Oh the horror!
sodgers at tassie.net.au
Tue Feb 4 20:10:05 EST 2003
A colleague invited me to submit 5 favourite books *I liked best as a
child*. Imagine my horror when I realised *none* of my favourite DWJs
qualified? In fact, almost all my favourite children's books were published
in the '80s or beyond. And I was born in 1957. Or else they were pubbed in
time (i.e. The Perilous Gard) but I found them later.
I came up with the following, for those interested.
That's a hard one, Sophie... many of my favourite kids' books were published
after I grew up; I never stopped reading kids' books, so there's no Great
Divide. For example; I just checked one of my top favourites thinking I
*must* have read this as a kid... and discovered a first publication date of
Then there's a bit of a difference between books for *little* kids and
*older* kids... oh dear, oh dear. And there are books I loved back then and
can't stomach now...
But here are some that stick out in my memory, and which I still regard with
more than usual favour.
1. OPERATION SEABIRD, Monica Edwards, 1958.
I borrowed this book obsessively from the library, terrified lest it be
whisked away like other favourites (see CATS OF HONEYTOWN in the RESERVES
below). But of course They got it anyway... (don't weep for me. I've got my
own copy now). I have always loved Monica Edwards for her well drawn
characters, wonderful settings and her lovely fluid style. I could have made
this whole list from her books, but OP SEABIRD stands out because it was out
of print and I couldn't buy a copy for myself.
2. THE CROOKED SNAKE, Patricia Wrightson. 1956.
I liked the children's club in this, and the national park / country town
setting. I liked the photography and the conservation theme. Watch out for
3. THE ISLANDERS, Roland Pertwee. 1950 (but I probably read a later
Another library favourite, I read and re-read this book for some years. I
loved the camping out, making do aspect - a Robinsonade brought within the
bounds of possibility. And I liked the characters, careless Nick, orphan
Pat, intellectual anti-blood sports Toby and Old B. I didn't like the sequel
"Rough Water" as much, because the splendid isolation was gone... Point your
4. THE GIFT WRAPPED PONY, Anne Farrell, 1973.
I really loved this one. My elder sister wrote it, and although the family a
nd plot weren't based on fact, there were countless echoes. The world of
Guara was *my* world, even more so than the Punchbowl Farm stories which had
been closer than any others up to that point. You see, it was set in
Tasmania, and the only other Tasmanian stories I'd read were Nan Chauncy's,
all set in the south which is very different to the green pastoral north..
5. THE HOUSE OF ARDEN - E. Nesbit, 1908.
I've always been a fantasy reader by choice, and this was an early
favourite. I liked Elfrida, and found the magical adventures fascinating. I
read and enjoyed most of Nesbit's fantasies... and my other favourite was
THE STORY OF THE AMULET.
RESERVES LIST... Which would have made the Top 5 if it had been a Top 20...
DOLPHIN ISLAND, Arthur C Clarke, 1963.
Set in the 21st Century, on an island in the Pacific, this science fiction
story had a runaway hero, and some fascinating experiments in animal
THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, Elizabeth George Speare 1958.
A lively historical novel, with a strong-minded heroine arriving from
Barbados to live with her Puritan relatives. Very good characters, several
memorable scenes as Kit learns to make over, make do or do without; a
witchcraft subplot and a romance.
THE FUTURE TOOK US, David Severn, 1957.
Very good time travel story of two reluctant travellers drawn into a future
where the Wheel is a symbol of hated machinery and giant oak trees have
overtaken the tall structures of the 20th Century. The shift in language and
attitudes intrigued me, and the will-they, won't-they get home suspense was
PARTY FROCK, Noel Streatfeild, 1946.
I read and enjoyed a great many of Noel Streatfeild's books, but PARTY FROCK
was a top favourite. I enjoyed the logistics of producing a pageant during
Rationing, the family atmosphere and the well-differentiated characters of
THE OUTSIDER, Monica Edwards, 1961.
This one was a favourite because Monica Edwards drew her two sets of charact
ers together... and because it was so funny.
THE CROWN OF VIOLET, Geoffrey Trease.
I enjoyed the adventure story, the theatrical background and the details
about family life in Athens. I've never read a Geoffrey Trease book that I
didn't enjoy, but this was my favourite as a child. My later favourite
(because I got hold of it only recently) is THE SECRET FIORD.
THE CATS OF HONEYTOWN, Margaret J. Baker. 1962.
I used to read this book from the library when I was in primary school. I
loved it, but it must have been retired quite soon, because afterwards I
could remember only a few things - the abandoned Honeytown, an elderly cat
called Tabitha... With the advent of the Internet I was able to buy a copy
secondhand and reread my old favourite. Currently (Feb 1 2003) there's just
one copy showing at ABE. Either it's a rare book, or people who have it
don't sell it! On rereading it as an an adult, I was able to identify its
appeal to Sally-the-child.
It's an adventure story.
It has cats in it (I loved cats).
It has an abandoned town.
The cats talk, but they are *cats*, with cat capabilities. They're not
children in fur.
THE HUMPY IN THE HILLS, John Gunn. 1960.
I loved the Australian setting and the believable kids - Col and Barbara,
brother and sister, sensible Andrew and his little brother Ian.
THE WINTER OF ENCHANTMENT, Victoria Walker, 1969 (ish).
A Victorian magical adventure I liked very much. It had touches of Nesbit
style, and the description of the Enchanter's garden stayed with me. I see
plot flaws now, but I loved it when I was younger.
THE LAST BATTLE, C.S. Lewis, 1957. THE SILVER CHAIR, THE HORSE AND HIS BOY.
These were my favourite Narnias. Probably the first major fantasy (of its
time) that I read.
THE SWISH OF THE CURTAIN, Pamela Brown, 1940s.
I loved this one. Another theatre book, with children/teens producing their
NOSECAP ASTRAY! Ronald Syme - 1960ish.
A rip-roaring south seas adventure. Glen lives on an idyllic island but then
comes a bunch of baddies. It's Glen, his islander friend Mavi and huge
Prince Iro to the rescue...
"Should you have any intention of setting up a gun dictatorship on this
island," Prince Iro said nastily, "I shall exert myself to have you hanged!"
THE SECRET ARROW - Kenneth Lillington. 1960ish?
Another Athenenian story, set a few years before Trease's A CROWN OF VIOLET
and rather like it. Nikias and Dion, two messengers, get caught up in a
Spartan plot. They also vie for the approval of emancipated Amanta. (In
CROWN it's Alexis and Lucien, and the girl is called Corinna...)
TIME FOR THE STARS, Robert Heinlein.
Idnetical twins - one travels to the stars, the other is left at home. The
earth-bound boy ages faster than his sib, and the traveller comes back to
marry his great, great, great niece... (hmm, the Heinlein kinky effect
strikes again!) This was my favourite Heinlein then, now I prefer others
such as DOUBLE STAR, THE DOOR INTO SUMMER and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.
Then there are the Emily Books, Blue Castle, Ruby Ferguson's Jill books,
Gerald Durrell's MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS etc etc etc... stop me, quick!
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