My memories of reading and books as a child

I recently befriended a lovely woman who tweets under the name of @AliB68, following an event we both attended in London a few months ago involving Russell Hoban, of whom we’ve both long been big fans. Ali runs a blog about children’s books called Fantastic Reads on which she’d written about Hoban’s classic The Mouse and his Child, while I’ve been webmaster-in-chief of the SA4QE website for many years. It was great meeting her, as it always is other Hoban fans (I’m something of a veteran in these quarters), and Ali went on to help “Russ” celebrate his 86th birthday this year by delivering his annual “birthday bottle” gift donated by his fan club The Kraken.

Anyway, a few months passed and, inspired by Ali’s excellent blog, I had the idea of writing about the books I myself had read as a child. I remembered quite a lot of the titles and luckily still have many of the original books (I read some now to my own children). I asked Ali if she’d be interested in a guest post for her site, and very generously she said yes, so I set to work. When my first draft turned out to be over 5,000 words long, I fully anticipated her changing her mind, but she adapted effortlessly and broke my epic down into a series of posts. So here, for the hopeful entertainment of Thoughtcat readers, are the links to said posts:

Part 1 – on James by Kathryn, The Great Pie Robbery by Richard Scarry, and Little Richard by Patricia M. Scarry

James was the first book I remember reading and still one of the most original books I’ve ever seen. The Scarrys’ books had pies and biscuits in them – nuff said.

Part 2 – on Mr Tickle by Roger Hargreaves, Aesop’s Fables, and a Ladybird I won for singing

Mr Tickle’s own deft way with a biscuit made him my favourite Mr Man. Plus: the mystery of Aesop’s missing limbs.

Part 3 – on The Adventures of Uncle Lubin by W. Heath Robinson, Paddington by Michael Bond and Rabbiting On by Kit Wright

Uncle Lubin was a brilliant book, even if it will psychologically damage you for life. And Paddington had marmalade sandwiches (you may detect a certain sweet-tooth theme by now).

Part 4 – on Grimble by Clement Freud, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend, The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans & Ronald Searle, and meeting Bobby Brewster author H.E. Todd

My schoolboy role models! (Together with the Uncle Lubin influence it’s a wonder I managed to become a fully-functioning adult at all.)

Part 5 – on Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, A New House for Mouse by Petr Horáček, Mr Big by Ed Vere, This Is London by Miroslav Sasek, Yellow Submarine “by” The Beatles, Miss Renee’s Mice by Elizabeth Stokes Hoffman and The Animal Train by Christopher Wormell

A round-up of modern books (and recent discoveries of classics) that I read to my own children.

Having written all of this (especially at such length), I then realised I’d still left out a few titles. One was Elmer by David McKee, the classic story of the patchwork elephant who just wants to be like all the other elephants: the jungle illustrations are fabulous and I especially love the message that ultimately you can never hide your true colours. Another was Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola phenomenon – to be fair, I came to that through the TV series, not the books, but both are wonderful, hugely imaginative and beautifully observed stories about a young brother and sister. Lola’s unique way of expressing herself has meant that phrases such as “I haven’t got time to do stopping” (instead of “I haven’t got time to stop”) have entered my own vocabulary, while strawberry milkshake is no longer strawberry milkshake in our family but will forever be “pink milk”.

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