine, even now, a group of boys kicking a football around the playground discussing what fun they had reading Heidi, whereas I *can* imagine girls chatting about Treasure Island.  In theory...I'm not sure that's what most children spend their break times doing!
Chibiabos83

I read a lot of books by Noel Streatfeild when I was about 9 or 10, but this never attracted teasing from my peers. I was probably just lucky that a) they didn't have very girly covers and b) to the unaware, she might just as easily have been a man than a woman. It was still a book, of course, but everyone had to read books in year 5. All in all, given I was a geek and a speccy one at that, the complete absence of any violence perpetrated on my person during my time at school is a source of great pride to me.

My favourite Noel Streatfeild book was The Growing Summer. My brother Tom also loved it, but the edition he read had to be covered with wrapping paper to preserve his self-respect:

Marita

Quote:
Himadri said:
Indeed - that's the way to be ... But I'm afraid I am old enough to have grown up in a time when sexual stereotyping was all the rage, and there most certainly was a division between "boys' books" and "girls' books".

Quote:
Evie said:
I think it's always been the case that it's fine for girls to read 'boys' books', but boys have had a rougher deal when caught reading 'girls' books'.

Himadri, I’m as old as you and you are right about sexual stereotyping being the norm, but as Evie said, with books this stereotyping affected boys more than girls. Thanks to my dad I read a lot of ‘boys’ books. Whenever he went to the staff library at his workplace, he just picked up the books that were returned and not yet put away. Generally it was a real mixed bag and I didn’t always finish every one.

Marita
Freyda

evangeline wrote:
My second favorite children's book is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons.  This is a delightful book about why commas make a difference!  I have purchased this for several of my adult teacher friends and they love it!  The illustrations and situations are so silly that they can bring a chuckle to most!



Certainly here in the UK where the book was written, it was never intended or marketed as a children's book. Lynne Truss wrote it because she was so annoyed and frustrated at modern sloppiness towards punctuation, as if it doesn't really matter. But it's not an affectation; as she shows, it affects meaning significantly.
Chibiabos83

I'm usually good at choosing books I haven't read before, but my instincts let me down just a little with The Box of Delights by John Masefield. I've known of the book's existence almost all my life. The celebrated TV adaptation was first shown when I was about one and a half years old, and before I was ten my parents bought me the video, but I never got into it. I assumed appreciation would come with age and so, judging enough time had elapsed for me to start afresh, I approached the book without too much trepidation.

My objections are broadly the same as those I had to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland last year, though I didn't dislike this book nearly as much as Alice - I don't like whimsy or fantasy, and the constant shrinking, though less arbitrary in this book (something that clearly matters to me, unaccountably), became very tiresome.

That said, I still found much to love. It is clear from the beauty of Masefield's descriptions of birds and butterflies and Kay's dolphin ride that he is a poet. The character of Kay's cousin Maria Jones, spunky and where necessary violent, is delightful. Masefield clearly takes the same joy as Trollope in naming his clergymen - Canon Honeytongue and Canon Balmblossom, for instance - and his quirkily English sense of humour is appealing. The final rush to make it to Tatchester Cathedral in time for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (something that I suspect would never make it into a children's book now) appealed to my own sensibilities. But to get to the last page and find out that it was all a dream was slightly irritating. I'm not sure what the reader gets out of this apart from the uniform shattering of illusions and the dubious reassurance of knowing that the more unsavoury aspects of the plot were imagined - like everything else, it transpires. (Or maybe it was intended to placate those readers who clearly have so little imagination of their own that they cannot accept the idea of people changing size in a book any more than they can in real life.)

I will be reading more children's books this year, but will endeavour to choose ones set in the real world. I'm sorry I didn't enjoy this one as much as I expected to, but I don't regret reading it. Perhaps it would have made a difference if I had read The Midnight Folk first, but I doubt it.
Chibiabos83

Yesterday I read a fabulously fun book, The Wool-Pack by Cynthia Harnett, which won the Carnegie Medal as far back as 1951. (Looking over the full list of Carnegie winners, there are a number of books - generally the older ones - which I remember loving in my youth, particularly Eric Linklater's The Wind on the Moon, for instance, which my mother read to me at bedtime, and which I must reread one day to see if its magic has lasted.) There is a bookcase outside my bedroom at home which holds a number of children's books dating from my mother's youth, of which I have vowed to read five this year. The Wool-Pack is the second, after Masefield's The Box of Delights. Reading this book that my mother read as a girl (and she tells me she read Cynthia Harnett's books many times), with Harnett's excellent illustrations coloured in by my infant mother's hand, was a tender and moving experience. I so rarely think of my parents as infants, or indeed as much younger than they were when I was born, at which time they were more or less the age I am now.

