Monday, 17 December 2012

Books to Read when You're Feeling Nostalgic

Posted By Daisy
Uncle Andrew and Digory from 'The Magician's Nephew' in The Hamlyn Wonder Book of Modern Stories
‘One of the little girls is often seen lying on her bed after school, dropping biscuit crumbs onto the pages of her latest book, accompanied only by the drum beat of the rain pelting down the slanted roof of the attic bedroom.’
There is nothing more lovely than remembering the books I loved as a child. But how have books I read as a child influenced me as an adult?

Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
We lived in Africa for a few years when I was young. My father worked on a sugar plantation. (It was a great source of childhood mockery – my sister was a ‘zombie’ because she was born in Zambia, and we told my brothers that they were found in a reed basket on the banks of the river Nile because their birth certs said ‘Tribe’ instead of ‘Family Name.’)

My mother read this book aloud to my sister and I, each sitting in the crook of her arms on the worn brown couch in Kenana, with the whirr of the air-conditioning in the background. I was terrified of the cover image and I loved the name Hepzibah and the gobbledy-gook speaking Mister Johnny.
Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry

My Fifth Class teacher, Ms Garvey, was young and beautiful, with orange corkscrew curls and bright red lipstick. She’d sit on a high chair and read aloud to us daily. She couldn’t speak for laughing when she read ‘Anastasia Krupnik’ to us. It’s the story of a ten-year-old girl who loves making lists in her green notebook. I make lists all the time. I found one recently dated five years ago. Gems include:

·         Stop reading crappy magazines and read the Financial and World news sections of the paper.

·         Read 5 worthy books to every chick lit book.

·         Stop smoking.

·         Get rid of totally unsuitable boyfriend.

·         Stop leaving the house at 9:15a.m. to make it to the other side of the city by 9:30a.m.

·         Get my car serviced without having to ask my dad.

·         Learn how to do more than just smoky-eyes make-up.
Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Ms Garvey’s favourite book, the once-controversial 'Bridge to Terabithia' tells the story of a friendship between Jess and Leslie. Leslie is an only-child tomboy whose family drive a dusty car and don’t have a television. Jess is a quiet boy with four noisy sisters. The ending used to make me cry.  I spoke about it on a Gay Byrne radio show children’s special in 1990, my first foray into hard-hitting journalism.

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith
There were always a few pages at the end of every children’s book, devoted to advertising with short blurbs about new books being published. I used to read the synopsis of ‘A Taste of Blackberries’ with a sort of sick dread, certain it would scare me if I read it. When I did, I was surprised by the brevity of a book which deals with such a serious theme. The book was initially rejected by publishers - they assumed nobody wanted to read a book about the death of a child.

White Boots by Noel Streatfeild

I was shocked when I discovered Noel Streatfeild was a woman. The books tells of the friendship between Harriet, a sensible girl whose family are kind but poor, and Lalla, a little rich girl who dreams of becoming a famous ice skater. I admired Lalla’s governess who used to pass the time by reciting Shakespeare plays in her head while waiting for the girls at the ice-rink.
The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild

Three children journey to Ireland to holiday with their crazy Great Aunt Dymphna. I loved it because the children arrive into Cork airport!

Across the Barricades by Joan Lingard
Catholic Kevin and Protestant Sadie live in a tumultuous Belfast during the 1970’s. They meet and fall in love to the chagrin of their family and friends. I fancied the front-cover Kevin with his quiff hairstyle and grown-up coat and thought blond-haired, blue-eyed Sadie was beautiful.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are adopted by a palaeontologist, Great Uncle Matthew, and sent to live with a nanny in England. He disappears and Nana takes in boarders to make ends meet. One of the boarders, Mr Simpson befriends tomboy Petrova, telling her about his work for Citroën and rubber-producing in Kuala Lumpar. This book made me yearn to travel to the exotic-sounding KL – when I eventually got there, it wasn’t nearly as wondrous as I had imagined.

Goodnight Mister Tom and Back Home by Michelle Magorian

Both books deal with evacuation during the Second World War. I wanted to be Rusty from ‘Back Home’, an American girl who wore LL Bean clothes, wove rag rugs, and had a party to celebrate her first period.
‘Goodnight Mister Tom’ describes mental illness, death and friendship. I never forgot the scene where Mister Tom finds Willie locked in a cupboard in his London home, hugging the stiff body of his dead baby sister. I was reminded of it years later when a local mother put a nappy on her autistic ten-year-old son and locked him in his bedroom for days. One summer, her boyfriend beat the little boy. I knew the boy and always equated him with Willie Beech.
Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter

Pollyanna loved playing the ‘Glad Game’ where she would find a silver lining in any situation. Sometimes my friends gently mock me for being too positive – I am over-enthusiastic after exercise, and my workmates always laugh at me as I make my way up the carvery station in the canteen, heaping compliments at the food in front of me. Apparently, one company made a ‘Glad Game’ board game in 1915, and ‘Glad Game’ clubs sprung up throughout the world after the book was released. Sign me up, I say.

More Stories for Seven Year Olds and Other Young Readers Ed. Sara and Stephen Corrin

I loved the Joan Aiken story ‘A Necklace of Raindrops’, in which the North Wind gives a little girl a new raindrop every year to add to her necklace. The necklace keeps her dry in the heaviest rainfall, enables her to swim in the deepest river, protects her from the worst storms, and enables her to make the rain stop simply by clapping her hands. But one day her necklace is stolen by a jealous friend.

‘The Baker’s Daughter’ told the story of the haughty baker’s daughter who tried to impress a classmate by stealing a beautiful cake from her father’s shop window. Her plan goes awry when the cake is cut and it turns out to be nothing but an iced cardboard shell.

The Hamlyn Wonder Book of Modern Stories
Sometimes all you need to remember your childhood is the front cover of a book. I was thrilled to find this in my mother's house yesterday.



  1. What a fantastic blog! Why have I never found you before? I love your book choices and what a fabulously rich trove of memories you have from your childhood! We would have the most excellent literary tea! X

  2. Thanks so much Donna for the encouragement - it really spurs us on to do better! Gretchen Rubin ('The Happiness Project') set up a 'Children's Literature book club' as part of her happiness project - it sounds just like your lovely literary tea, except without the vintage china and cupcakes!:)