Five Children’s Books

I am of the mind that many children’s books appeal just as much to adults as to their intended audiences.  Below are five books I would recommend to any child, and to the adult reader yearning to reconnect with their own childhoods.


‘The Borrowers’ by Mary Norton

1. The Borrowers – Mary Norton
The Borrowers
tells the story of a family of little people – the ‘borrowers’ of the novel’s title – as they face the threats and cruelty of the humans around them. The borrowers are all delightfully endearing in their own ways, and the way in which they use human tools to aid their own lives is just lovely.  If you enjoy The Borrowers, I am pleased to let you know that there are several more books in the series, each just as wonderful and exciting as the first.

2. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
I read this for the first time a couple of months ago whilst travelling down to London to see the marvellous play version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  Whilst I normally pick something a little more grown up to take with me on journeys, it was the only book on my to-read shelf which was small enough to fit into my satchel along with the many other items I had to transport with me.  Charlotte’s Web is an adorable story, even for an arachnophobe like me.  Wilbur the pig is the most endearing, but every single character, however small their appearance, plays some importance in the grand scheme of things.

3. Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
I was trying to shy away from using already popular books in this list, but I couldn’t help putting Pippi Longstocking in.  Pippi – full name Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking, or Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump in Swedish – is one of my absolute favourite protagonists, and the adventures she gets up to are full of wonder and imagination.

The Nix Family from 'The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit' by Sylvia Plath

The Nix Family from ‘The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit’ by Sylvia Plath

4. The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit – Sylvia PlathFew people know that Plath wrote children’s books alongside The Bell Jar and her poetry, but she did.  All of her children’s stories are delightful, but The It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit is particularly charming.  It tells the story of young Max Nix, who is searching for the perfect outfit.  Plath’s writing is both simplistic and lovely, and the illustrations throughout are just gorgeous.

5. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Ian Fleming
Suffice to say, Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is so much better than the film which many of us watched at some point during our childhoods.  The story is simple but well crafted, and there is no creepy child catcher in sight.


Sunday Snapshot: Christmas Reads

Although I am scheduling this post rather far in advance, Christmas will be almost here by the time this is posted, so I thought it would be a good idea to post a list of marvellous Christmas reads.  All of these are ones which I have very much enjoyed, and which I will be sure to be re-reading this year.

1. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan *****
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss *****
3. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien ****
4. The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet Ahlberg *****
5. The Book of Christmas by Jane Struthers ****
6. Dickens at Christmas ****
7. The Virago Book of Christmas, edited by Michelle Lovric *****
8. Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm and Other Stories by Stella Gibbons ****
9. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas ****
10. Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans *****


Sunday Snapshot: Wintry Reads

Another Sunday snapshot which focuses upon some wonderful wintry reads.  Below are ten books, all set in winter or featuring wintry words in their titles, which I’ve read and very much enjoyed.

'Moominland Midwinter' by Tove Jansson

‘Moominland Midwinter’ by Tove Jansson

1. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson *****
2. Winter Story by Jill Barklem *****
3. A Winter Book by Tove Jansson *****
4. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis *****
5. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton ****
6. Winter Trees by Sylvia Plath *****
7. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs *****
8. Mr Snow by Roger Hargreaves ****
9. Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick ***
10. Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss ****


Best Books on the North

I like to theme my reading around the seasons as far as I can, and what better thing to post in the run-up to Christmas than a list of best books set in the wintry north?  The first five are books which I have very much enjoyed and would highly recommend, and the last five are those which are high on my wishlist.

1. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen ***** (Various parts of Scandinavia)
2. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey ***** (Alaska)
3. Naive. Super by Erlend Loe ***** (Norway)
4. The Winter Book by Tove Jansson ***** (Finland)
5. The Siege by Helen Dunmore **** (Russia)

6. The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall (Siberia)
7. With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman Among the Sami, 1907-1908 by Emilie Demant Hatt (Northern Sweden)
8. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy (Siberia)
9. Victoria by Knut Hamsun (Norway)
10. The Crow-Girl: The Children of Crow Cove by Bodil Bredsdorff (Denmark)

Which are your favourite books set in the north?


Sunday Snapshot: Poetry Collections

Today’s Sunday Snapshot focuses upon ten poetry collections, chosen for their marvellous titles alone.

1. there is something I can’t remember about the clouds – Sjón (1991)
2. A Man in the Divided Sea – Thomas Merton (1946)
3. From Snow to Snow – Robert Frost (1936)
4. Les fleurs du mal – Charles Baudelaire (1857)
5. Owl’s Clover – Wallace Stevens (1936)
6. Sad Dust Glories – Allen Ginsberg (1975)
7. The Museum of Lost Wings – Renee Ashley (2006)
8. Tulips and Chimneys – e.e. cummings (1923)
9. Winter Trees – Sylvia Plath (1971)
10. Wolfwatching – Ted Hughes (1989)


Sunday Snapshot: Childhood Favourites (#5-#1)

The final part of my childhood favourites countdown is here at last.  Below are five books which had a profound impact on me as a child, causing me to be incredibly bookish far into my adulthood.  I feel that no explanation is needed for the following.  They are merely sumptuous stories set at different times and in different places, with enchanting and wonderful characters, which I absolutely adore.

5. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

4. Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton

3. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

2. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Sunday Snapshot: Childhood Favourites (#10-#6)

10. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Quirky, fun and beautifully illustrated, especially the Tove Jansson edition.  I love the book so much that I have three separate copies of it.

9. Old Bear by Jane Hissey
I used to adore these tales, and would read them with my Mum on a regular basis.  The ITV adaptation of the stories was absolutely charming.