As for the book itself, it's an engrossing and fast-paced story about a boy, Nicholas Fetterlock, living in the Cotswolds in 1493, and his attempts to foil a wool-smuggling operation. I'm sure it sounds very quaint, but for someone who is not among the most susceptible to historical novels I was immediately drawn in and found the book difficult to put down. Harnett's aims are partly pedagogic, and she succeeds in bringing the 1490s alive without too much heavy-handedness. In the rather sweet epilogue, she informs children of the places and landmarks described in the book that can still be found today, and of the implements she has illustrated that are housed in the V&A, which she recommends visiting. Twelve-year-old Nicholas is an amiable hero, and the fun really starts when it is announced, to his shock, that he is to be betrothed. Cecily, his intended bride, is a spirited girl and proves just the ally he needs to save his father's reputation. It might be little more than an adventure-story-by-numbers, but Harnett is a skilful writer and I will keep my eyes open for other books of hers. I believe there are more waiting at home if I feel the need.

Here's a nice blog post about the book that communicates a lot of its appeal: http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com...-woolpack-by-cynthia-harnett.html
Chibiabos83

My latest children's read is Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. As previously documented, I was very fond of her books in my youth - aged about 9 or 10 I read The Growing Summer, The Circus is Coming and Curtain Up (one of these, I think, abandoned, though I'm not sure which), Caldicott Place and A Vicarage Family (or maybe my memory is faulty) - but I gave up on Ballet Shoes on my previous attempt, about fifteen years ago. I was undeterred at that age by the thought that I was reading a book clearly intended for girls, but something about it failed to compel me to read beyond about page 50. The presence of one of my hairs between the pages of the book suggested nobody in the family had attempted to read it since, and I was damned if I was going to let it get the better of me this time.

How good a writer was she, really? I ask because there were a couple of very shoddily constructed sentences near the start of the book. I think they were probably just anomalies, as it's not a problem I've had with her before, and I believe her writing for adults is highly regarded (cf. Saplings, republished by Persephone a few years ago) - not that writing for adults necessarily requires any greater skill or talent than writing for children; they rather require different skills, I fancy.

I can fully see the appeal of such a book to an audience of young girls. From the outset it was patently obvious that the story was designed so that every girl reading it would have at least one of the three 'sisters' to identify with - the actor, the dancer or the practical one (I'm a Petrova girl, incidentally) - and as a consequence I found the clumsily explanatory final sentence ('I wonder,' Petrova looked up, 'if other girls had to be one of us, which of us they'd choose to be?') rather embarrassing. There are no silly boys either, another feature that might appeal to its target demographic. I had expected it to be a fairly safe book for someone wanting a bit of a break from Maeterlinck to read, but I was wrong on that front - he features quite heavily around the middle, and I have recently been spending much time getting to know Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, so that was rather bad timing. Or not, depending on your point of view.

All of this is merely tangential to the main point that it's an involving, fun and charming book that I am sure must continue to appeal to an element of the nation's youth who are not gripped by Eoin Colfer and Philip Pullman. Good stuff.
chris-l

I loved 'Heidi' and 'Little Women'.  I first discovered 'Heidi' when our (male) primary school teacher read it to the whole (mixed sex) class, back in about 1957. That, of course, was back in the days when teachers were not totally restricted by the need to teach to a strict curriculum. I had access to 'Treasure Island' and 'King Solomon's Mines', as well as a whole host of other 'boys' books', but I never had the least interest in reading them. As a matter of fact, I still haven't. My current bookshelf contains such gems as 'The Last of the Mohicans' and 'Coral Island', all inherited from my dear old Dad, but I keep them only for sentimental reasons, not because there is the least possibility that I will ever read any of them.

Noel Streatfield was a favourite of mine, too. At the same age, I also read books such as 'The Family from One End Street', by Eve Garnett and 'Children of the New Forest', by Captain Marryatt. There was another book I loved, called 'Susquanna of the Mounties', but I have no idea of the author. Oh, and not forgetting 'What Katy Did'!
TheRejectAmidHair

I think, Chris, that your childhood reading tastes were precisely the opposite of mine - in every respect! Very Happy
Evie

Oh, Heidi - I adored Heidi - I wanted to *be* her!  On that mountain, with Grandfather and Peter - so wonderful.  And Eve Garnett too - I wonder what happened to my One End Street books, they were just marvellous.

