Old Friends

So, in case  by some chance you missed it, my first interview on In the Wishing Chair went live at the weekend, and I’ve recorded a few more interviews since. I’ve had some lovely feedback, so many thanks to anyone who’s listened so far and given me such a boost!

There’s one particular question I’m asking everyone, which I’m told is very mean but I don’t care (cue evil laugh). It is: which ONE children’s book (any age/format/genre) would you recommend? Luckily, I’m the one asking not being asked!

It has got me thinking back though to some of the books I loved when I was growing up. I think the book I’d choose would be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but there are so many that I read over and over, and from that thought I passed about half an hour musing on some of them, some that until now I’d forgotten but read repeatedly. And now I feel an urge to track them down, via libraries or ebay or amazon or whatever, to try and pin down what it was that made me revisit them so often (and if anyone’s got a battered old copy languishing in their loft, do let me know!).

Here’s a few to start with:

  • The Chalet School series. I loved these. I don’t think I read them all, but a great many. Joey seemed like a great role model at the time and I think, if I remember rightly, she went on to marry the most lovely doctor. Sigh.
  • St Clare’s. Responsible for a highly romanticised view of boarding school which seemed so much better than my boring comprehensive. And Claudine rocked. Probably, though, I’ll re-reread these and find them very old-fashioned! Funnily enough I never ever fancied trying Mallory Towers.
  • The Children of Green Knowe. I actually remember very very little about the stories or characters, but the mood of them stays surprisingly vivid. I remember them being creepy and mystical and chilling – I simply have to find out if this is a fair reflection.
  • Charlotte Sometimes. This was one of my favourites and I read it so many times I can remember scenes so clearly even 20 years on. Time travel that made sense.
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden. Again, time travel that made sense, and I remember it being very tightly plotted and little details turning out to be important and relevant later on.
  • The Worst Witch. The best misfit ever. And the tv version had  Diana Rigg fancying the pants off Tim Curry as the superstar wizard. Nuff said.
  • Rebecca’s World. I wouldn’t like to commit myself too much here, but there’s the tiniest chance I first read this simply because it had my name on it. I do know that I borrowed it time and again from my primary school library. The memories I have of it are so surreal and odd that I need to read it just to make sure I didn’t spend my last three years of primary school hallucinating.
So there are some of my old friends that I want to reacquaint myself with as soon as possible. Anyone like to share their old friends?
Oh, and if anyone fancies discussing their old friends with me for a podcast episode, let me know! We could even attempt a multi-person discussion… (maybe getting a little adventurous here!)

16 thoughts on “Old Friends”

  1. I loved the Whole wizard of oz series by Frank L. Baum . Also loved all the shoe books (circus shoes, ballet shoes..) by Noeal Streatfield.

    And I did enjoy the magic garden and the bobsey twins and a gazillion other books too.

  2. Ooooh, The Chalet Girls definitely, and St Clare’s and Mallory Towers. I begged to be allowed go to boarding school (think my mam is still upset about that, actually). Little Women, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden…all excellent.

    My absolute favourite though, was “What Katy Did” (and the follow ups). I don’t think it occurred to me how deep the message in that book is, I think I just liked reading about a little girl who had fire and spirit and didn’t always do what she was told (again, sorry mam) learned to deal with pain and consider things and people more closely. Man, I need to re-read those books…

    Oooh, and on the kids books note, Marita Conlon McKenna’s “Under The Hawthorne Tree” is another corker; about the famine and how three siblings deal with it…maybe because I’m Irish but that one sticks out in my mind. That and the fact that they bleed a cow to make blood cake, gross.
    Great post Becca!

  3. Oh, I love all of those books! I recently bought the St Clares books (and the naughtiest girl at school ones) from a jumble sale. I’ve not gotten round to reading them yet, though.
    The book I read over and over though, was Little Princess – I probably know every word by heart.

  4. Oh yes, the Oz books! And do you mean the Secret Garden by F Hodgson Burnett? Because that should have been on my list too!

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. Thank you! I did like the Katy books although I *mumbles* preferred Heidi – the shame! And Little Women always nagged at me; I enjoyed it but not as much as I felt I should have if you see what I mean.

    I shall look up Under the Hawthorn Tree, that sounds great!