8. Matilda by Roald Dahl
What’s not to like about a story of a wonderfully bookish and intelligent little girl who finds happiness?  Absolutely lovely.

7. The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the Faraway Tree stories, and this is a particularly great collection.  I adore the way in which the new lands come to the top of the tree, and the adventures which ensue along the way.

6. The Jolly Postman, Or Other People’s Letters by Janet Ahlberg
This book and its sequels kept me amused for hours.  It is presented in such an exciting, lovely format.


Sunday Snapshot: Childhood Favourites (#15-#11)

15. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I still adore The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so much so that I have a Hungry Caterpillar mug and badge set, which were purchased for me quite recently.  The story is simple but the illustrations make it incredibly memorable.

14. The Lottie Project by Jacqueline Wilson
One of my absolute favourite Wilson books.  I love the mixture of present and past here, and Charlotte and Lottie are both marvellously drawn characters.

13. Mrs Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter
It was incredibly difficult for me to choose a favourite from Potter’s delightful tales, but Mrs Tiggy-Winkle has stuck with me forever.  I adore her as a character, and am sure that I will even enjoy this book when I’m well into my old age.

12. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
Tigers have always been my favourite animals, and I adore afternoon tea and tea parties, so this was obviously going to rank amongst my favourites.

11. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Utterly delightful in its entirety, and no childhood is complete without reading the compendium.


Sunday Snapshot: Childhood Favourites (#30-#26)

I have been a voracious reader all my life, so what could be better than to share some of my favourite childhood books? They are in no particular order, and all are treasures to me for various reasons. I will be counting down from 30 for the next six Sundays, and will hopefully be creating a marvellous list whilst I’m at it.

30. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
This is an absolutely lovely little book of poetry, and one which I remember vividly from my childhood. I loved the charming, quaint verse and the myriad of different scenes which Milne so skilfully evoked. The illustrations throughout were a delight, and this is a collection which I shall continue to read throughout my life.

29. First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
I spent many days of my childhood reading Enid Blyton, and the Malory Towers series was one of my favourites. I found this book a perfect one to read in front of a roaring fire on a chilly Saturday. I liked the interlinked stories throughout, and it was a real delight to rediscover all of the characters whom I’d somehow forgotten about in the intervening years.

28. The Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden
The Dolls’ House is utterly adorable and is filled with some absolutely wonderful characters.  Tottie and Charlotte were particularly endearing, and I loved the limitless imagination which Godden demonstrated throughout the book.  It is so quaint and lovely, and is definitely well worth reading in terms of both nostalgia and loveliness.

27. George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
<i>George’s Marvellous Medicine</i> is so fun and inventive.  Part of me is a tiny bit tempted to see if a similar trick would work on my very own grouchy Grandma.  Or perhaps I should just send her a copy of the book instead…

26. Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans
This particular <i>Madeline</i> story is incredibly inventive and funny.  Bemelman’s illustrations are sublime, and I love the way in which he captures the excitement of circus life for his wonderful heroine.


Sunday Snapshot: Short Story Collections

Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson
As far as contemporary authors go, Kate Atkinson is among my favourites. My re-reading of Not the End of the World has confirmed that she is one of a kind – witty, humorous, imaginative and sympathetic towards her cast of characters. I loved this short story collection, I really did. Atkinson’s writing is sublime and I love the many twists and turns her tales take. She is a true master of her craft.

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier is such a wonderful storyteller. I absolutely loved the majority of the stories in this collection, and her writing was exemplary throughout. Each story was clever and contained a great twist, along with a distinctive narrator. I found the last story a little weak in comparison to the rest of the collection though, which was a shame.

Johnny Panic and The Bible of Dreams by Sylvia Plath
I am absolutely in awe of Plath’s writing. Her prose is beautiful and incredibly startling in . I loved the mixture of short stories and essays throughout. My favourite stories were ‘Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams’, ‘The Fifty-Ninth Bear’, ‘Mothers’, ‘Ocean 1212-W’, the diary extracts, ‘Tongues of Stone’, and ‘Stone Boy with Dolphin’. The book was absolutely wonderful and I’m so glad I’ve read it.

A Curtain of Green and Other Stories by Eudora Welty
Thoughts about the book:
– I love the sense of place which Welty crafts. She paints such a vivid picture of Southern towns in my mind, and her descriptions of the natural world are so well done that they become stunning photographs.
– I admire Welty’s use of different literary techniques, styles and narrative voices.
– I love the comparisons which she makes between humans and creatures throughout.
– There are some great differences between individual tales in this collection. Some I loved, but others I know I won’t revisit through choice. In this respect, the collection is quite an uneven one.
– I like how she wove in the differing roles and expectations held for men and women in society.

Thoughts about ‘Why I Live at the P.O.:
– I really liked the narrative style, and the way that so many surprised exclamations were woven in.
– I found all of the characters intriguing.
– I liked the way in which she presented the family dynamic.
– I really disliked the fact that everyone looked down at and judged Sister, deeming Stella-Rondo far more worthy of their love and attention. The disparity between the siblings was so well drawn. I must admit that I was firmly on Sister’s side throughout.

Favourite stories:
‘Lily Daw and the Three Ladies’, ‘Why I Live at the P.O.’, ‘The Whistle’, ‘A Memory’ (a beautiful story), ‘Clytie’ and ‘Flowers for Marjorie’.

The Schoolmistress and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
From the first page, I admired Chekhov’s writing greatly. His phrasing is glorious, and his descriptions beautiful. Throughout, the sense of place is built up marvellously. I love the disparities between each of the tales, and can certainly see why Katherine Mansfield so adored him. As psychological studies, these stories are so insightful, and it is clear that Chekhov knows his characters inside out.