The Noel Streatfeild books I read and loved were a series about a girl called Gemma, who went to stay with her cousins - they were all theatrical types - she was an actress, the cousins were variously musicians and dancers.  She is unhappy and rebellious, but comes to be part of the family - I think there were four books, and I loved them to bits.
Chibiabos83

Something else that struck me about Ballet Shoes was the focus on money. Every penny the girls earn is accounted for and either paid into the post office or the academy, or given to Sylvia/Garnie or, on rare occasions, spent as pocket money. It might be a very good book to give to children to help them become spending-conscious in these times of pecuniary hardship. It's all in l.s.d. of course, but the principle remains the same.
chris-l

Himadri, that may be because your gender was the opposite to mine - in every respect! Very Happy
TheRejectAmidHair

Yes - I suppose that does have something to do with it! It does rather raise questions on the extent to which our tastes are predetermied by our genders, and to what extent they are moulded by a stereotyping imposed upon us ... My guess is that the latter is the more important, but let's not get into the nature vs nurture debate now!

(PS Our 13-year-old's daughter's favourite book is The Three Musketeers, and her favourite film is The Good the Bad and the Ugly - but she is far from being a tomboy!)
Evie

Oh, I love The Good, The Bad and the Ugly too, and adored westerns as a child - still remember the thrill of watching weekly episodes of The Virginian!  I was never tomboy either.  I also loved Errol Flynn swashbuckling away, and Tyrone Power as Jesse James, and was riveted to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on the telly, despite being a proper girl.

I loved Lord of the Flies (not a girl in sight, as far as I remember), but have never been remotely attracted to The Three Musketeers or Count of Monte Cristo type adventure stories.
TheRejectAmidHair

Hmmm  makes me curious! Why is it that you loved, say, the Errol Flynn swashbucklers, but aren't attracted to The Three Musketeers? I'd have thought they were the same genre!
Evie

Sorry, I meant in terms of reading - my last message was quite garbled generally!  I quite like adventure stories on film (I loved the Gerard Depardieu version of Count of Monte Cristo, for example), but just don't enjoy the books much.
Ann

chris-l wrote:


Noel Streatfield was a favourite of mine, too. At the same age, I also read books such as 'The Family from One End Street', by Eve Garnett and 'Children of the New Forest', by Captain Marryatt. There was another book I loved, called 'Susquanna of the Mounties', but I have no idea of the author. Oh, and not forgetting 'What Katy Did'!


I had Sussanah of the Mounties too and remember reading it but have only a vague idea what it was about.
I loved Noel Steatfield too and was also very fond of E Nesbit. I remember Heidi too with great affectinon but was disappointed by the follow-ups written by another author. I have, to this day, never really found a follow up that works. Confused
I was a very catholic reader as a child and I still enjoy a wide mixture of genres. I avidly read pony books, though it was more because I wanted a pony than that they were good stories. I had one called One More Pony which I read many times and liked for itself. I also enjoyed swashbuckling fiction and I can remember being very excited by Lorna Doone and Children of the New Forest. I certainly read Treasure Island though it was not a great favourite. I remember being scared of Ben Gunn.
Chibiabos83

But he's the best one in it! Girls, I don't know...
TheRejectAmidHair

When I was reading these books, sexual stereotyping was all the rage, of course, and if you were a boy and were caught reading  Heidi or Little Women, you were a “cissy”. Under the circumstances, it’s not surprising if your tastes developed towards a certain type of book depending on your gender. I think the extent to which we can will the development of our taste is often underestimated, and social pressures inevitably play a great part in this. For instance, I doubt there’s anyone who enjoyed the taste of beer the first time they tried it; but the social pressure to drink beer when socialising is so great, that we do end up developing a taste for it. Similarly in other things, I think.

So in short, I am not at all to what extent my preference for the likes of Treasure Island to the likes of Heidi has been manufactured by social pressure. For all that, I did read Little Women. I did quite enjoy it, as I remember – but it wasn’t a patch on Treasure Island, though!

