Monday, 19 May 2008

Books of My Childhood: 1

Books made me.

Well, technically my parents made me. They created me, and they brought me up. But books helped. A lot. Second to my parents, the books I read as a child have had the strongest formative influence on me, on my life and my character. Probably the case for many people; for others it's films, or music, or sport. But for me, unsurprisingly, it was books.

And so I decided to have a retrospective of these books. To single out the ten books which had the strongest influence on me as a kid. First up?

Picture Books

And at once, I have to cheat. Because, to be honest, there isn't one I can really single out.

My favourites were (and are):

- Each Peach Pear Plum, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (I still know it more or less off by heart), and when I was slightly older, The Jolly Postman
- Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem
- Tim and Charlotte, by Edward Ardizzone (and the lovely Diana and her Rhinoceros)
- Hairy McLary
- And, of course, Asterix and Tintin.

Interestingly, these only came back after a little thought (except for Asterix, which is still a favourite). What has really stuck in my mind are the books that disturbed me, or evoked some other strong emotional response:

- The work of John Burningham, especially John Patrick Norman McHenessy: The Boy Who Was Always Late: it was something about the pictures that made my skin crawl.
- The Polar Express. This book is beautiful, but very very eerie, and I was never quite comfortable with it as a child.
- A superlatively creepy book about a painter whose paintings come to life, and who eventually goes into one his paintings and never returns.
- And Badger's Parting Gifts, which was given to my brother and I when our grandmother died. This wasn't creepy - in fact, it was very sweet, but its associations have imprinted it on my memory. Especially vivid is the page when the (dying) Badger is going along a tunnel, and finds that he can walk without his stick, and then runs, full of joy.

What about you lot? Which are your favourite (or least favourite) picture books?


  1. hmmmm.
    I love both Quentin Blake and Maurice Sendak as illustrators, so most of my favourites are things that they drew for.

    Where the Wild Things Are is one of my favourite books of all time, and In the Night Kitchen is also amazing.

    I also loved There's a Hippopotamus on the Roof eating Cake, which google tells me is by Hazel Edwards. My mother took that off to entertain the kiddies who were her patients when I was about 10 and I didn't get it back till she retired six years ago. She also took Spollyolly-diddlytiddlyitis by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake.

    I had the Jolly Postman too, and Spot the Dog, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

    Then of course, there was the Dahl - The Hungry Crocodile especially. The Twits came later.

    And then I had a lot of poetry - Michael Rosen and Dahl's Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts were the favourites, and I count them as picture books because of the Blake illustrations.

  2. Thank heavens Swiv said it. Where, but WHERE, on your list is The Very Hungry Caterpillar?! Undoubtedly the CORNERSTONE of all great libraries.

    I was a fan of the Puddle Lane books too.

  3. Hmm, I am going to show my age now. My favourite picture book was called Harry the Dirty Dog, and at age 10 my favourite author was Frances Hodgson Burnett - The Lost Prince was probably my favourite. Deeply unfashionably, another favourite was Enid Blyton's retelling of Greek Myths, and a picture book (title long forgotten) about a caravan with feet rather than wheels.

    I always found Where the Wild Things Are very scary, although I loved it when reading to my own kids.

    Later, I was briefly a children's librarian and fell in love with the Tiger who came to tea, Shirley Hughes stories

  4. Quentin Blake (The Amazing Advetuers of Lester plus anything he illustrated), Towser, Upney Junction, King Rollo, In The Dark Dark Woods and Where The Wild Things Are.


  5. Swiv: COMPLETELY forgot about Quentin Blake, dear me. Especially in conjunction with Michael Rosen - did you have Itchy Feet and Knobbly Knees? And Quick, Let's Get Out of Here, which I think had that rather creepy poem about Jacko who eats the sun and the moon...

    And In the Night Kitchen rings a massive bell - I think we had it, you know. *googles* WE DID! That was another that I found a bit creepy - evidently I was a sensitive child.

    Swiv and Hannah: I'm afraid that the Very Hungry Caterpillar didn't make an appearance til my brother was reading, and by then I'd gone on to other things... But I did find a colouring book version of it in Tate Modern last Christmas, which I thought was very fab.

    Chatterbox: one cannot show one's age with books, since they so handily stick around. Because I had Harry the Dirty Dog too! And I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett; I had The Secret Garden on tape (very spooky), and a beautiful edition of The Little Princess which is very battered now, having belonged first to my mum and her siblings. And oh, to be a children's librarian! I would love it!

    Boz: Apart from the Quentin Blake and Where the Wild Things Are, I have to admit I haven't heard of any of those! How strange!

  6. Have you ever read Graeme Base's books? I think his most famous ones were Animalia and The Eleventh Hour. My elder sister was given a copy of The Eleventh Hour for her eleventh birthday and I was constantly stealing it from her room. Beautiful, sumptuous illustrations and a fabulous story - plus there was a little hidden mouse that you had to find on each page. Took me ages to spot all of them!