When I was a kid one of my favourite things to do was to curl up with a book.
Books took me to places I could not go in real life. I had adventures, solved mysteries, travelled to exotic places, met new people, laughed out loud, cried silent tears and filled my mind and my heart with wondrous new ideas and feelings.
I started out with Little Golden Books. Mum joined me up to the local library and I would borrow two books a week. I have a dim memory of sitting in the back of the car on the way home from the library ‘reading the pictures’ to myself. I loved “The Saggy Baggy Elephant” and “The Tawny Scrawny Lion”. I could almost recite the those stories. My fascination with firemen and my subsequent, but ill-fated, desire to become a firefighter myself had its roots in “The Five Little Firemen”.
Family friends in the USA sent my brother and I our first Dr Seuss book “Horton Hears a Who!” in 1958. We liked the rhyming patterns and would march around the house chanting sections of the book. My own two children did the same thing when they were young.
I also liked this one by Mike McClintock.
“i sat by the lake, and looked at the sky, and as I watched, a fly went by.”
Then I moved on to Enid Blyton’s “The Secret Seven” series.
My Nanna started me off on these wonderful stories with “Well Done Secret Seven” as a birthday present when I was six. I read it in a day and borrowed two more from the library later that week. I began making plans to recruit my brother, my cousin and three of the neighbourhood kids to form my own version of the Seven. Sadly, they did not share my enthusiasm.From there it was a natural progression to “The Famous Five” also by Enid Blyton.
The Five were wonderful. I loved their adventures and recreated many of their experiences with my cousin, Greame. We tried to make the ginger beer that the Five always drank…only a small explosion, but it got us banned from unsupervised kitchen experiments for a month.
Later, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys became my favourites. The advent of television brought after school specials into my life and these characters were not just in my books but also on my television screen. I liked those old tele-movies but I am not as fond of the more recent movie versions of Nancy Drew.
I read Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi” when I received it as a gift. I read it until it fell to pieces. I laughed and played with Heidi. i cried with her and I was uplifted by her spirit as she faced challenges.
Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” was delicious piece of semi-scary fantasy that had me checking very woman I met for the signs that meant she was a witch. I read it many years later to a class of seventh graders. When I showed them the cover they made noises about it being a “baby book” but by the end of the first chapter, they were hooked.
I still have all these books on my bookshelves. They are part of me, part of my life experience. It seems to me that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you read a children’s book. The same joy and sense of wonderment are still there if you are open to receiving them.
I think it is a good thing , every so often, to allow the child within each one of us to escape to the favourite places of youth… the places found in the books of our childhood.