  6. Oooh, Heidi. I was going to say that was the first proper book I read completely on my own when I was four, but it so wasn’t, it was a book with a girl named Heidi, however. It had a blue cover, you know the one, right? Ha! 😀

  7. What Katy Did, What Katy Did At School, Little Women (and the three sequels), the Swallows & Amazons series (although not tedious Dick and Dorothea), Susan Cooper’s wonderful Dark Is Rising series (even better than Narnia, although I loved the Narnia books too), anything by Diana Wynne Jones, who sadly died earlier this year, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (a magical book), and when I was older, Robert Westall’s Devil On The Road and The Cats of the Seroster. So many wonderful memories – thanks for making me think of these!

    I have recently been re-reading my collection if Rosemary Sutcliff historical novels – I loved them for the way she never made me feel that these were modern people playing dress-up, but real people whose lives and values were far removed from my own, yet people I still understood. I think the series I would most like to re-read next is The Dark Is Rising – I hope it’s as marvellous as I remember!

  8. Ooh a couple of new ones there! Have to jump on the Little White Horse though – wonderful! Though the film didn’t do it justice. Much like A Little Princess – don’t get me started!

    Thanks for commenting!

  9. Practically all the above (minus Rosemary Sutcliffe really) – but does anyone remember the Malcolm Saville books? He wrote lots of series but I originally enjoyed most the Lone Pine ones and the Buckinghams. They made me a reader and then a writer – and one important point about them was you could visit the places and track where the characters went (I remember dragging my parents and brothers around on every holiday!). And they had a location map at front and back. My Lothian Dragon books have exactly that, probably for the same reasons – readers love them.

  10. I loved Mallory Towers (Daryl you prig!). My copies are falling apart but I refuse to buy the newer cartoon versions because I want the old cover.
    Matilda
    The Magic Faraway Tree
    The Changeover
    The Secret Vampire

    I adore The Worst Witch film, not sure I read all of the books though.

  11. I only discovered Charlotte Sometimes fairly recently (my eldest is called Charlotte and someone recommended it for her) – a great book!

    I loved Willard Price’s ‘Adventure’ books. They were all called something adventure like Amazon Adventure and Undersea Adventure and were about two brothers who saved the world from poachers and evil polluting people. But I did like some of girlier books too – anything by Enid Blyton, and I adored The Little Princess (I think the first book I wrote, when I was about 10 was essentially The Little Princess!). I also loved magic and fantasy and loved Dianne Wynne Jones and The Phantom Tollbooth and the Magic Parcel (Gerald Durrell – apparently it’s out of print – anyone else remember that one?).

    I would love to listen to a podcast reminiscing about children’s books!

  12. Chalet School, yup. Little Women/Good Wives/Little Men/Jo’s Boys – all firm friends. Phantom Tollbooth, Charlotte’s Web (SOME PIG!), anything by Diana Wynne Jones/Enid Blyton/Lewis Carroll… The Changeover probably is the book which got me into liking vampire stories!

    Oh. Yes. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. 🙂

  13. Ah yes, The Little White Horse! The Woolpack (Cynthia Harnett) and all the other books by both Cynthia Harnett and Elizabeth Goudge, also Noel Streatfeild, Elfrida Vipont and John Verney…oh do not get me started! I grew up in the Golden Age of children’s literature.
    But, above all, a book called “Run Away Home” by Elinor Lyon (now reprinted by Fidra) which was the first book which made me determined that I would, one day, run away and go to Scotland! (It is a bit more complicated than that but it happened and I loved it.)

  14. ooh – all the Enid Blyton Series you mentioned – Famous 5 & Secret Seven, What Katy Did, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables… so many. But they were all written by ‘old’ writers. In the sixties there wasn’t the same number of options kids have nowadays. Also, my parents didn’t read and they didn’t really know much about books to get for me so they relied on the classics. I am delighted by the range of literature available for young people nowadays and ever so slightly jealous!

  15. The Talking Parcel? I read that over and over! Loved it, and it was one of the few childhood books I saved to pass on to my children (if I ever have any).

  16. Oh dear, how come these didn’t approve like I wanted until now? Oh well. Excellent suggestions, everyone, and thanks for reading and commenting. Anne of Green Gables – of course! Kim, I didn’t really enjoy the Hobbit when I read it; maybe it’s one I need to revisit now for a different reason! Beth & marzillk, I haven’t heard of the Magic/Talking Parcel, I’ll keep an eye out for it!

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