(And I don’t care what anyone says – The Secret Garden was crap, so there! Very Happy )
Chibiabos83

That's fighting talk! I must admit I haven't read The Secret Garden, but I'm almost convinced I'd like it. I certainly enjoyed the Agnieszka Holland film from about 15 years ago. Watch this space, it's now on the TBR. I'm tempted to make you read it, Himadri!
Chibiabos83

Sure you weren't reading this, H?

http://tinyurl.com/kry5dj
Evie

I loved The Secret Garden - but I loved A Little Princess more.  Fabulous.

But I am sure H would enjoy Nancy Friday more than the FHB novel!  Smile
blackberrycottage

The library I went to as a child had a wide ranging selection. I remember Jean George's My Side of the Mountain (and the follow up); some Bobsey Twins books; A Walk through The Hills of The Dreamtime; The Vicarage Children; ones about the wild horses on Assateague Island (off the east coast of America - Carolina or Georgia?) I could travel anywhere in those books. It was The Vicarage Children who made me want to go to Skye. They had shelves of Puffin books, or so it seemed to me.  And Martin Ballard's Dockie - the first book I read with swear words in. Nicholas Fisk's Grinny, about an alien. I have read very little science fiction but I remember that.

I remeber Elisabeth Beresford's magic books. Sea Magic and some others, though she is much more famous for The Wombles.
Evie

Does anyone else remember reading a book called Run for your Life by David Line?  We read it at junior school - maybe 1973/74, my last year or last but one at junior school.  It's about two schoolboys who overhear a plot to murder someone, and try to tell people, but no one believes them, so they try to prevent it themselves.  I loved it - quite scary, certainly suspenseful, and it's stayed in my mind quite vividly for the last 35 years.
Ann

Chibiabos83 wrote:
But he's the best one in it! Girls, I don't know...
Very Happy
Chibiabos83

Perhaps it's the idea of a man obsessed by cheese that arouses my empathy. I'm very similar to Gunn in that respect.
blackberrycottage

Evie, I thought Run for your Life seemed familiar. I remember it as "Soldier and Me".
Chibiabos83

I read three picture books yesterday.

I've written about my love for illustrator Edward Gorey elsewhere (http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/sutra19159.php&highlight=#19159), and two of the books were by him: The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963) and The Iron Tonic (1969). The earlier book is an ABC, written in rhyming couplets, with each letter represented by the death of a child. It's quite as dark as it sounds. I wonder what was Gorey's audience? I can imagine some children being frightened out of their wits by the macabre, gothic pictures, but I'm sure I would have loved it as long as I hadn't read it too early in life. In the summer I read quite a lot about the propriety (or otherwise) of scaring children, and I find myself quite in favour of the idea. I think Kaye Webb had something perceptive to say on the subject. If you don't understand what it is to be frightened, it can disadvantage you as an adult. What I mean is that it's fine to expose children to books like this. Just exercise judgement. But I wonder if The Iron Tonic might be pushing things a bit far. It's a series of portraits of people in Lonely Valley so unremittingly bleak and devoid of the slightest hint of redemption that it might easily send the sensitive reader spiralling into despair. I thought of Edgar's words from King Lear: "the worst is not / So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'" Well, this is the worst. Have a look at Gorey's drawings here: http://www.google.co.uk/images?q=...;tab=wi&biw=1600&bih=1015. The first image is the marvellous cover of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, with Death sheltering the 26 small children beneath his umbrella of doom.

The other book was Georgie by Robert Bright (1944), which I bought on the strength of reading this: http://curiouspages.blogspot.com/2010/10/georgie.html. The illustrations are charming, though they don't have the power or immediacy of Gorey's (but whose do?). A slight book, but a most amiable one.
Mikeharvey

Have you discovered the anthologies of Gorey's work, a series of four or five volumes called 'Amphigorey'?  Excellent.  Last time I was in New York I visited his gallery/shop which has a huge collection of Goreyana.  All I could afford was a collection of postcards. I'm not sure whether it still survives.  Gorey once designed a cut-out 'Dracula' for use on a toy-stage with sets and figures.  I still have it in pristine conditon, unmutilated.  He also designed a real-life production of 'Dracula' which I saw. I think George Chakiris was in it.  But there were two rival atage Draculae about that time, one of which starred Terence Stamp, but I can no longer remember which was which.
Chibiabos83

I just discovered the various Amphigoreys yesterday - they seem to represent better value than buying each book individually, and they presumably include some titles that are now difficult to get hold of otherwise. I look forward to perusing them.

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